As I've begun this "second half" of my spiritual life, I've discovered some new or more developed beliefs, and I thought I would share them with you. Here are my five, "If I knew then what I know now..." moments as it relates to my Christian beliefs. Some make me laugh, others still have me scratching my head. I hope you will add your own too!
5. God isn't a white guy in the sky, with a long beard, holding a lightening bolt.
OK, so I was a very impressionable and sensitive child. You know, the one who cried at the end of every Incredible Hulk episode because he had to find a new place to live after destroying where he was. The child, who also cried watching the annual New Year's Baby cartoon when the other kids teased him for having big ears. Yep, I was that child. So the images in every children's Bible and paintings on church walls really stuck with me, and the stories of an angry God watching my every move. It took years (mental, emotional and spiritual maturity) for me to get those images out of my head and to understand that God's only nature is love. Still today, I have to remind myself of who God truly is, which brings me to #4.
4. You don't have to be perfect!
Now, grant it, I was never perfect. But I did try to be. If I was good and perfect then I would be pleasing to God, right? I remember spending countless hours praying that God would make my heart white as snow because I wanted him to love and choose me, and I thought there was no other way he would. But now I know God loves even my imperfections. Sure, God desires that I be the best person that I can be (which is also my desire) but God doesn't love me any less when I fail. Yay! Bottom line: You DO NOT have to be perfect to receive God's love, and he can use you right where you are. God just wants you to be who you were created to be. Finding out who that is is a journey in and of itself, but the "being good" and proper thing isn't a requirement to receive God's love. Now breath :-).
3. Outside validation can often lead you away from your True Self.
The world is constructed in ways that do not honor our true, authentic self. We are bombarded with messages and temptations to honor our ego instead. Everywhere we look (and even sometimes in the church) there are messages that say we should be something other than who God created us to be. When we lose ourselves and get caught up in what others want for us or see for us more than we listen to our spirit and follow our own path, we're sure to become confused. I remember in undergraduate school being clear that I wanted to be a psychologist but those around me at school would express I should major in communications. So I did. And decades later, when working on my Poetry Therapy Certification, guess what classes I was taking? Psychology! I don't regret any turns on my path but I can certainly see that I allowed outside sources to influence my direction. To be who God created us to be, we must turn within and not to what signs the world is giving us. We must surround ourselves with a community that mirrors our True Self and not the ego/false self. You can't throw your pearls before the swine.
2. God doesn't change but the way He/She communicates with you may change.
I'm still learning this one! I realized, in discussing this with a friend, Judy, that when I was younger I felt God was more direct with me. It felt more like orders, "Do this," "Go that way." (Or maybe that was my parents?! LOL.) It was easier for me to hear and know what God wanted. Things were simpler. But as life got more complicated it seemed so did hearing from God. What often happens is not that we're moving from God or that God is moving from us, but that we need more time with God. Yep, the busier life gets the more time we need to carve to be silent with God. But this can be a frightening learning experience, particularly if you don't know that it can happen. The more I've grow in my spiritual walk the more it seems God's voice has gotten softer. It doesn't feel like a hide-and-seek game where when I get closer to God, he changes where he is. Instead, it's as if God wants me to go deeper. Get even quieter. Leave everything else and just go into the garden and be. God still speaks and shares, just in different ways that when I was younger in my walk. I think I could have been better prepared for this, however, if I knew in Sunday School that God doesn't always communicate the same way! Which brings me to #1.
1. Prayer isn't just giving thanks and asking for what you need.
I LOVE prayer! I love words and talking with God, and hearing others pray. It shifts the atmosphere, for sure. And I believe there is power in prayer. But prayers (as mentioned in the "A Way In" post) is more than talking. Prayer is about opening the space within to be filled with the knowledge and acceptance of God's presence there (yep, God isn't some old and distant guy on a cloud we have to beckon to come down). Prayer is the time and medium to remind ourselves of our Belovedness. It's time to soak in God's light and ACCEPT (not ask) our healing, blessings, breakthroughs, promises. After all, scripture tells us that God already knows what we're going to ask before we ask. Prayer is the gift of being aware of our oneness with God and where we affirm that we can do all things through Christ. There are many ways to pray and connect with God. I learned one way real well (and am thankful I did!), and now I am on the path of learning other ways to commune with my Creator.
I'm sure as I continue to grow that I will continue to realize greater truths and have aha moments. This is the joy that comes along with the journey. I don't believe anything is wasted or happens by accident. What we've learned on our spiritual path from childhood to now is all worth more than what we can now imagine. We will never know everything. And truthfully, I don't think we want to. At least I don't. I want to learn as I go. Open myself to the journey and its revelations. See God with new eyes and understanding. Now, what's on your list?!