Dec 31, More meaning

The journey of coming to recognize God, really a path of transformation, is not an easy one. It seems to involve suffering of some sort. Coming to recognize God transforms us, because as we go along we grow, at times by our choice, always with our consent. And we may be consenting to some pretty difficult things — sickness or injuries physical, mental, or emotional, failed relationships, being hurt by people we love, deaths of dear ones, PTSD, and so on. We might learn just to stay with the pain of what is going on, even, or especially, when there do not seem to be any answers. This can take a while. We may have to experience the loneliness of suffering, and it is very real. No matter how many people love us or would help us, this is something we have to do alone, because our pain and suffering is internal to ourselves. As we grow through our suffering, we might come to see in retrospect that the one constant in all this has been God inviting us to take the chance and trust, which can be totally unrealistic, until it isn’t.

As we go through our difficult times we would try to change things so we don’t have to hurt so much. We might bargain with God, a fairly normal reaction before we consent to our journey as it is, if we get that far. We might get angry and inflict our anger on other people in our life who don’t deserve this. If we are of a particular religious tradition we might try to know all the words and keep all the rules, feeling it is more important to belong to a religious group than to let ourselves be open to the Spirit in our own life circumstances. It seems easier and safer, but when this is all we’re focused on, we don’t feel the need or desire to grow in our awareness of God, which goes beyond any religious tradition. We have God all figured out and we’ll just hold on to what we know and defend it from anything new. In our eyes we’re safe, but we are not letting ourselves grow and come to recognize God happening in our life.

The major religious traditions, but not necessarily all their variations, point beyond themselves to God, often in a way that presents any closeness to God as possible but limited to a few special people. Anything that smacks of “individualism” is discouraged, punished at times by censure or even excommunication. There are many examples of this in history, and in our own day. Individual thinking often is discouraged. Eventually we might come to realize we have no control over what happens to us, and become open to other possibilities. When we are on our journey to recognize God in our life it will probably happen that others, well meaning as they might be, will not understand us and in any number of ways, including threats, will try to get us to their way of seeing things. I certainly remember that happening. To call this annoying would be a big understatement.

The Gospel Story shows two ways of coming to know God, that of Mary and Joseph, and that of Simeon and Anna. Mary and Jospeh were not trying to know God. They were simply trying to do the right things as taught by their religious tradition. As they did this they were becoming increasing aware of God happening in their life. On the other hand, Simeon snd Anna had spent years actively trying to come to recognize God. And eventually it happened. Either or both of these can happen in our life. As we do our best to follow the practices of our particular religious tradition we might find ourselves coming to see God in new and unexpected ways The challenge comes when our journey wants to bring us to where a given tradition points but does not of itself take us. Then we might have to choose to let go of our tradition and move ahead sort of on our own, but aware of others in our tradition who have made similar choices. No one tradition has all the answers for everybody always.

If somewhere along the line we have chosen to orient our life trying to recognize God, we might come to the point where this happens, as it was with Simeon and Anna. We probably will experience false starts and make some mistakes, perhaps going overboard in some areas. But gradually as all this happens, we become aware that our expectations of God are changing, almost it seems by themselves. We might see ourselves on a journey of some sort, not really having any idea where we are headed. Gradually we come to recognize God having been with us all the while in ways we just didn’t know and weren’t aware of. We come to know God as real beyond words.

One of the blessings of growing older is looking back at things from the perspective of experience. I am not now as I was then, thank God. I find my journey has been from God, with God, and to God. I have my own image of God. It is not God, but it is the only place where I can move ahead on my journey. God is with us at our own level of readiness. We might reach the point that a given tradition’s dogmas and teaching do not reflect our journey and make no sense to us, so in various ways we let go of them and move ahead. We may have experiences that are hard for us to describe, and we come to realize that the best way to talk about them is in the words of a given dogma, and so dogmas become personal, a matter of our own experience. But before we get to this point, our ways of wondering and thinking can be seen by others as a threat of some sort with all that this entails.

A big step for me has been coming to be aware of God as not just a name, but a verb. This bothers some people. Recent heart attacks have made this experience powerfully real, especially in CICUs with their wonderful caring people. God gods, God happens. And God happens through people in my life, often in unexpected and even humorous ways. This means God happens to others through me, a humbling thought that makes me think about my own responsibilities beyond my comfort and convenience. Still working confusedly on this one. Wandering and wondering. How do I live all this?  How do I talk about it?  Do I talk about it? Just sayin  .  .  .

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  1. Bobby Jones

    “take the chance and trust”
    “How do I live all this? How do I talk about it? Do I talk about it? Just sayin . . .”
    Well Padre, I, myself am working on understanding things that I have no clue of. You have been a great friend and someone I can look to, and by perusing your logs, try to figure out the whys and hows of so many things that occur in my life that I may never know or even NEED to know.
    However, I will keep enjoying your “musings” . And with you and others , keep trying to understand everything incoming every day. Blessed New Year to all.
    Sorry for the rant. Just sayin…

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