In my experience, most people's spirituality and concepts of God, or the Universe, are a theory rather than a lived reality; this is why they rarely experience transcendence or true transformation in their lives. The Divine is more like an imaginary friend from childhood, not a real force in their lives.
When you sit with someone who has just lost a child to a drug overdose, or a wife whose husband left her for another woman, a theological concept is not sufficient to see them through this moment of crisis. They need something real and tangible to reach for. In times like these, many have their faith shaken to the core and feel abandoned by whatever God they believed in prior.
Some feel guilty the only time they consider connecting with God is when things 'hit the fan'; They are like an adolescent who only talks to their parents when they need gas and spending money. There is no real relationship or deeper connection with something greater on a daily basis.
A hard to relate to God
The God many of us were given is hard to relate to. This God is dry, boring, distant, and often scary. God is more an idea than a real relationship. For many, there are so many negative associations with the word as well. The English word, God, does not capture what God actually is. Sometimes just using the word will cause people to lose their mind in endless debate; it is a bit like throwing a smoke bomb into a crowded room and watching everyone run.
Spiritual leaders from many faith systems assert that God cannot be comprehended by the mind but only by the heart. Those who lock themselves away in ivory towers or seminaries often have a very dead God confined to theology and dogma - a paper God.
In my opinion, a sixteen-year-old surfer has a better understanding of God than a renowned theologian. Thomas Aquinas, who was one of most intellectual powerhouses the church ever produced, wrote prolifically about God throughout his career. At the end of his life when he began to have more experiential encounters with God said, "Everything I have ever written is straw."
Love is the KEY
I am very inclusive when it comes to my spiritual views. My primary focus is love. I don't need to argue with anyone or persuade someone to my position. I am fine with you disagreeing with everything I say. I am only concerned with how much love and compassion am I able to show you and everyone else I come into contact with.
I can only share my personal experience. If it resonates with you or is helpful in any way great. If not, I hope to learn something from you. Your experience with the Divine will be unlike anyone else's. Don't let anyone dictate to you what it should be. I do not hold all truth and never will. Some things will always be a mystery to me, and I embrace that fully. Moreover, it excites me.
God can only be experienced
Now let me briefly share what I have discovered. God can only be experienced. So much of how I encountered God changed when I began to understand this. God is in a great conversation with a friend, watching a sunset, great sex, an awesome meal and good wine, and art and music that moves you. When you begin to see God in all these things, you move beyond a stained glass and theological God to one that is exciting and powerful.
Some may think what I am saying is sacrilegious or disrespectful to God. However, if your experience with God is based on having to be disciplined to make time for it, you have not yet encountered God. The great mystics, which are individuals who have direct experiences of God, of all faiths often describe their relationship with God in sexual terms as a lover. It is with the heart you experience the Divine, not the head.
Create your own experiences
Experiment with what I am saying and see what happens. When God becomes experiential, everything will change for you. I hate to even use the word God when I am writing and speaking because it has so many connotations to it that are what God is not. The words you use to describe your experiences are not important. What matters is the experience.
Approaching things in this way will also help you be more accepting of others since they do not need to define their encounters with God in the same way as you. When God becomes a verb for you, and not a noun, you will then see what I am talking about and experience it for yourself.
This will also move you away from any 'jailhouse conversion' mentality of only focusing on the Divine when you are in need. Being grateful for each moment and experience is also a means to unlocking your relationship with God and the Universe as well. Take what I am saying today, and put it into practice. Nothing has any power until you apply it. I would be grateful for any of your experiences you are willing to share. Stop spending so much time reading texts about other people encountered God, and go have some of your own.
John Hawkins Jr., M.S., L.M.H.C.
John has helped thousands of clients overcome the hidden internal blocks which had kept them from achieving their maximum potential. Furthermore, he has assisted them in gaining clarity of their true life purpose, identifying their gifts and talents, and developing lives of greater meaning and significance.