Ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of God has done this?
In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.
– Job 12:7-10
For me, the question of the existence of God seems more appropriately phrased from a slightly different angle: “Do I need to believe in God?” In other words, must I think about it at all? Does it really make a difference in my daily life?
Today, I know that I must answer the question, “Do I need to believe in God?” with a humble, yet confident, yes. While I do not have all the answers, believing in God is the only thing that makes sense of the experiences of my life. To do otherwise, would be to deny those experiences and, ultimately, it seems to me, to go crazy. That’s right. While someone might call me crazy for believing in God, for me it is just the opposite. I think it would send me over the edge not to believe, given the experiences I have had in my life.
At the same time, do I have a full and complete understanding of God? Definitely not, but acknowledging something or someone larger than my own self and capacities makes more sense to me than to not to believe.
To begin with, I must live each day acknowledging that I have had a sense from early childhood of a loving presence in my life. I have had deep, penetrating, almost overwhelming sensations of this at times, and at other times it has been less so, but just as real.
Another story I can tell on myself is that when I was 13 or so, I decided to teach myself how to play the guitar. I had always loved to sing, and think I took up the guitar so I could accompany myself and have an excuse to sing. It was just about that time, following Vatican II, that guitars were beginning to be used by choirs at Catholic Mass, but I had no interest in getting involved in a church choir. Always afraid in those younger years that I might end up in a convent myself, I made a commitment to myself at the time that I would never go near a church with my guitar and would never, ever sing “holy” songs with it.
I kept to that pledge for years. At the same time, however, I always secretly had envisioned myself as a writer, and was frustrated by the fact that I seemed unable to write a song of my own. Finally, in my late 20’s, when I was becoming more open to the idea that I would have to let my spiritual side have its existence, I finally sat down alone in my apartment one evening, my guitar in hand, and said to God, “Okay, you won’t let me write anything else, so I’ll try writing a ‘holy’ song.” Before I knew it, the words and music poured forth and in just twenty minutes, I had it done. I call it, “Loved By You.” Here are a few of a lyrics:
I have wandered through this world,
Growing new and growing old,
Learning for myself all the things that I’d been told.
Knowing joy and knowing pain,
And the smell of summer rain,
And all as I was watched and love by You.
Needless to say, my joy at the achievement of this first song lyric was more than a little tainted by a lingering twinge of resentment at God, whom I blamed for delaying my chances as a folksong writer. I tell this story because, in a sense, it has been the story of my relationship with God not only while I was young, but ever since. I still resist God now and then. But, for the most part, I have come to believe that being my most true self is all that God really wants. So, surrendering to God’s will actually brings me more in touch with who I am than the resisting ever did.
More importantly, my true self is always more or better than I think it is. That is often how “grace” looks for me, or what some people call the “indwelling of God,” or the work of the Holy Spirit. In some moments, especially challenging ones, I am able to respond to the situation by being more than I know I alone could be. It may not make sense from a rational point of view, but I know from having experienced it, that it is true. And, more importantly I am unable to deny my own experience.
So for me, not believing in God would be to deny my own experience; which is why I know if I did not believe in God, I would have to go crazy.
Is there a God? I cannot prove it, but I cannot deny it. I do know that each day comes out better in the end for living the “Yes.”
As for the way I image God now, I have come more and more to think of God in the way God has most often and always must be named in the spiritual experience of human beings: as “Source of All Being.” It seems to me this is very consistent with the Christian image of the Holy Spirit as the “Giver of Life,” which is professed at every liturgy, but not often taught or preached.
One other, perhaps more intimate image, comes from the words of Paul and echoes a very ancient understanding of God as the One “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts: 17:28)
If this is our image of God – as the Mystery from whom we receive life and are sustained in that life – then what can we say about ourselves in relation to that God, and also to one another? I ponder these questions other posts.