It just hit me the other day that God isn't who I thought He was. I'm not sure what went wrong along the way, but I was given a heavy dose of the wrong God. And no, it is not because someone decided to misinform me - because everyone that has crossed my spiritual path has had the best of intentions.
I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic grade school and became the Catholic Chapel Prefect in high school and nearly went to seminary. I joined the Scripture Union at school, started a youth group in my parish, organized Bible study, gospel concerts...I was on fire.
I have no less fervor now than I did then, but my focus is now more inward than outward. My slant is more spiritual than religious. The outward appearances of self-righteousness no longer impress me. I still love the pomp and pageantry, but I realize that the God I came to believe in, had been commercialized, dressed up, and paid mere lip service. Indeed, the God I came to believe in was no more than a human fabrication, created to control people, and very successfully too.
I began a search some years ago that made me see God in a whole new light and the vision is incredibly stunning. Unfortunately, religion has covered all of that simple beauty with a lot of ritual, dogma and rules. I used to believe in a God that was watching everything you did, waiting to punish you now or later for eternity, but with a veneer of love thrown in for good measure. The God I used to believe in, was to be feared. I had to believe in him, or else...
I found that men had tried to put God in a nice little box that made it easier for them to comprehend Him. What happened was that we put limitations on God. We ascribed human emotions and thought processes to Her, and related to Him on that level. We assigned a gender that made God male because that was what a patriarchal society could accept, and our language could only support a male or female gender. The God I knew before was nothing but a human construct, made in the image of man.
Now, more than ever, I realize God is love. Now, more than ever, I feel God within me, and I feel a part of God. Now I understand that with God's gift of free will, I am a co-creator with Her each waking moment. I am a part of God, an extension of God...I am God. To fully experience God, I have to be open-minded and refrain from projecting my human limitations unto The One Spirit, and yes, let God be God.
God sees me no differently than He sees you and neither should I. God wants us to love Him of our own free will and not because of some threat of fire and brimstone. God, by whatever name we refer to Her is not Christian. Neither is He Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu. God just is. Religion pits us one against the other, creating an environment of "us versus them", each trying to claim exclusive right to God. There is more than enough God to go around! A statement made by a pastor in the movie Children of God put this in stark perspective for me: "We have to give people something to hate. It brings them together..." Now let that sink in for a moment.... It isn't so openly acknowledged, but isn't that what religion tends to do? Fortunately it is people who create the problem, not religion.
There are no exclusions in God's love. No ifs, buts or whys. God's love has no strings attached; no conditions. My faith is no longer determined by scriptural texts conveniently selected by humans to suit their purposes. God's love for me is not predicated upon anything I do or don't do. I no longer beat myself up for not being able to measure up to man-made rules made in God's name - She loves me just the way I am. My job and duty is to spread His love in everything I do.
I have learned that God really doesn't care if you call Her Allah, the Universe, Mother Nature, God, Adi Purush, Waheguru, Elohim, use a male or female pronoun, or paint Him white, black or brown. What God does care about is that you love your neighbor as yourself. You cannot claim to love God if you are selective about which neighbor you will love, or under what conditions you will love them. Subsequently, you cannot love your neighbor if you don't love yourself. It's a simple as that!
I still attend Mass, but I worship with a new sense of freedom and an entirely new perspective.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.