You may remember that this time last year I read a fair few books that seemed quite contradictory reading in many ways:
"My recent/current reading list has contained the titles, "What God Wants", "What the Bible Really Teaches", "An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion" and "The God Delusion". Quite a selection – a "new age" book, a Christian challenge to fundamentalists, a philiosophical/theological book, and one written by a staunch atheist!"
I also went on to explain why this was of interest to me:
"More and more I am realising that if I truly want Little Man to grow up and make his own decisions about faith and "God" then I need to be able to encourage and support him in his own exploration as and when he is able and wants to do so… I'd rather he chose to be firmly religious or a passionate atheist (neither of which I am) or even someone who couldn't care less either way, than follow in my footsteps and choose to believe something just because I do. If I can raise him to have his own mind, I'll be one happy mama."
I didn't really write much more about this after that, even though I continued to read various bits and pieces. But when I picked up another book by Neale Donald Walsch recently I realised that he has this unique way of putting into words so much of what I have felt for so long but never been able to explain very well. I began reading Communion with God just a week or so ago and every time I pick it up I wish I were as able to put my feelings into words.
You see, I seem to have a lot of friends who either have very firm beliefs in God or who are passionately atheist and I find myself agreeing with each one on so many things and yet disagreeing on many others. And it can be hard to explain where you actually stand when you are neither here nor there, but somewhere in the middle, because that can seem so very "wishy washy" and changeable at times, which it is (changeable I mean, not wishy washy)!
I love each one for their conviction in where they stand as I feel the same conviction that what I feel is right, is right for me. But expressing that can be difficult. And it can be even more confusing to try and explain how sometimes I can feel I have more in common with an atheist than with a christian, even though I believe in a God (of sorts).
But when I talk about "God" I mean "Life". Pure and simple, I believe that "God" is a term used throughout the ages to describe the energy that creates life, that sustains life, that simply is life. So that includes you and me. Totally heretical to many faiths to suggest that we are all a part of God, co-creating the life that exists, but at its essence this is what I believe. We live in the world, we affect it through our thoughts, beliefs and actions. We're aren't mere spectators, we are creators. We create new life, we give birth to it, and we raise it.
And the book puts this so much more succintly than I ever could:
'There is nothing that is that is not God.
'You may better grasp this idea if you use the word "Life" in place of the word "God". The two words are interchangeable, so you will not alter the meaning…
"Nothing that is, is not Life. If Life needed to produce a result, where would Life get it? There is nothing that exists outside of Life. Life is All That Is, All That Was, and All That Will Ever Be.'
You may think I'm nuts, and that's okay! I think I'm nuts sometimes too. But I know that this really sums up for me exactly what I feel about life and God. I don't believe in God as a person. I think that we have personified an abstract feeling and concept that we struggle to put into words. And I think there is a real beauty in that, so long as we do not then expect everyone to accept our truth as the truth.
And so this is why I find myself falling somewhere in the middle, enjoying various perspectives given by both religions and atheists alike. It keeps me questioning whether what I believe today is the same as I believed yesterday, and I like that. Again the book writes this so much better than I ever could:
'Remember… take what you read as valuable, but not as infallible. Know that you are your own highest authority. Whether you read the Talmud or the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur'an, the Pali Canon or the Book of Mormon, or any holy text, do not place your source of authority outside of yourself. But, rather, go within to see if the truth you've found is in harmony with the truth you find in your heart. If it is, do not say to others, "This book is true". Say, "This book is true for me".
'And if others ask you about the way you are living because of the truth you have found within you, be sure to say that yours is not a better way, yours is merely another way.'
This last passage reminds me of the conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that I shared last year and I think it is worth sharing again. I love how beautifully this conversation expresses the ability to seek your own truth and still be able to honour the truth of another.
And I think it is a message that holds true in so many situations in life. '…if others ask you about the way you are living because of the truth you have found within you, be sure to say that yours is not a better way, yours is merely another way," is surely a message we should all remember when discussing different lifestyles, parenting choices and so much more. And this is why I love this book so much.
I do hope that as Little Man grows I will not only find the words to express these things to him but also the ability to live my life honouring the paths of others, showing him by the way I live my life rather than simply the words I speak.