I’m not sure why after learning about so many horrors throughout human history, and even some inexplicably horrendous things that have happened within my own family tree, that it was the Columbine shootings in 1999 that flipped my God switch to the “off” position.
I was pursuing a degree in Religious Studies at the time. I remember walking into the Liberal Arts building. Just as I was stepping over the threshold into its cool, dimly lit corridors my mind said, “He doesn’t exist.” This conclusion was not freeing but very painful.
I loved the God of my childhood, the one who was fatherly and took good care of us, gave us His son, and washed away our sins, but I couldn’t reconcile a perfectly good creator God with what I’d just witnessed on the news. I was heartbroken, the God of my childhood was lost to me.
I’d always had magical happenings in my life, amazing coincidences that felt as if God and His angels were watching over me, intervening, and giving me clear signs to either take a different life path or pursue the one I was on.
Like when I was about to invest in a cable show idea that I’d invented to highlight local musicians called, “The Local Ear”. I was about twenty years old, dating a guitar player, and going to gigs so the whole idea seemed to make sense. I decided to finance the first show myself, but I was feeling unsure about the venture and got “creepy” vibes from some of the people I was meeting.
About a week before the show was set to shoot, the clutch in my Toyota Corolla went out and it took all the money I’d saved to fix it. I was relieved and decided that I didn’t want to go into entertainment after all. I thanked God.
Up until the Columbine shooting, the kind of faith I had in God didn’t include my needs. My relationship with Him was about being obedient and serving His will. For this reason, believing in God didn’t ease the burdensome self-doubt that hinged on self-loathing. I thought that it wasn’t God’s job to make us feel good about ourselves, and quite frankly I didn’t have the awareness to ask for that kind of healing. However, what believing in God did provide was the certainty that everything happened for a reason and I would go to heaven upon my death.
Giving up God at that time didn’t stop the world from being violent, frightening, disappointing, and nonsensical, and I no longer had the assurance of a good life after death. I was stuck.
The truth is that I never wanted God to go away, the magic I’d felt throughout my life was still alive inside of me, even if I couldn’t reconcile the God I’d once knew with the world I lived in. So, I continued to practice meditation, yoga, and to pursue my degree in Religion because all those things were very fulfilling.
Because of these practices and my religious studies, I started to turn more of attention inward to find wholeness and the things of God, that is, a “peace that passes understanding,” abundance, and love of self and all life. In fact, letting go of God eventually paved the way for God to slowly reemerge from the sea of my unconsciousness, albeit this God was very different than the one I thought I knew in childhood and young adulthood.
This God feels like a cosmic ocean that permeates everything and everyone. He isn’t just a “He” but a “She” and an “It”. Indeed, God isn’t just “out there”, He/She/It is “in here” too.
In the stillness of my mediation, or in the car, or while taking a walk, this God speaks to me. Not like a voice from on high, but what feels like a string on a guitar that’s been plucked, soundlessly vibrating. Over the years these vibrations have come together to form a melody that I could feel, and these feelings emerged as conversations, and these conversations turned into a relationship with God.
Looking back, I can see that the God of my childhood was conceptual rather than experiential. I was told about God, about His Son, and angels. I was told what to believe and about the dire consequences if I didn’t believe.
The God I love now is one that I’ve discovered over time and built a relationship with in the temple of my soul. It’s true that religion can provide the framework for discovering God on one’s own terms, and some people do; but more often than not, we are told what to believe and don’t have the desire or patience to discover whether what we’ve been told is true for us. It’s easier to just go along with the crowd.
Since rediscovering God, I have learned to let go of the need for life to make sense and to instead feel good about “not knowing”.
I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, why babies get cancer, or all the other terrible and painful things that happen on this earth-plane.
The benefit of uncertainty and letting go of the need “to know” everything perfectly, is that room has been created to embrace the mystery and mysteriousness of a shared inner life with God, to do my best to love myself and others, and to alleviate suffering when and where I can.
Now, I follow the Life that lives me into the great unknown like a woman who runs after her lover lustfully, passionately, abandoning all else.