In recent days, a couple of lay persons (separate from each other) mentioned the old “God-sized hole” metaphor people use to describe our natural human state of desire and discontent. I view this as the same thing The First Noble Truth refers to in Buddhism where Buddhists use the term Dukkha to describe that constant longing, natural desire, or discontentment that comes along with being human. I understand the idea behind the “God-sized hole;” however, I’m sometimes frustrated by the expression. Religion, and even just the idea of God, created an even deeper level of suffering for me during my darkest days of depression. I hated myself for my inability to believe. People would say, “Anyone can believe in God,” or “Anyone can be a Christian by accepting Jesus into his/her heart.” I wondered how I was supposed to make myself believe if it didn’t feel true. I wanted to believe. I think religion is a wonderful comfort for people who have it. My experience reminds me of the Anne Sexton quote, “I love faith, but have none.” The nuns here often talk about Faith as a gift. I like this idea, because I’m beginning to believe in the power of Faith–just not conventional faith, and not faith in God. The word faith is taking on an entirely different meaning for me.
It’s a bit cliche to say, but my most confident faith rests in love–in only its purest and altruistic form. That sort of love possesses even more power than hate, but it’s rare that we get to see love in its fiercest form.
Some people believe God is altruistic love. Fine by me. It’s because of that belief that many folks have told me they don’t believe I’m an atheist. This interpretation also provides a way I can talk with the nuns about “God.” For example, one of the sisters I’m closest with here was telling me she read something about how we get answers to our prayers “from God” in our hearts. That doesn’t seem to differ much from what my atheist, pagan, and/or buddhist friends do when they look deep into their hearts for answers.
I’m beginning to see how many of the spiritual disagreements are really just a fight about the language used to articulate spirituality. It took many arguments with others about how they define my own beliefs for me to decide how to handle answering when someone asks me if I believe in God. I ask them to define God. If they’re talking about a Person-Like Being in the sky that judges me like Santa Clause, then no. Absolutely not. If they’re talking about the energy we all experience that goes beyond what our five senses can absorb or our language can capture, then sure. I’m just scarred by the word from growing up. Yet, I find people sometimes replace the word GOD with another way to refer to the same idea when I express my trouble with the word. Yet, they still preach to me about this old-school idea of God, simply using a different word. Trust me, I’ve tried praying to “The Great Spirit,” “Higher Power,” or even using Mother instead of father. Changing the word isn’t enough to help me get rid of the guilt and fear based deity from conventional religion.
On a separate, but somewhat similar note, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I can’t even remember the last time I observed a Lenten holy day. It’s not that I suddenly believe in the significance of the day; however, I still plan to use tomorrow as a day of reflection–refusing to even touch my computer, phone, TV, or Ipod. This might not sound all that difficult for only one day, but keep in mind I don’t have school, work, or friends around to help me pass the time. I’ve been craving some stillness in my life due to feeling increasingly chaotic. With my 9 day hiatus from the convent fast approaching, I understand the chaos could grow increasingly worse while I break my routine for all sorts of fun activities. Since the sisters will already be fasting and reflecting all day tomorrow, it seemed like a good time for me to do the same.
I’m not sure if I’ll blog during my nine days away from the convent, which will start this Friday night. Because of this, I hope to blog one more time before I leave. Maybe I’ll have some grand epiphany tomorrow during my day of silence to blog about on Thursday–however my “grand epiphany” is usually the same–about how I can’t force epiphanies, and most of my personal growth and realizations are much more subtle, and I need to respect that. I suppose it’s time I had another one of those epiphanies about how I need to stop seeking epiphanies. That will be my goal for tomorrow 🙂