Sitting in the audience at a Christian concert recently, I watched the crowd respond to a worship song with hands held high as they praised and sang. I remember how not too long ago that would have made me feel uncomfortable. I began to think about how we are all at different places in our spiritual journey, and how God meets us wherever we are.
As a young mother living under the big sky of Texas, I would take long walks and talk with God. It was at this time of my life that I was “born again” into the Spirit. You see, I hadn’t known a close relationship with God throughout my youth or young adulthood. I remember a conversation years before when my landlord had asked me if I was a Christian, and I wasn't even sure what that meant.
So many people I know grew up in the church and have always known the comfort of God in their lives. Others grew up in the church but never had a personal relationship with God. Too many religions preached of a God who discriminates against sinners, and aren’t we all sinners in a fallen world?
Perhaps it is better that I came to know my Lord and Savior later in my life. I had a lot of catching up to do, and reading the Bible in my first Disciple class was a real eye-opener. Twenty years later, I found myself questioning my faith, trying to understand just exactly what it is that I believe.
As I spoke with others about their beliefs, and questioned my Christianity to the core of who I am, a dear friend encouraged me in my journey by acknowledging that Jesus himself asked a lot of questions. Since He is my teacher, it made it all right to be asking questions and searching for answers.
I think it’s probably true that we will always be searching and never know everything for certain until we move beyond this earth. But through my heart-searching and questioning, I came to answers that for me have simplified my understanding of who God is and what He means to me.
It seems religions and people themselves have made understanding God to be something so complicated. When in fact, the simple truth is that God loves us. He created us and wants to have a relationship with us. He is not condemning. He is not standing there looking down at us shaking His head over the repeated mistakes we make. He doesn’t punish us. And He is not angry with us.
God is love. He simply is. He exists in us and in our world and across the universe. Who He is does not conform to any understanding we can muster in our human brains. We have nothing to compare Him to.
All that we believe or are accustomed to is based on human experience. We cannot wrap our minds around the greatness of God any more than we can fathom the number of stars in the universe. Did you ever stare up at a night sky filled with all the visible stars, and realize the universe goes on and on –- into what? Our minds cannot comprehend an expanse of universe with no limits. We are used to our world and its physical limits and the man made limits of time and space. We cannot wrap our minds around a concept of the universe, and likewise we cannot really grasp the greatness of who I believe God to be.
So I keep it simple. God is love. He is in me, and around me. He exists in all that I see and feel. He is as close as my breath. He knows my thoughts and my needs. And yet He is removed enough to allow me free will to make my own choices and live my life. Yet I can reach out to Him and He is always there.
Perhaps this vision of God is too simplified for you. But this is who He tells me He is, and who He is for me in my life right now.
When I began studying with that first Disciple group, I told a woman in the class about how I talked to God. She was quite adamant that I was doing it wrong! She said, “You mean talking to God through the Holy Spirit, right?” and I, being so new to this religious talk, didn’t answer for fear I was somehow breaking a rule.
I have always spoken to God as if He were right here in the room with me, and now I know that is exactly where He is. After decades of learning and searching I realize that God is exactly where I always felt Him, in my heart.
We don’t need to complicate the relationship, and I'm certain we will always have questions that we cannot answer. But the simple truth is that God is love. He loves us. And it is up to each and every one of us to develop our own relationship with Him and to understand what He means to us in our lives.