One of the most fundamental things we can do as humans during our short journey we call life is to seek a connection with something more powerful and greater than ourselves. Initially, that looks like seeking guidance from peers and family members, then observing and learning about great leaders in schools, and a lot of the time, we often look to guidance through idolatry. After a while of attempting to charge our batteries through these finite sources we start yearning for something based in truth. It is innate for humans to want to connect, responding to unwritten but very real laws that we all follow sooner or later. Some have this strong desired activated in their lives from a very early age, and others almost reach the point of death before they tune into these truths.
For many people the ladder is the trigger to seek and expand their horizons. There is nothing more powerful in life than pain put into action. We all want to live life with the serenity that can come to us as a results of connecting with an omnipotent and loving force. But the pressures of dogma, which trap us all in the results of other people’s thinking and therefore limitation, can get in the way.
When leaders of industry, mentors in the workplace, family, friends, and even lovers can’t seem to connect you with that stillness you seek, many of us start to turn our attention to something more potent. For most of us this force is intangible, but very real, and it can be summarized in one word, God.
Many of you just had a massive visceral reaction when reading that last word. At this point in time if the word God, source, creator, and maybe even Jesus rubs you the wrong way you might want to return to the homepage and check out the plethora of Top Thoughts Thursday posts for guidance. But for those of you who might be able to suspend your disbelief in God for just a few minutes, you might want to take a deep breath and keep on reading.
Those of y0u who read the blog regularly, know that I have been seeking God for many years now. Every week I attempt to bring my favourite quote from the book of Mathew to fruition, which states “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). And let me tell you, I have left no stone unturned when to comes to willingness in seeking God. When my mentors tell me to jump, I still say ‘How High?’ The quest to initiate that unwiring belief is all I have really wanted over the last couple of years, so I have and continue to climb as many spiritual mountains as it will take to establish that belief within. It just so happens that after years of seeking God through various forms that that I have returned back to my roots in Christianity to further deepen my connection to God.
After years of listening to thought leaders and spiritual gurus from around the world my hunger for connection was never really satiated. I always felt like most of these people were brilliant salesmen who didn’t wholeheartedly believe all the words they were preaching to the masses themselves. Now, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater discrediting their years of hard work because a lot of the information they teach has definitely served to adjust my moral compass in many respects, but unfortunately when it came to God I was always left feeling empty-handed.
One fine day in January 2014 came around and a friend asked me if I was open minded enough to come attend church with him. I agreed to his terms, but not without great apprehension. I should let you know that I was raised Catholic from a very young age, but stopped attending church when I was about 12. I will admit to being extremely reluctant to return to church due to the slew of disgruntled opinions I had formed towards church over the years. I hated the fact that religion was exclusionary in their approach to connecting with God, especially through Christianity and their limiting belief that I could only come to God through the bridge of Jesus Christ.
For someone who lingered in doubt about the existence of God in the first place, this served as an easy deterrent for me to latch onto what blinded me for years. A day or two before the service was being held I started to sort through the rolodex of judgmental thoughts I carried towards the church.”They don’t like gay people. They treat women as subservient objects to man. Let’s not forget about Paul… he is such a arrogant chauvinist. How could anyone want to learn about an all-loving God through such principles of leadership? And sin? Oh man, if you guys knew some of the un-Christian-like behaviours I use to regularly partake in, I surely wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms with the likes those Christian do-gooders”. By the time I reached the church that Sunday afternoon I was closed off to say the least and was annoyed that I had even made the commitment in the first place. But, fortunately for me, with or without an unwavering belief in God I still operated with massive integrity in life and would follow through with my promise to attend.
The weirdest thing happened to me: that afternoon as I sat quiet and uneasy in a pew in the very las row, I started to feel something inside of me turn on. A softness released inside of me as the band opened the service with worship music. Even though I spent most of the time judging people from a far as they sang their hearts out about praising Jesus, waving their outstretched arms back and forth towards to stage. I couldn’t put a finger on what exactly happened to me that night, but I was plugged into a vibe that has kept me coming back for me every single week that has passed since. I’ve given myself back to the religious quandary that is Christianity and Jesus. It hasn’t been a smooth sailing process, especially considering the tight grip that my analytical and doubtful mind had formulated. And this is where is I thought I would take some time to address some common fears and thoughts that might be keeping you in bondage and preventing you from entering into a place of worship.
After thousands of hours invested into self-help books, lectures, meditation classes, mindfulness courses, meetings with spiritual leaders and authors, counselling appointments, doctors’ appointments, prayer groups, one-sided arguments with God, spiritual hikes, smudges, conversations with individuals in recovery, sponsoring people in recovery, and the list goes on and on and on, I still don’t know what I tuned into that first week in church, but I can tell you that I want more of it. As I have progressed deeper into scripture and have taken part in deeply intimate and vulnerable conversations with Christians I will admit to encountering several mental blocks got in the way for me, and maybe even for you.
1- The Pastor Pedestal Effect – Pastors are often viewed as a local celebrity in a lot of ways, instead of just another person seeking God. Unconsciously, we place more value to pastors than to ourselves simply because they have been educated and have invested so much of their lives to be well versed in the Word. This is fallacious reasoning in the eyes of God. God doesn’t equate education and a strong ability to communicate to the masses with strength of connection. I’ve met people who haven’t stepped foot in a church for years who have spoke to me with more understanding and convinction of the existence God that many pastors have ever been able to transmit to me. So always remember that your ability connect with God will never be outlined by a label given, or position being held.
2- Power Through Seniority – This second point really goes hand and hand with the first. How many times have you talked with an elder at church who has attended service religiously (no pun intended) every Sunday, sitting in the same pew, shaking the same hands but acknowledge a slight degree superiority in their tone when they are speaking about God or the Bible? It’s like they attribute their years attending church listening to sermons as a right of passage that everyone needs to work through in order to establish a footing with God. Note to self here, guys… God doesn’t makes things challenging for you to connect, and age and church tenure doesn’t imply wisdom or brilliance when it comes to spirituality. Stop doubting the strength of your own connection in relation to anyone. There is no such thing as competitive spirituality, although many would argue for its validity.
3- Christians Are Humans – Every single Christian out there has, and will continue to sin for the rest of their lives. Just because you see individuals well dressed and highly composed on Sundays doesn’t reflect his heart or passion to seek, but could simply be a learned set of habits and mannerisms that have been positively reinforced week after week. Some of the biggest sinners in the game can be found within the walls of you local church. It’s like the first time you go and meet your girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s parents. They don’t get the full raw experience of who you are as a person day in and day out but rather the sunny side of your personality paired with extreme politeness, because you want to leave them with a positive impression of you. Not to say that you don’t posses these wonderful attributes on a regular basis, because you probably do – but on a typical day of the week you probably are little more rough around the edges when it comes to your interactions.
4- The Marketing Of Baptism – If you are a new Christian you have probably been persuaded by the masses to get baptized, especially by the pastor. Now, I don’t want you to think that I don’t agree with the act of consummation, but I do think there is a lot of confusion around the topic. Don’t think for a second that by the priest, pastor, or any other spiritual guru pouring water over you or dunking you in a tank of water is going to unlock some mysterious door within that brings you into connection with God, because that would be deceptive of people say. The real significance of baptism is the acknowledgement and commitment that you are going to seek God’s will first and foremost, and by taking part in the act of baptism in front of your friends and family it creates a certain level of accountability that many of us might not be able summon on our own.
5- The Literal Translation – How is it that some passages of scripture are have been told me to me be taken as a literal translation of the Word and other times preachers explain passages to us through the use of metaphor? Why are pastors so hard edged on certain topics, but on others they we are to take the word with a grain of salt?
You see, no one comes to God by themselves, and because of that we need to really consider perspective when dealing with people preaching the gospel. Take for instance the differences and impact that two pastors could make if our lives when they are raised in opposite ends of a country. Say one was brought up in a farming community in the deep south of Alabama, and the other was brought up in the liberal luxuries of Orange County, California. They both grew up attending church with their families, attended church functions regularly, and read the bible daily. They both attended seminary school after high school and were on a fast track program to be the lead pastor of a large congregation by their early 30’s. Do you think that if confronted with a hard hitting question revolving around God or spirituality, they would express the same message in their response? Or would their answers vary depending on how and what influenced them up to that exact point in their lives? Could it be possible that due to environmental factors, peer groups, personal interests, personality type, socio-economic factors, and several other societal differences, the vantage point through which they view things change? What about your own biases that come into play that you probably aren’t aware of that determine how well you tune into people due to subtle judgments like appearance, vocal range, tone, or physical expression? Because in reality this takes place within all of us every single day of our lives. We place unwritten expectations on people and they need to be in place in order for us to really hear their words. We shoot the messenger before the words of wisdom even leaves their mouths. Each preacher is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. If there are differences between their biblical interpretations it doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong, it just means they are passing on words of wisdom through the best of their ability on that day (with God’s help of course).
Love thy neighbour my friends, and look for the similarities and not the differences. If you are looking to prove the existence of God in your life you will find it, and if you are looking to prove the doubts that you carry towards God, you will find that too.
Never be discouraged from seeking due to the frailty of your fellow man or mental constructs. You most definitely are not the only one who experiences these internal and external dilemmas that can easily lead you astray from connecting with source, which is a right that is bestowed upon all of us.
One of the best things I have heard in a sermon is that fellowship (the connection and sharing of life) with other spiritual warriors is a discipline that needs to be invested into week after week. And if you believe God speaks to your through people, it might be advantageous for you to put yourself in the middle of the crowd.