I've often been reluctant to tell people I'm a Christian. Mainly because I don't think I'm different from anyone else. Or better. Or holier. Or more loved by God. Or even that God loves in the way we think God does...or at least the way people tell us.
I think the love they talk about from God is a different animal than the love we think we understand. I think it's the love of belonging. Not to a clique or a church or a family - although this is powerful in and of itself. But this love is all encompassing - it includes the universe. It stretches into the greatest essence of life possible and beyond it. This encompasses the power of life and love and peace and goodness and holiness. When I have the experience of the holiest place, it's not because I feel so deeply loved, but because it feels like I am love. When we cross the threshold from feeling love to being love, I think we're getting somewhere.
This is the love of God as I have come to understand it.
This is different than being loved, and I think that's the love we feel when we experience or receive the love of God. At best, it's what I experience. Our deepest connection to the soul, the place we're connected to all that is - and this real connection takes us over the edge to being love itself. It's the power of this energy that creates what I call experiencing God, the awareness and full experience of being love. It's all expansive. In this state, nothing that is not love can penetrate it. It's so complete that negativity, evil, cruelty, and hate are powerless.
Being in a state of fear is non-existent.
It's lost all power to discourage, wound, or lessen me. It doesn't even manifest as thought. Knowing the freedom that springs from this experience is at the core of the great mystery - yet, it's not a place we can stay. We can't live there - but we now know we can strive towards it.
From a physics standpoint, it's probably related to the amount of energy exuding from our cellular structure, with so much force that its polar opposite energy cannot penetrate it. But it's obvious how stupid I sound trying to explain something I don't understand so I'll postpone trying to explain it...to the next time I'm interviewing a physicist. As if.
Ever since I began reading and listening to the Christian story from a slightly different perspective, I'm able to come to terms with what Christianity is in my life. It includes the awareness of a presence that loves from the space of being all that is, and how much is not yet seen or understood by humankind. Ultimately, we have no idea what that looks like or means.
There are still so many questions I cannot answer, but many I have come to understand as well. This began to resolve itself once I recognized non-duality as the essence of a Christian path. I'd experienced this non-duality often in my work and my life, but hadn't associated it with Christianity. It is obvious now. I've always seen most people from both sides - as a whole, particularly when resolving polarized conflicts. I also now understand why I was uncomfortable with some Christians. I experienced their faith and worldview as dualistic from where I stood. (If I steered away from them, however, it revealed dualistic thought still alive in me - something I had judgement or fear about.)
When I began thinking about how Jesus lived, it made immediate sense. How he communicated in parables, leaving the understanding and answers to marinate in the minds and hearts of those he spoke to. He didn't tell them what to believe, but rather, allowed them the room to find their own answers. He knew discovery and self reflection mattered. That said, he did speak his truth even if listening ears didn't yet understand his message.
Jesus knew that oneness (fiat:singleness) could only come through an inner process. At least, that's my take on it. When he was separating the wheat from the chaff, borrowing an expression from the man himself, he was emphasizing the need to let go of our ego. He recognized the religious bureaucracy of his time had adopted egoic behavior as the norm. He was referring to the Pharisees.
He knew the only way to an authentic experience of God could be found by shedding legalistic paradigms, then rampant. He wanted us to understand the spirituality of God could only be felt if our hearts had developed the capacity to open fully to this oneness of God.
In his time, and still today for the Jewish religion, the name of God was not to be spoken because God could not be known. We've become so familiar with the name of God that we have an acronym to call out to him on Twitter. OMG is a compliment from my perspective. Is there anyone else's name cried out to as often? It's universal. To think we don't recognize God is naive. Of course we do.
We simply don't describe him the same way. That said, is it possible that we experience God the same, but hold God differently in our minds? Is it a simple case of different languages or perceptions? At least for those who seek the spiritual?
Clearly, people hear different messages and interpretations; along with varied ideas about how God communicates, but what about the inner experience of God?
The more familiar I become with the Christianity I once shunned, the more I get the intention of those who call themselves followers of Christ. The rub comes when the language starts to sound too "special." Take today, for example. My husband, near the close of his sermon, quoted me something I often say - meaningful words for me on many levels.
Remember who you are.
I believe this. I believe we know who we are at our very core. We know our intention, our purpose, our holiness, our greatness, our weakness. We know it in love, not shame. We know what it is to be connected to the holy and to God - to all that is. When I say all that is, I'm not referring to matter and energy alone. Rather, I'm talking about all that is - and what we don't yet know. The core essence, reality, and spirit of what exists even if we cannot yet name it or explain it.
That said, for all we know, the joke's on me, and God is an old man on a cloud. Wouldn't that be weird? When I find myself holding a self-assured awareness about my Christian imagery, I imagine passing from this life, and arrive at tall opulent gates, floating in soft, billowy clouds being greeted by St. Peter. I'd just fall to the floor and laugh. It makes me laugh now. And not at all that surprising by the God of my imagination. After all, isn't one of the greatest life lessons, as we gain wisdom, the knowledge of how much we don't know?
But let's say it's more like I think it is now - and if my husband said to his congregation, "My wife always says, 'Remember who you are,' and I'd like to pass this on to you. You are a child of God, a believer in Christ, and you were set apart before the world began..."
This is where I want to stand up and scream, holler, hoot, say..."No! That's not what I mean!
We are not set apart! We are fully connected. To each other, damn it! We are all one...and some of us see God in everything and some of us don't. But we are still connected to God and each other because we are part of the same whole!
We are all in this mystery together.
We are the children of God, yes. But not because we are brides of Christ in a creepy group wedding where the women wear bridal gowns way to declare being brides of Christ. This is another way Christians set themselves apart from each other. None of us are more special, better, or holier than thou. This is not what I think Jesus meant. (I will qualify my sarcastic statement by saying judgment about this practice is my problem. I'm sure those who participate in a wedding to Christ are probably truly devoted as one might be to a guru - and there is value in for them - it is their spiritual path and meaningful for their journey.)
Rather, I'd say remember who you are because you carry the light of Christ - because you chose to. Because you know this is a path of goodness, kindness, love, and holiness - which is not the same as being right, special, and set apart from the rest of the world - or better than anyone else.
It is to say you are a lover of humanity. A human being who seeks the spiritual, the highest self, and what's bigger than us. You are choosing to live in the reality of love. Of forgiveness. Of understanding. You are choosing a path of integrity and to belong to the human race - and to the spiritual realm.
Do you see the difference?
There is a BIG difference.
My husband and I may part ways a bit when we get to this juncture on the road, yet we don't disagree on the essence of God, or the path of Christ, or the beauty of life and humanity. We simply have different stories that shape the experience for us. This does not divide us because the story is not the essence of the path. How we walk it is.
So remember who you are, and celebrate the Christ in you. But don't shrine yourself as holier than your neighbor. You might not be. As a matter of fact, you're probably not. Holiness comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. And shows up in the strangest places. I've seen more holiness in the Bowery than on Park Avenue, and I'm surely not alone in that. We are not the carriers of all truth and understanding. As a matter of fact, I think we've got some big lessons coming our way.
Choosing the Christian path without being wrangled into it, or in the midst of a conversion ecstatic experience has been a great gift. It's taught me compassion and understanding about a religion that left a sour taste in my mouth over recent decades.
Sometiems I imagine a button installed that's linked to G(od)oogle Translate. When I remember to set it to on, it rises above my judgments and preconceived notions of Christians, and takes me into the sincere and authentic journey that Jesus walked. It is the non-dual journey. It reminds me people sittng beside me who speak Christian differently are simply seekers too, and practicing it how they've been taught. It's how religions have instructed them. I imagine these interpretations or conclusions were inserted into the dogma to create a tension to heighten their sense of committment, devotion, and loyalty by defining boundaries that provide a contrast to the rest of the world. This defined contrast can crystallize an experience, leaving people more deeply entrenched in a belief system of more black and white, making it easier to release their shame, guilt, and the other life challenges that imprison them and their self image.
What if people thought that walking with a conscious awareness of the light of Christ in them does not make them special or better than others - or saved from an eternity of damnation and burning in hell - but rather, gives them a stronger leg to stand on in life. Makes them more compassionate and kind. Showers them with a sense of wellness in their soul because they are always awake - always in the process of becoming. They are becoming the human being they want to be - for themselves, their legacy, their children, the world as a whole. That their contribution as followers of Christ makes them an asset instead of a liability. Their life is marked by love. Their experience is filled with love. Their reality is one of love. And their experience of living is now felt on a multitude of dimensions, dimensions they couldn't even have dreamed of.
This is at the heart of the Christian experience. But it's not all of it.
We must suffer and love for the full human experience. It's not until we've been face first on the ground crying out to God as well that we truly see it. Both ends of this pendulum are to live like Christ did. Sure, we don't have to experience crucifixtion, but we must be wounded, broken, powerless, surrendered, hungry (not for food). It's where we acquire the strength that comes from true humility. This humility surfaces when we are broken while in our strongest and most powerful ego state. When we think we have it figured out, and are suddenly broken and desperate, we are given the gift of humility and surrender. This is a powerful moment to be savored as a miracle, but most of us can't see it yet.
It is the defining vehicle by which we come to understand what another religious word means - grace. This is why sober alcoholics are grateful to be in AA - and to be alcoholics. They know they would never have reached the depth of human connection, love, and healing they did without being being knocked on their knees. They remember what it is to fight the good fight, and almost die in the process. It was only through this lethal and insidious disease that they fully opened - if they were lucky enough to still be alive. They're well aware their ego and pride would never have given in if they controlled the outcome. But the insidiousness of addiction will sometimes take the back roads and not show it's strength until we're too weak to fight back. Those who fall to their knees and get back up again are the lucky ones.
When we can honestly recognize the person next to us in church or on the subway is our brother, we begin to love and understand each other. This is the most basic of life lessons - taught in early childhood through sibling relationships. Sharing is the most primary example.
That said, living non-dualistically doesn't come naturally in today's culture. Either/or and win/lose are the prominent messages of society. When we are capable of knowing oneness, we can know non-duality - and remember who we are.
When we fall to our knees, we're given the opportunity to remember. We remember because we see who we are - we're much closer to the ground. When we're sitting on top of the world, or on top of a horse, it's so much further to the ground of our being.
**The ground of our being is where God is. **