Sitting in church this morning, I had an overwhelming sense of what people mean when they speak of glory. It's not what I expected, but that seems to be the story of my life these days. Little is as I expect it to be.
I'm not your normal Christian person. And most who know me will tell you that. I'm still not sure if that's good or bad. It simply is.
I've always cringed at overly religious words, and the lofty language of church. I want people to relate to each other. To me, religious words are another way for people to distance themselves from each other. They stand in the way of people being their authentic selves - and wearing their emotions on their sleeves. This has always bothered me. But I am not the carrier of all wisdom. There's another reason for religous language.
It's a path to our higher selves...even if I don't lean into it. I'm probably being unfair when I stamp the all religious language thing "WRONG." Religious language within the context of language serves the same purpose swearing does when I think about it.
It's a means to an end. Swearing is a means to expressing something that is beyond your average feeling. It either accentuates rage, frustration, joy, incredulousness, or a surprise that brings pain - like stubbing your toe or dropping a whole tray of glasses filled with just poured and shaken martinis.
Religous language holds a similar role for different reasons. Just as swearing communicates your need to clearly express yourself, religious language is a ladder that can raise you out of yourself(your thinking self or ego) into the experience of the higher self. Just like the use of any language, some people abuse this well intentioned purpose and use it for the worng reasons. Some hope to sound lofty or holier than thou, but it's intent is to identify the sacred, removing the everyday vernacular and mundane earthly references. It speaks to the holy. The holy in you and me. It recognizes a higher place, a place we all meet...and that place is where God meets us all.
For instance, the word, GLORY, has always brought to mind a heaven with streets paved of gold, large limestone cathedrals, and the Wizard at the other side of the bigger than life gates where Peter stands watch in a loincloth.
To make matters worse, this was not a place I was interested in being beamed up to when it was all said and done. I've never been the opulent type. I'm a happy girl if you give me some old villagers, a wood stove and a dirt floor. Give me authentic, real, and gritty. That's more my style.
So, for all intense and purposes, glory was not something that seduced me into knowing God more. That said, left optionless, I'd oblige.
And make do.
Today the only word that could describe the experience I was having within was glory. There was nothing special about the moment before it, nothing particularly earth shattering about the church service either. It was simply an overwhelming and instantaneous love that washed over me in a moment during a song we were singing together. I don't even remember what the song was. But the experience was one of connection to everyone in the same room even though I couldn't see a one.
This was the experience of being so deeply connected to all of humanity, represented for me in that moment as the people present - and our collective connection, or more succinctly, the oneness, we shared with whatever it is that connects us all - and to somethng bigger, greater than ourselves.
In that moment I could, for one instant, pinpoint what my understanding of God is. That is exactly how I experience God. It's not just the feeling, it's a knowing that lives in that experience. It's a deep well of connection spanning the universes... no matter how many there are.
I don't give a hoot if it's made of energy, a man on a cloud with a staff and long white beard, or a literal glue that makes it all happen. This has no bearing on what my understanding of God is because the knowing that makes this higher path worth journeying on is my highest, most authentic, supremely powerful experience of good, holy, ultimate anything. It is the only way God makes sense to me.
As the service continued, I was reminded of how language puts barriers in front of this experience by connecting beliefs to stories, ultimately twisting the spiritual experience into a room with walls that have doors with locks and keys to differentiate one from the other - and keeping people and religions apart.
We often blame this on religion, but I conclude it's not religion as much as it's ego. Here's why.
Religion doesn't have to be that way. Religion is a story that people hold on to so they can shape their understanding, and connect to something with imagery. (For the record, I'm not suggesting the story isn't true or historical. Whether it is or isn't, it's still story) It also provides community and various practices that ritualize or traditionalize something to give it meaning. There's nothing wrong with this - as long as it doesn't start slipping down the path of insulation and division among people - guaranteeng it will eventually implode upon itself.
The Christian religion has certainly had its share of ego. Every denomination has its poster child or church. But when I take a minute to listen to the essence of its message, and listen between the words, I'm clearly struck by the inclusivity, expansiveness, holiness, and transcendent nature at its core. We miss this when we listen to how some people translate and communicate its message.
Today, a beautiful crip, cool,and perfect fall day, I was struck by a undebateable moment of glory...the kind of feeling you actually sense at the end of a war movie when the good guys ride into the sunset in victory. The sense of good overcoming bad, of love overcoming evil, of knowing that no matter what, we are connected to this highest place if we're willing to take the blinders off and enter into it. (how duality is best camoflauged, btw.)
Ironically, a war victory with fallen soldiers sprinkled across the ground is not the backdrop I'm talking about...which is why the word glory has been fooling me into thinking its a bad thing. I'm a peace lover. But the imagery of how victory feels comes close to the feeling I had...it's a relief, a celebration, an end to suffering, a validation, a deep knowing that all is well with the world and what we don't see is so much bigger than anything we can imagine when we allow it to seep in the cracks. It's an experience you remember and you carry it with you until the next time.
It's very much in alignment with Leonard Cohen's perfect prose, "There's a crack in everything. It's where the light gets in."
Our job here, however, is to recognize that the thing that's cracked is part of the whole. Without the cracked thing, we wouldn't differentiate the light from the dark. This is the non-dual experience. It is not in only seeing the light that we experience glory. It's in seeing it whole - without judgment.
So, next time you find yourself swearing or get a sudden urge to go to church and partake in communion, do it. You might find the same relief there as you do releasing a few renditions of the f word in succession. But, on second thought, its nothing like that. It's a lot better.