03 Feb

You are seeking to understand God, or trying to sort out meaning in your life.  So you read things that seem to comfort you, or resonate with how you see your life.  You may read the sacred writings of different religions in order to find your way.

You may meet people who say the have found the answers, or who seem to be good people, and you are drawn to that.  So when they invite you to attend their church or synagogue, or mosque, you give it a try.  You may have the experience that you feel welcomed and at home, and what you experience in a meeting seems to speak to your soul. Many times what is impacting you the most is that you feel loved, or accepted, and all of us struggle with feelings of insecurity and acceptance, or even deeper down, a sense that you need to live for something greater than yourself.

When you experience practices and teachings that lift your soul and speak to the longing for living for something greater, you have found true religion.  When you find comfort in your grief, or in your struggles, you feel loved. You know somehow you have found truth.  Since I am most familiar with the teachings of Jesus, I think of his words. "I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly."  At another occasion Jesus said  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

But writings from other faiths express the same kind of thought.  The Dalai Lama said, "My religion is lovingkindness."  The great prophet of the Jewish faith, Jeremiah said, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness."

But at times when you participate in religious groups you experience something different. You get the feeling that people are trying to control you, or suppress you.  They may say they have the right answers, but something in your spirit doesn't feel right.  You feel manipulated, diminished, or downright abused.  That kind of faith is life-supressing and defeating, and ultimately violent to your soul.

Real faith isn't sure, and doesn't know.  It trusts.  And if you really understand it, it's not so much achieving what's right, but being given it.   You have the law fo God written on your hearts, says the Bible in several places.  You have a sense of what is right and wrong, and sometimes that may go against certain customs or spiritual practices, or social norms of a particular religious group.

Ultimately, there is a humility we must bring to spiritual inquiry.  There is an admission that I don't know much about ultimate truth.  I have to recognize that I do not have all the answers, but also that when a religious practice or religious authority advocate something that diminishes me, or does not give me life, it may not be real.  It may be a human being trying to be right, something less than God attempting to rise to the level of divinity.  

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