Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

My Honest Soul, The Path To God?

In God, Life, Suffering on December 21, 2010 at 7:21 am

Who would’ve known that the path to God was through our own soul?

And yet, what other path would suffice for that relationship?

Somehow I avoided my own self for the first forty years of my life. Don’t ask me how that works, exactly, but even in flaunts of narcissism, I never really took the time to get to know… me.

I guess I could blame my “non-denominational” church for teaching me from childhood that I was a sinner and that to focus on myself instead of others was sinfully selfish. But I really didn’t like myself anyway. I spent a lot of time and effort trying to hide things. I also cared a lot about what my friends thought, or what friends who I wish were my friends thought. Boys and boyfriends got a lot of my attention as well.

My thought life consisted of this person or that person and my behavior was motivated by these same people. I hadn’t thought to stop and ask what I personally wanted because it mattered more to me what others wanted. I believed that I wasn’t going to be happy until I had lived up to all of these expectations. I even made myself think that they were my own expectations.

Growing up with a distant dad, an equally distant mom and step-dad, and even more distant grand parents and other relatives, I sought my family from church. This is where I learned that family is only there for you on certain days of the week in a certain building. I also learned that God was my real father. But God was always a theological black box concept somewhere in the back of my mind. So God was also very distant to me.

After so many broken hearts with my parents, boyfriends, friends and even a husband, I had somewhere along the way decided that I was no longer going to look for love from other people – not even from my kids.

After leaving church, and my religious God, I was able to keep my distance from others… for a while. I no longer had anyone to fill the empty space that had been previously clogged with church activities.

I began to meet some genuine friends who were experiencing similar journeys, and I think I can rightfully blame these people for pushing down some locked doors somewhere deep within me. It was all innocent enough. They were discovering the love of God in their own lives, and this love was overflowing onto me. I don’t think I had experienced real love before this, and to be honest it felt a little threatening and really wonderful all at the same time.

But love seems to be sensitive and polite. It does not force itself upon us unless there is an open door. There came a time when I needed to bravely start accepting this closeness, and I am finding that I can only handle it in stages… going ever deeper but only when I’m ready.

The irony of experiencing love from others is that we can only go as far as we love our own selves. This is evil psychobabble of course, according to many a Christian church teaching. It supposedly goes against the well-learned scripture, “If any man come after me, he must pick up his cross, deny himself and follow me.” ~ Jesus

And this is why I never would have thought that the journey to God took place through our evil, sinful soul. But why did God, after creating man and woman, look upon them and announce, “It is good?” And why does God profess to love the whole world when we are so sinful, causing ourselves and others so much suffering?

The only explanation I’ve found for this discrepancy is to understand that we are good, created in the image of a good creator, but there is a part of us which is very ignorant of this fact. My friend Karen likes to call this side of us the false self and I like to call it our religious, fake self.

Although I had momentary glimpses of reality, I had lived according to this false self for the majority of my life. This is why I didn’t really know me, or at least I had done a fairly good job of ignoring the real me.

When I finally abandoned my religious self, I discovered that I was in essence denying my “self” and now I had some room, as well as the motivation, to discover the real thing – whether I was an ugly monster or not. It couldn’t be any worse than my other relationships that already failed me.

So this began out of necessity. There were times when I found myself with no one around to talk to, so I started having conversations with myself. This led to asking myself some pretty sincere questions with equally sincere answers, which no one else could listen in upon and thereby accuse me of failure or wrong-doing.

It was actually very intriguing. I wanted to know all of Elizabeth’s favorite things and, what did she most enjoy doing? Really? I began discovering all kinds of things about myself. Things I never knew!

If this all sounds mentally schizophrenic, I can assure you that it feels much more so while engaged in it, at least in the beginning. It’s an odd sensation that comes with fears like, “Am I turning into Gollum?” But when I began to recognize how much Elizabeth needed love, care and forgiveness, and to understand that I was the only one she trusted enough to give it to her, how could I resist?

It has been theorized that the majority of our views and beliefs come from associations. When we experience an extraordinary moment with someone while a certain song is playing, that song becomes associated with our feeling at that moment. When we hear the song at a later time, our mind is conditioned to remember the special person along with the emotion that accompanied it. This memory can be either painful or ecstatic, etc.

Many of my associations for God were negative and even repulsive. He was the distant father, the contradicting theology, the Sunday-morning-only family, or the God who made a lot of impossible demands with threats of unfathomable punishment.

After allowing myself to get close to um, myself, conversations with my creator naturally began to follow. Instead of feigned prayers, I began to experience moments of friendship while driving amongst beautiful scenery and listening to touching music. In place of many words of worship and praise, I began to let God actually get close to me through simple life experiences.

Maybe this Thing 1 and Thing 2 relationship with myself is some kind of defense mechanism intended to help me slowly and safely embark upon the frightening ship of honesty, and face the unknown God. This might be out of sheer desperation to fulfill the longings in me to feel connected to someone – anyone.

But I don’t really care so much about my dysfunctions anymore. I spent enough of my life worrying about how I might come across to people. Plus, I actually like myself these days, even with all of my embarrassing hangups and frailties. It seems that other people might like me too, and now my eyes are being opened to God’s like for me as well, which has been there all along. I was only too scared to get close enough to see it.

So somehow, the acceptance and love of and for myself is directly linked to my acceptance and love for God, and others. It seems that we cannot experience one without the others, but when we allow one, we also allow all the others. Love cannot be divided, I suppose. It is one big open door, rather than a sometimes open, sometimes locked door.

I’d like to gently ask you, my reader, how well you might know yourself. Do you like yourself? Do you enjoy hanging out with yourself? Or are there some things in your past that you would rather not face and discuss? That’s okay of course. Everything has its time and love seems to be very, very patient. I imagine it will still be there (within you) even after we leave this life as we know it on this earthly ground.

But, if I may, I would encourage you to go ahead and allow yourself to feel your buried pain. Get to know your troubled soul. Or, feel free to meditate on your talents and successes in your life. Think about how you were a good friend to someone, or a loving parent… or how you pushed yourself to accomplish something and you did it! Find out your favorite colors, and why they are your favorite colors. Where is your favorite place to be? How do you feel about certain people and what do you think about certain events?

I am a witness to the fact that as much as you know yourself, you will discover God. And it will be a uniquely personal knowledge too. A friendship that could never be misaligned, separated or destroyed – in as much as you can never be separated from… you. This new enlightenment will bring you closer to others as well, without so much friction or misunderstanding.

Besides, what do we have to lose, besides some facade of a self?

  1. You’re not alone. I actually like you these days too, even with all of the “embarrassing hangups and frailties!” Good job! And thanks for sharing! =)

  2. Elizabeth,
    Thank you for expressing your journey so well. I believe I could have written it also, as my thoughts and experiences mirror yours to a great extent.
    Isn’t being a believer the most joyous thing ever?

  3. What an excellent read! I identified with so much of what you wrote on my journey to find my ‘identity’, to find ‘myself’, to find what God made when He made me.

    Excellent, excellent, excellent.

  4. Wow…I really love this. In the last few years I’ve allowed this sort of journey for myself and must say…it’s quiet surprising. I look forward to lurking through your archives.

  5. Wow…I really love this. In the last few years I’ve allowed this sort of journey for myself and must say…it’s quite surprising. I look forward to lurking through your archives.

  6. I’m in the process of knowing myself and God, and accepting my very dodgy self. That’s all for now.

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