Monday, January 21, 2013

A "Relationship" with God?

    In a recent conversation, it was asserted by a Christian whom I've known for many years, that I had "given up my relationship" with God because of my changes in belief. At first this angered me because it seemed arrogant that anyone could claim to know what someone else's relationship with God was. After cooling down though, the event reminded me of something I've been wanting to blog about...just what exactly is a relationship with God anyway? 

   When I was a Christian, I perceived relationship with God as something initiated by accepting Jesus as "lord and savior" of my life and then he would "speak" to me through prayer, sermons and through reading the Bible. I also gauged my relationship (usually subconsciously) on how well I was living out the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, even though I believed God wasn't keeping still felt like he was. Underlying those things, however, was another sense of relationship that I can really only describe as an overwhelming presence and an emotional connection to something beyond what I could see. I have described some of those experiences on this blog before, but some instances where I recall that feeling strongest include: jogging under a starry sky in the country, speaking in "tongues", various times of song and worship, watching people at a store and feeling that God loved every one of them and meditating by the beach. Each experience was accompanied by tears of joy, inspiration and/or a deep sense of peace and contentment. 

    In hindsight, it seems likely that what I often perceived as God "speaking" to me was more the subliminal playback of the teachings I had convinced myself were true, than they were representative of God itself. I mistook a relationship with the tenets of a religion as being a direct, unadulterated relationship with God, which is perhaps the same issue that the aforementioned Christian has and thus why he thinks what he does about me. The reason I think this happens is because these tenets were readily available for me to use to help describe and understand the "overwhelming presence" and thus it was very difficult for my mind to separate the two (as I suspect it is and has been for many others). The overwhelming presence appeared to be confirmation of the tenets being true, particularly when being experienced in-conjunction with Christian events.

    The thing of it is, that once I was able to mentally and emotionally separate the two things, I still continued to experience the overwhelming presence, which tells me that it was never bound by the teachings and rituals that I thought it was for so many years. It hits me at the weirdest moments, sometimes when I'm eating or when I'm working and the only thing I can do is enjoy it and to try and gain something from it. It is something I feel I have come to understand so much more and yet, ironically, so much less at the same time. It is now my sole basis of a relationship with God...not a set of beliefs that may or may not accurately unveil what that presence is or what it desires from us. This isn't to say that beliefs are not useful in our interaction with this presence or this higher being, but they are simply human attempts at understanding it and therefore should never contain it to a point that we assume that others that do not share our beliefs, must in fact, not have a relationship with this God.