We all grow up with a cultural background. Some will include a heavy religious influence while others will be noticeably lacking in that area. Whether or not it is included in the beginning, sooner or later, religion will touch our lives. Even the most rabid of atheists have been touched by religion. Humans in all corners of the world throughout recorded history have searched for a higher power and tried to find ways to explain or connect to it. Our search for spiritual enlightenment has been equaled only by the expansion of our scientific knowledge and could, at times, be just as destructive.
I was raised with religion. My family did not just go to church on Sunday; we had devotionals with bible readings and prayers at dinner every night. It wasn’t a matter of listening as my parents read, spoke and prayed. As we became old enough to read, we were assigned parts to play. Mostly these came from the Upper Room or Secret Place booklets that my mother subscribed to, but she would also offer inspirational pieces from other sources when she felt it important. She believed firmly in “train up a child in the way….” and she practiced it.
My brothers and I grew up with God as a personal entity with whom we interacted daily. There was no time when we were suddenly “saved.” We knew Jesus as a “personal savior” long before we understood what that meant. Like most children, we assumed that our lifestyle was normal for everyone. It wasn’t until long after I was grown, that I came to realize there were people in the world who followed a different path or who didn’t even Believe at all.
As a young adult, with three children and 6 years of marriage behind me, I questioned my parents’ teachings. I wondered if the human race was outgrowing the need to believe. Had science answered the mysteries that we used to attribute to God? There had certainly been no new prophets for a very long time. Were the cynics who proclaimed “God is dead!” correct? Quite frankly, the idea terrorized me. To me, that meant that there would be no order in creation. The whole of human existence would be chaotic, random, with no “meaning.” I rejected the concept of no “higher power” and went happily back to church.
A few years later, as my first marriage was breaking up, I sat in my kitchen and experienced that chaos inside myself. It felt as though my mind was spinning apart. I feared for my sanity and prayed fervently for help. With the very next breath, calm descended. I was filled with the most joyous peace I had ever known. Needless to say, I considered it an answer to my prayer. Others might explain it psychologically, but to me the science of it didn’t matter. I had cried out and gotten an answer. The methodology of it was not important. I felt that I had been “Born Again” and I accepted it gratefully.
In the intervening years, there have been times when I have drifted away from the church, but never from my faith. Even at the lowest points in my life, I have always felt the Presence and known I could call on it. I am not perfect, only trying to do the best I can within the circumstances. Sometimes I fall short, but I always get back up and try again. My mantra is “You haven’t failed until you stop trying.”
Lately, I have been bothered by the fact that people seem to think everyone with different traditions or names for God is worshiping someone different. I know this is not true of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Whatever we call Him: YHWH, I am, Allah, Lord, Father….She is still the same powerful being that loves us and wants to be loved in return.
If I subscribe to the theory that there is only one God and we are all talking about the same Supreme Being, then I need to go further than the three core religions. I need to be able to include Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans, Taoists…everyone who searches for the Mysteries. Not the ones that can be proved with Science, but the inner ones that govern the growth of the soul and the possibilities of an afterlife. I realize there are too many to count. I can’t possibly learn about all of them. I can only research the primary ones that are accepted by large numbers of people.
So, this year I embark upon that search. So far, this semester, one class is covering Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a second one has covered a general overview of Hinduism and begun the study of Buddhism. Later it will look at Confucianism and Daoism. Don’t misunderstand. I do not seek to change my religion or expect to fully understand other traditions and cultures through a couple of classes.
I simply want to synchronize things inside my own head. When I tell people: “There’s only one God. We all worship Him/Her in our own way, building our own personal relationship to the Almighty One. We simply use different names, just as we call our mothers and fathers by different words in different languages or cultures.” I want to have more authority behind my statement than my own small opinion. So, I am searching. For parallels, similarities, a way to merge it all together in my soul.
I don’t expect to change the world. I have never felt the need to spread my beliefs into the world. I simply want to be able to grasp a greater meaning to the concept of “God” than what I now have. As I grow close to the day when I will meet Force face to face, I need to know that I have done all I can to prepare myself.