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Patience with God

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God? I don’t know what or who God is. But I do know that I sense something that is more than brain chemistry when I love my granddaughter, or look back at a teacher who years ago taught me not to be a bully and who let me sing in a musical in school when I was barely able to read or write. That’s what I am trying to get people to concentrate on instead of these big, fancy arguments.

The word “God” has been infused with many people’s definitions—the guy up in the clouds, he is male, looking down on us. If we take God out of the picture then we are responsible. The feeling of empathy is my feeling of empathy, something I have created. God, this being that created the earth to shake because we did something wrong—Pat Robertson’s reasoning for the earthquake in Haiti is a deal with Satan—is very dangerous. Maybe the word “God” needs to be evolved away from.

Some words get used in a way that almost becomes “anti” whatever their original meaning was. You see that with all sorts of overused words, they’re almost impossible to use with any neutral sense of meaning because they’ve been deformed. And “God” may be one of those words since it got borrowed and mangled by American evangelicals. Belief is not the important thing because belief means, “Am I sincere? Do I have the facts?” Belief goes up and down. Experience is more important, so I would put it a different way. I experience in my life a presence that makes me feel that love and empathy and predates my existence—that this presence was around, was actually tangible somewhere before the Earth was here or the universe took its shape, and that it continues to evolve with us. This gives me a sense of peace, purpose, meaning, and something to appeal to—call it whatever you want. Now I don’t “believe” that, because “belief” is something that hinges on rational argument. But I do “sense” that. So, when I hold Lucy and read her a story, or when I look at the many other people and things that I love, I sense a meaning that goes beyond my ability to describe. Or when I look at a canvas I sense something more than the molecular structure of paint. I know a scientist could take that same canvas and come up with a rational explanation in terms of the paint, its age, and chemical composition, but that’s not what the painting is. I feel the same way about existence. I experience a divine presence in my life that people have called God and maybe the name, or word, as you say, is wrong. Stories about Christ in terms of sacrificing for others, putting others first, doing unto others what you would have them do unto you, not casting the first stone—those are principles I choose to live by. “Belief” in Jesus has nothing to do with it, but his life is a good template for me to try to live by. The word belief is overused, because belief changes. There are days I believe I love my wife, there are days I believe I don’t. But I sense her presence in my life in a way that I can’t and don’t want to escape even when we fight. It’s what we experience in our own life. And I personally experience what I call a divine presence as an entity that emanates from somewhere outside of me. The words fall far short.

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