For many, January is a time to reflect on the year behind and set hopes and intentions for the year ahead. For folks of an explicitly spiritual bent, this often includes remembering our longing for God and the gifts this relationship brings. We may name these in different ways, but I imagine among our hopes, these top the list: deeper peace and contentment, more presence and quality in our relationships, greater clarity about our gifts and purpose, an expanded capacity for love and mercy and grace.
My sense is that naming what we desire is often much easier than knowing how to receive it.
Unfortunately, sometimes our religious upbringing focuses more on what to believe than how to connect. We often learn creeds and confessions, but not ways for growing in a loving, transformative relationship with God. Which sadly leaves many people worrying about what we believe, while missing the real gifts for which we long. It’s like we’re all in our heads trying to figure out what is true about God; meanwhile, this God is closer than our very breath, pleading, I’m right here with you! See me. Listen to me. Love me. Let me love you.
Faith and belief in God is about so much more than intellectually assenting to certain statements about God. If I tell my husband Michael, I believe in you, I don’t mean that I concur he exists or take others’ word for it that he’s a swell guy. I don’t mean I believe it’s true that he was born in Cedar Falls or he has a brother and two sisters. Believing in him is a relational trust, an inner knowing, a deep love and care, all born of a real, life-and-flesh daily experience of living life with him.
That, I believe, comes closer to what faith in God is intended to be—a living relationship with a loving Presence we come to know in ever deeper ways, and an intimate trust to which we can surrender more and more of ourselves. This, of course, takes time, a whole lifetime really, to grow and develop. It involves sustained commitment and practice. And it transforms everything.
We can stand at the edge of God, as if at the shoreline of an ocean. We can admire its beauty, make observations, give it lovely names and attributes, consult books and experts to learn more. But the real adventure begins when we dive in.