The 80-year-old nun, her cane at her side, said to the circle of women gathered around her, "It was hard to let go of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny -- but letting go of God was the hardest of all." Every one of us knew what she meant, understood the mystery, had made the same journey. Most of us placed ourselves in the post-theist category. We had gone beyond belief of a male, white God in the sky into the actual experience of our own divinity. What we celebrate now is the Immanent One Within, the yin aspect of the Holy One, the sacred Breath that is breathing us.
Marian Woodman, a Jungian analyst, reminds us that "the images on which we feed govern our lives." Think about it. Ever since the patriarchy upstaged the Goddess and gave us a male God Creator image 6,000 years ago, we have been pummeled with imagery, language, arts and education that fosters that ideology. Think of the Sistine Chapel. What image comes to mind? The pearly gates? Heaven? God? To whom do you appeal when you lose your car keys, want to help a sick friend, are in any kind of trouble? Someone outside yourself.
We forget that the great masters from the Hindu Rig Vedas to Buddha to Jesus all said that oneness with Creation is already ours. They've all taught that heaven is around us, the divine is within us, that anything any healer ever did can be done by any one of us if we put our heart and mind to it. How curious that the very notion of a faraway God is keeping us from our innate creative potential to BE that which we are seeking.
As a 12-year-old, I spent hours on my knees praying to be a martyr. Tears would run down my face and I'd wish for them to turn to blood. I wanted the stigmata. I wanted to prove how devoted I was to God. I wanted to die for God. Think about it. There is nothing healthy about that. When I was innocent, impressionable and trusting, adults in my life handed me a set of beliefs that determined my worldview. They installed them into the very marrow of my being, using music, images, rites and a sense of fear that if I wavered from the true path, grave suffering would be mine. It's understandable why the Jesuit retreat director, Fr. Anthony DeMello said that it takes the same training to make a terrorist as it takes to make a Francis of Assissi. I was a young middle-class white kid who would have done anything to give my life for the cause.
The hard thing about inherited beliefs is that we think we should defend them. It doesn't occur to us that as we evolve, our thoughts evolve; as we mature, our spirituality matures. We develop our own worldview. We see how others have shaped our thinking and begin to drop what no longer rings true. We ask ourselves, would I think this way if I was born in China, in Africa? Then we begin to develop, from the inside out, a faith of our own making, based on what it is we believe is true and right and worthy of our commitment.
When I was 10, I got into a fist fight with a neighbor boy who said Jesus wasn't born on Dec. 25. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became an adult, I put away childish things" (1 Cor.13:11). As an adult, my spiritual practice is to expand my spiritual thinking. To let go of inherited beliefs that keep me powerless and find my way into that place where I and Creation are one. My job is to feel my way into the authenticity of the Biblical pronouncement that we are gods. My work is to envision myself as a healer, to practice and believe in my healing powers as if Jesus really meant it when he said, "anything I have done, you can do, too, and even more."
I put on an atheist cap every once in awhile and approach my prayer time as a non-believer. There is no God Above, no Gepetto in the sky making things happen, no one to pray to. Then I hear the birds chirping, the sound of the wind, the rustle of the leaves and I think: If there is a God, I am in awe. If there is not a God, I am in greater awe.
Children do not need to go through the phase that our parents and churches took us through. They do not deserve false teachings, images that frighten them or encourage martyrdom. They deserve to hear about Mystery, to be told there are things too magnificent for us to ever understand. They deserve to be taken to the places to experience for themselves the inexplicable wonders of life, and to come to find the sacred in the soil of a garden. Everything they need to know about resurrection can be found in a redwood forest.
The longer we hold to our notion of God as the director of the universe, we fail to take our role as co-creators of THIS planet, this culture, these times. Abdicating our power in this matter is a grave injustice, for children are dying, innocents are being murdered, our water and air are becoming toxic on our watch. Giving up God doesn't mean we abandon our faith. It means we leave God for GOD, trade in the notion of an external God for the experience of our own personal sanctity -- and the sanctity of every breathing thing. We trade absolutism for awe. We transform adoration into action. We pick up our tools and express our creative potential -- in stories that uplift, music that moves us, images and words that tell the truth of who we are and what we feel.
To leave our thoughts of God for an experience of GOD is an evolutionary act. It is realizing there is nothing to seek, nowhere to get to. This is it -- our one chance to be great, to be a light in the world. There is not a fish alive who seeks for water, nor a human breathing who is not fully one with Creation Itself. The One whom you seek is already within you, holding you up, pumping your heart. It is the invisible force that guides your thoughts. The yin to your yang. It has already happened. You are fused forever. It was your birthright. It will never stop being this way.