Seeking God

“God refuses to be an object for attachment because God desires full love, not addiction. Love born of true freedom, love free from attachment, requires that we search for a deepening awareness of God, just as God freely reaches out to us.” ~Gerald May in Addiction and Grace (as quoted by inward/outward)

I have been a spiritual seeker all of my life, from my earliest memories. My childhood was steeped in religion as I grew up in a household that revolved around the church. Although I have wandered far afield from the beliefs and practices of my youth, that urge toward the spiritual has never left me. While it remains as strong as ever, I’ve noticed that the focus of this drive has shifted over the years.

I remember well the drive for God being fueled by fear when I was young. The fear of hell was foremost, of course, but there was also the fear of punishment in this life for having chosen wrongly in the many moments when my thoughts, words, and deeds did not measure up. My seeking of God was less about God and more a desire to escape the punishment that seemed to be ever looming over my head.

I also remember the emotional highs that came from times at church camp in my teens or in emotionally charged worship services, particularly in the Vineyard Church I attended for a while after graduate school where the band led us in praise songs designed to tug at the heartstrings. It was easy to believe that these times of emotional outpourings were what it meant to love God and to devote my seeking of God to creating more of these emotional experiences. That works only as long as the emotion can be sustained, but when the emotion runs dry in the desert times in life, it can quickly seem as if God has abandoned me. In the end, I had mistaken the emotional experience for God, and it proved itself to be no more than an idol.

Seeking God out of fear or out of desire for emotional experience are both attachments. They are addictions in their own way. And as Gerald May points out in the opening quote, neither qualify as full love. Both are looking to God for a benefit rather than seeking God for God’s sake.

Being human, I don’t know that it is possible to ever fully seek God only out of full love with no eye to the benefits we hope to gain. Do not those desires for benefits for ourselves haunt all of our human relationships from time to time? How much more so does it seem likely that we would do so with a God that we cannot see or know in the same way as our fellow humans?

That being said, though, my seeking does seem to have shifted more in the direction of this love that May describes over the years. In fact, the less I understand who God is and the less defined my beliefs become, the closer I come to loving God and seeking God without the attachments I once knew. In those moments when I become frustrated with the journey and am tempted to abandon the everlasting seeking, it is not fear nor desire for ecstatic emotional experiences that keeps me on the path. Rather, it is the conviction that God is real and is pursuing me even as I am pursuing God that urges me onward.

I encountered a quote today on the Facebook page of Quaker faith & practice that describes well my experience in those moments. (I do not know the source other than the FB page to which I have linked.)

“My experience came after many years of doubting and uncertainty. It came to me one evening, alone in the sitting room at home. It came at a moment when God, who through many people and events over a period of several months had been pursuing me, put his hand on my shoulder. I had to respond – yes or no. It was unequivocal, inescapable and unconditional. It was also completely unemotional; I was stone cold sober – no heavenly visions or lumps in the throat. It was a challenge to the will, a gift of faith for me to reject or accept – and I accepted.” ~Roy Farrant, 1974

I have not been fortunate enough to be able to make this decision once for all time, as he seems to describe. Instead, I seem to make this decision repeatedly—sometimes daily it seems—but the decision is always the same. I cannot define God with even the smallest bit of certainty, but I know that this God pursues me always. I know that feel of the hand on my shoulder. I know the need to respond.

And I choose faith. Every time, I choose faith. Even without know who exactly I am choosing to have faith in, I choose faith. Sometimes this comes with a flood of emotion (usually that of humble gratitude), more often there is no emotion at all. Except for the longing for the one who pursues me. The longing which has no name for a pursuer I cannot describe. This longing is why I choose faith again and again—and why I keep my feet upon this journey of seeking God day after day.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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10 thoughts on “Seeking God

  1. Were you, perhaps, raised in the same church as I? LOL I, too, am glad to be reaching the point where I know God more in the silence and stillness of my mind without having to name Him/Her, or to not have a fear of retribution from a condemning God for not loving Him/Her “enough”. It is in peaceful solitude and communion with nature that finally holds God for me, along with that Hand on my shoulder and the whisperings in my ear (and that occasional booming voice I have learned to recognize as God trying to get my attention). I am grateful that I can finally release past indoctrinations to find for myself what and where and who and when and why my God simply is.

    You wrote in your post that “Being human, I don’t know that it is possible to ever fully seek God only out of full love with no eye to the benefits we hope to gain.” Are we not taught, as children, that if we thank God for our blessings that He will bestow more upon us? Is this not setting us up for a conditional love of God? That He will fill our needs and care for us if we thank Him and love Him? It’s no wonder we, as humans, struggle with the concept of “unconditional love.” And yet that is exactly what we are expected to give to God and others – love with no conditions. I always found this to be quite confusing as a child. But I was a deep, philosophical child that bordered on pensiveness unfitting for an innocent. :-)

    Your words, as usual, are thought-provoking and precious.

    • Our journeys sure do parallel each other’s, don’t they? I love your description of where you are on your journey and the relationship you are building with God. It sounds like the space I am coming near to being in myself. What a joyful description you give of it!

      I agree that the instructions and the descriptions we are given of God are often conflicting and confusing. As children, I suspect that we can see that more clearly because we have not accepted those contradictions as normal yet. I was also one of those deeply pensive children (a trait I have not yet grown out of, it seems). While I found much to be confusing as a child, I still miss the clarity with which I could see when I had less baggage in the way.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am delighted that you find my words so helpful!

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  3. A really interesting and thoughtful post. Thank you.

    I apologize if I’ve given you this quote before but as I read your words about defining God, I remembered one of my favorite phrases, “we are all God in different disguises,” which I know from Deepak Chopra. I suspect the quote’s origins are Vedic. The Quaker quote is quite related to your longing, which some Sufis would say is longing for love. I see God (only one name for the other 99 names as Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee says) as love, everywhere and in all, which is as close to a definition as I get.

    I’m not sure when this happened but I no longer seek a definition nor am I concerned whether I am referring to God or the Universe or the Source. Frankly, it has taken me a long time to use the word God but I’m comfortable with that now. More and more, I recognize that the physical plane is where we define all but it is just one dimension; existence, consciousness, oneness are eternal, always evolving, and beyond the physical plane.

    I know my observations are anything but helpful but as I read and re-read your post, what comes through is your faith in God and it seems you are this close to connecting. Again, a really interesting post and I will think on it more.

    Karen

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Karen. I love the Chopra quote, and I am grateful to your for sharing it with me. I increasingly agree with your idea that God (by any name) is love, but I suspect it is Love that far exceeds that which any of us can imagine from our human experience of it. I am finding my own grip loosening on my need for a definition for myself. I still struggle, though, with wishing to be able to define my thoughts and beliefs for others since I find that so much of what is often meant by the word God and by Christianity is so far from what I am growing to believe to be true. I find myself wanting to be able to at least be able to give enough of an explanation of my beliefs to be able to distinguish myself from what goes for the usual, perhaps because that is the only way that I can reclaim these words for my own use. Hmmm … I did not fully realize that was what was driving me until I wrote that. I am going to have to ponder that some more.

      Thanks so much for your comment! I am grateful for your support and encouragement.

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  5. Great post! It’s helpful to me to see how other people are experiencing their journey with God. It helps me see where I am not alone. I did have a “believe or don’t believe” moment in my life, and I chose to believe. Even so, like you, I experience that moment repeatedly. And you have to choose again every time. “I believe, Lord; help me with my unbelief.” It’s an ongoing journey, a relationship.

    • It’s good for me to know that I’m not alone in the needing to do this repeatedly! “I believe, Lord; help me with my unbelief” is a well-used phrase for me. Thanks for the comment and the encouragement.

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