Bishop John Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Church said, “God is not a Christian. God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. I honor my tradition. I walk through my tradition. But I don’t believe my tradition defines God. It only points me to God.”
I think often of this statement. It reminds me that words place boundaries on our concepts and feelings, boundaries that don’t exist inside of us, and these same word-boundaries limit our ability to communicate with each other the meaning of God in our lives. I often ask in prayer for “eyes to see” and “ears to hear,” as Jesus sometimes says, so that I can discover the good in every moment, discover what I can learn in the moment, and discover some part of myself in the world that I observe. This process of discovery, for me, is a journey inward as well as outward; seeking relationship with God as God can be discovered inside of myself and outward to discover all the ways that I can find God in my relationships. I see and understand the world and other people as teachers, teachers that can hold me, nourish me, and reveal God to me, so that I can take my place and fulfill my purpose in the fabric of all Being. Our minds, guided by the spiritual traditions we embrace, lead us to God, in an infinite number of ways, in ways that are uniquely matched to the uniqueness of our being, a way so inclusive that the infinite number of ways all resolve into the One God.
I have come to understand that this kind of inclusivity is a threatening idea to many people. They prefer a God that judges and condemns, so sometimes my teachers are harsh and unforgiving. They prefer that I am excluded from the Heaven that is in God. As if that could truly happen. I am reminded of a story from the Hindu tradition about Krishna. Krishna comes upon a group of milkmaids and multiplies himself so that every milkmaid has a partner to dance with. The moment a milkmaid believes that Krishna is dancing only with them, he disappears. Our understanding of God works in a similar way. As soon as we believe we have God to ourselves, that we are the only one to know God, that only we are God’s chosen, we “lose” God. We are never truly separated from God’s love for us, but our selfishness can obscure our experience of God, and prevent us from manifesting for others the love found in our experience of God.