God must be the boogy man! …. This is how I found him
As a child, I was exposed to some very fine religious people. Each in some way shared their knowledge of God with me. Those dear souls left a lasting impression on my life, not because of any remarkable accomplishments, but by an enduring faith that connected them to a High Power. That power was able to sustain them in dark times and good times. I believe my Higher Power put them in my life for a reason. As wonderful as these people were to me, the message I received from them about God altered my belief system for life. The message of people burning in an eternal lake of fire if they did or didn’t do things caused me a lot of confusion. Why was there so much concentration on how angry God was … if he created us, I was sure he knew exactly how we would behave?
By my teens, I had decided that the God of my childhood was not on my side. I had already learned to drink, curse, smoke and steal ashtrays from hotel rooms where I’d committed adultery…
So, I lived in fear and shame of a God that created me because I liked weed and Miller Beer. Even as a teen… I was not gonna give up on God… maybe I’d just heard the wrong version. That began a long quest to find him/her. My first stop was with the Unification Church …. also known as The Moonies. This was the late 1970s and I followed a girl to several “services”. There was way too much chanting going on for me and far too little deodorant used by the Moonies. After the sex got old with her, I moved onto an evangelical group that would lay hands on you and cast out all of your problems. I tried that for quite a while and nothing that was cast out ever left.
From there I dappled in Buddhism and the Baha’i faith… then I simply gave up and accepted the fact that if I had been placed on earth for God to destroy like a cockroach on a kitchen floor there was nothing I could do to stop it. I’d like to think that made me feel better… but it didn’t. I simply gave up hope.
I found God the same way I found an apartment in L.A. … on an “as needed basis”. When I got my place in Hollywood, I listed everything people warned me about living in the City of the Fallen Angels . From them, I learned the expense, crime rate, lack of conveniences, hipster hang outs, drug problems, trashy bars and police brutality. I reviewed and listed what I wanted from an apartment, a great view, walking distance to the subway, urban life, LGBT Center, Reformed Jewish Temple and plenty of restaurants. I reviewed both lists and threw their list away… I knew what would work for me. Hello Hollywood … this is home!
This is exactly how I found God. I wrote down everything I was taught about him as a kid. God was angry, damning, waiting to pass judgement, scary, not interested in me. Then I wrote down what I need in God; I needed a friend, a father figure, someone with whom I could turn, a source of love and hope. I needed to not feel judged. I needed to not feel afraid. I needed to be accepted for who I was and not be ashamed.
That day I destroyed the paper that had the God of my childhood on it. I was free. That was someone else’s interpretation of God based on information they had learned along the way. It was perfect for them… it brought them happiness and fulfillment and peace. It just wasn’t the message for me. My God didn’t intend for me to follow the path of those people… it wasn’t my path.
Is there a difference between God and Religion?
There is definitely a difference between God and religion. God is someone I have a relationship with. My view on God can be altered by many factors in my life. It can be affected by my relationship with my own father or even by my culture and the people I spend time with.
I see religion as a set of beliefs that have guidelines for behavior associated with them. There are many religions with many differing beliefs and rules. I don’t think God needs religion. He wants to have a relationship with me. It is so easy for me to get confused and think that my relationship with him has rules of engagement. I love knowing that God cares about me and that my relationship with him does not need a lot of order and structure. I want to participate in religion or activities at my temple to celebrate his holiness, but it’s not a condition of knowing God.
God knows I’ve smoked, drank, cursed and stolen ashtrays from hotel rooms where I’ve committed adultery … so what? The world didn’t stop spinning and my dogs didn’t die. I believe he understands as people we face life on life’s terms. It isn’t always pretty… no one said it would be.
Sometimes I’ve succeeded … other times not so well. But I know the God of my understanding is real and I don’t have to live my life afraid anymore.