Beliefs are a fine starting place for the Life of the Spirit, but they don’t take you very far. They take you to the threshold of a real relationship with God, but only your faith, perseverance and love and the healing power of the Holy Spirit will take you all the way down that road, into the Life of the Spirit, the life lived in, with and for God.
Beliefs are problematic for several reasons. First, they are interpretations of the Biblical texts about God, but they have been passed through human filters which may skew or exaggerate one part of the text over another. Secondly, they may not be the whole story. And what is the whole story? I am not sure that our finite minds can grasp all that God is. So our beliefs are always only partially true, the rest is mystery.
I think that the best way to know who God is this: let God tell you. Then your beliefs about God are constantly being informed by your actual experience of God. This is a good thing. Of course, to let God tell us who she is requires listening to, paying attention to, loving the God revealed, watching and waiting for God.
I have come to this idea through a long inner struggle to leave behind the toxic teachings of my childhood hell-fire-and-damnation church. For many years I felt like God sat on my shoulder like a raven, just ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. I’ve come a long way from believing in that capricious, vengeful God of my childhood.
The good thing about my early learning about God is that it tied me to God, to that “angry old man in the sky.” And that tie troubled me so much that I had to find a way to love God. I found that the God who saw me through all these difficulties was not hard to love at all. Those early teachings, being so problematic, impelled me to figure out how to disentangled myself from a very negative image of God and finally to embrace a positive image. God, I believe, was there with me every step of the way, helping me to arrive where I am today, where I let God show me who he is, how she cares for me, what our relationship could be like.
I still can’t tell you all that God is–no one can–but I can tell you about a positive, freely-given love that flows between us. I can tell you, as I have in other writings, that God is the pilot of the craft that is my life and I am the co-pilot. I can tell you that I have not experienced an iota of vengeance or punishment for who I am or the mistakes I have made which is what I most feared—the mark of the hell-fire-and-damnation god. It has been God who has brought me through every challenge and suffering place in my life, including the suffering I once endured from believing that he was vengeful and capricious.
Do you hold beliefs that keep you from loving God, keep you from letting God all the way into your life? Do you hold God at arm’s length? Do you allow God access only to the “good” parts of you? What about your pain and suffering? What about your most intimate spaces? Do you trust the God of love with your life? Would you be willing to let God lead the way to your deepest self? Will you let God tell you/show you who God is?