“When did God become such a judgmental prick?” Pam Grout asks in her book Thank and Grow Rich.
“When humans took over,” is the grim reply in my head.
I believe we are all on a spiritual journey, whether we realize it or not. The quest to find answers to questions like, “Why am I here? What does it all mean?” is a spiritual one, and I also believe, universal. Yet, I have been loathe to turn to the religion of my upbringing for answers. Self-help books seemed a lot more practical.
The highlight of my first communion was that we went out to breakfast afterwards, and I got to devour a stack of ten (!) silver dollar pancakes at the local diner. Church was boring, anxiety-producing and abstruse. So many rules. So much talk about sin. Guilt. Obligation. So many ways to do life wrong. So much fear. The word “God” still gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I stumbled onto an alternate view when I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Creativity. Reeling from the untimely death of my dog and experiencing a rocky marriage, I turned to the book to get back to writing; to find myself; and to see if some creative problem solving could save the marriage.
When I started working through the book, I didn’t expect to find spirituality, self-compassion or an alternative view of “God” that was benevolent and wanted the best for me.
As far as spirituality went, I could wrap my mind around Creativity. I could feel creativity working through me, but couldn’t see it and for sure could not identify where it came from. Linking creativity and the Great Creator was a reasonable leap.
But believing in a benevolent universe? Mind blowing.
And that’s where, in my experience, religion gets a couple things wrong.
Religion often 1) Shames us for being human; 2) Misrepresents God for political power and morality; and 3) Makes “God” small by anthropomorphizing it. Using a personal pronoun and giving human attributes for something that big and mysterious just seems like playing small, and comes with all the limitations, judgments and ego of our little human brains.
What’s ironic, of course, is that I never set out to find a spiritual path; I set out to find myself. Instead, I found spirituality. And in pursuing that, I have come face-to-face with myself. This isn’t easy or convenient. The universe doesn’t deliver what I want so much as it delivers what I need.
Artwork © Stephanie Hirsch. Detail from Everything Will Come.