The God of my childhood was a person-like being above the clouds. He (yes, of course, ‘he’) was ‘up there’. Beyond the universe.
He was an interventionist God. He swooped down to bless those who ‘did the right things’. And when people ‘did wrong’, he’d either let them suffer or he’d make them suffer.
Although I was never super religious (just enough to be dangerous), I could at least tell myself that I ‘believed in God’. It helped me sleep at night. I felt a deep concern for those who didn’t believe in this God. According to the lore of this God, they were surely on the verge of a divine beatdown, either in this life or just after it.
This God of my childhood was the God of supernatural theism. The God that’s only a few hundred years old, yet whom our modern world believes as the God of scripture.
The God of supernatural theism is the God of the Enlightenment — a fairly modern one constructed by well-meaning folks who tried to turn the ineffable into the literal.
One day, to make a super-long story super short, I stopped believing in this God. My doubt hardened.
But I couldn’t ever call myself an atheist. Because although I didn’t believe in this God, I had a deep knowingness that there was something… more.
That’s when I found pantheistic spirituality. I changed God’s name into different things like ‘Source’, ‘Spirit’, ‘Energy’, ‘The Universe’, etc.
I depersonalized the divine. And it was nice. It gave me a whole new paradigm to play in. It moved God from being ‘out there’ to right here under me in this world.
But then (to make another long story short), something seemed like it was missing. That God from my childhood, the one that seemed like it was in my room listening to my prayers — there was something very real about that.
It was then that I realized: maybe no matter how far ‘out there’ I thought I believed it was, God never really left my side.
There’s something profound about the human yearning for a God that’s personal. All ancient traditions have their personal God. Who are we to throw this all away?
I wanted that personal God back. But not the old one. I was in a place between two paradigms: the prior (supernatural theism) and the latter (pantheism). Although I’d never go back fully to the prior, something from it was lacking in the latter.
As I look back, the real God of my experience thus far has been one that doesn’t fit into either box…
I don’t know if I believe in the old man in the clouds, but I do know that God feels more real as a personal presence — a ‘you-ness’ rather than a non-personal ‘energy’ or ‘force’.
This personal God carries more of the qualities of a ‘you’ than of an ‘it’. It’s a personal presence that’s more than personal. More than a ‘him’ or a ‘her’ albeit more than an individual ego. More like a someone than an impersonal ‘source’.
Also, God doesn’t seem to be ‘out there’ intervening on occasion. I’ve lived long enough to see countless ‘good’ people get repeatedly screwed over and the most evil of the bunch go to their graves scot free.
This God of my experience has more to do with intention and interaction than intervention. This God isn’t a vindictive dude above the clouds, but a personal you-ness that is both ‘not me’ as well as ‘closer than flesh’.
Yes, it seems I’m pointing towards an invisible friend. But it’s not just that. This God is visible to me in so many ways. If my frantic mental chatter is quiet, I see this God in everything from the spectacular to the despicable.
This is God to me, at the moment. That which I live, move, and have my being in. That whom I can commune with and hand over my deepest burdens. That who suffers and rejoices right along with me as I make my way through this human existence.