Monday, April 21, 2008

Divine Connections

The following is an article that I submitted for the May issue of The Window, the monthly newsletter of First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo.

First of all, I should clarify that this is not an announcement about a new dating service for singles here at First Unitarian, as could be construed by the title. (Word has it, though, that setting up such a program is in the job description for our new full-time minister…okay, I’m kidding.)

Does God have a plan for our lives? If you were to ask me this question 15 years ago, I would have answered yes. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church in a small town and went to Bible college here in Kitchener. I had very little doubt throughout my childhood and teenage years that God (who I viewed as a super-natural Person in the sky,) knew everything about my life from the beginning of time. The Bible told me that before I was born, God knit me together in my mother’s womb, and therefore God knew what I would look like. He – of course he – also knew what kind of job I’d have, the name of my future wife (he’s taking his sweet time with that one!) and if I’d have any kids. He had “a plan,” and it was my job to make sure that I was living within that plan. I would often close my eyes and pray that he would reveal his plan to me, and that I’d do a better job of living according to his plan. Of course there were questions that would pop into my head from time to time; for instance, if God knew everything before it happened, then he knew that certain people would reject him and therefore end up in Hell. Why, then, would God create these people in the first place? And today, several years after being so certain about fundamentalist Christian doctrines, I have serious questions for this God (if, that is, this type of God exists.) For example, if God knows everything beforehand, how do we explain babies born with deformities or diseases? What about car crashes that kill mothers of young children, or other things that happen on a daily basis? I used to hear, and tried to believe, that we couldn’t know the mind of God or that “everything has a reason.” The former answer sounds like a cop-out to me, and the latter one is just plain annoying.

So what do I believe today, and what am I experiencing? I have been thinking of the idea that we are co-creators with the divine (whom I no longer view as being a male necessarily, by the way.) Rather than being subject to God’s will or trying to make sure that we are within God’s plan, perhaps we are partners with the divine, creating the kind of life we want to have. I rather like the idea that perhaps our relationship with the divine is similar to that which is experienced between lovers. Author Marcus Borg speaks of the idea that we live within God, as if the divine were an ocean, and all of us are swimming in it. He refers to the Biblical verse that states, “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” This is an idea that has resonated with me during the last year or so on my journey. But I find myself being called to go farther, to ask the question, “what if?” What if there really isn’t or need not be a separation between ourselves and the divine? A short while ago I believed that perhaps just as Jesus was able to say that he was one with the Father, maybe we could make the same statement (albeit with different language perhaps.) What if we are just unaware of our divine nature, rather than being separate from the divine? What if the evolution of humanity is leading me, calling me to realize that I don’t need God to come and enter my life; rather, perhaps she is already right here, right now, and my job is to wake up to that reality.

But what of God’s plan, then? Is there nothing mysterious or magical about life? If we are creating life as partners with, or as divine beings, is there anything to marvel at or be surprised by?

In the last year or so, I have been noticing more surprises in my life. Or, if you like, perhaps they are divine connections. One illustration of this has to do with how I came to attend this congregation. In January of 2007, after several years of not attending services anywhere, I decided it was time to start looking for a church again. I chose a United church and the Unitarian congregation as candidates for where I would go on that first Sunday back to church. I chose the united church, and though the minister seemed nice and enthusiastic, by the end of the service I had decided that it wasn’t what I was looking for at the moment. But one of the greeters afterward encouraged me to sign the guestbook. Upon doing so, I saw that one of the people visiting that Sunday was Felicia Urbanski, minister at First Unitarian. I thought this was rather odd, as I had been debating between the church she ministered at and the one I was standing in. The following week, or shortly thereafter, I walked into the church on Dunbar, and it didn’t take long to feel welcome. I felt and still feel, that this was a good place for me to be at this point on my journey. I have met a lot of people, including Felicia, whose insight and friendship has enriched my journey. Was this just a co-incidence? Over a year later, I decided to look for a spiritual director to guide me along my journey. Upon google-ing “spiritual directors” and “Kitchener,” whose name should come up? The minister from the same United church that I attended that first Sunday. Now the two of us meet regularly.

There are many more examples of “co-incidences” that seem a little too co-incidental to me. Is it the plan of a supernatural God, unfolding something that “he” knew would occur from the beginning of time? Personally, I don’t think so. God, to me, is not someone imposing a plan on humanity, and life isn’t a paint-by-numbers affair that we are merely filling in.

I don’t think that it is our job to approach God with heads bowed and eyes closed necessarily, hoping for intervention that is entirely beyond ourselves. Rather, we walk as people who are intimately connected with the divine, perhaps more so than we currently realize. We journey on, eyes open, gaze set forward. And as we cultivate awareness of our place within the divine and vice versa, mysteries are seen, inspiring moments occur throughout our days, and here we experience divine connections.