Cover of The Shack
I was chatting with a friend recently and the subject turned to what books we had been reading lately, one of my favorite topics. She had just read The Shack and wondered if I had read it. I said that no, I hadn’t read it, but I had a pretty clear idea what it was about and the message that it was trying to send. I was frankly surprised that this particular friend had read this book as she doesn’t tend toward overtly spiritual reading and calls herself an atheist. I asked her how she had come to choose this book.
A friend had recommended it to her, but had said nothing about the book’s philosophical leanings and my friend admitted that she was a bit put out as it became clear where the premise of the book was leading. She forced herself to finish the book (she doesn’t like to leave things undone and finishes virtually all of the books that she starts, unlike me) and though she says that she never would have chosen to read a book that was so overtly about God, she was very glad that she had completed it. She said that it did comfort her somewhat. Her understanding of the book’s message is that God is far, far beyond anything that any of us can ever understand and in order to grasp God a tiny bit or go toward God in our human capacity, we have to put God into some sort of form. And when we can convince other people of the truth of that form, we have started a religion or perpetuated a religion. Our history has shown us, unfortunately, that it is at that point that the trouble starts. But the author of The Shack is trying to let us know that God is beyond it all. Beyond human beings, beyond the earth, beyond the universe as we know it and comprehend it at this point, completely beyond our comprehension. The book didn’t make my friend begin to believe in God, but it helped her to make peace a little bit with the people who do believe. She says that now whenever she sees things that people do in the name of religion that seems to have nothing to do with love or what she would hope a god would be like, she reminds herself that there are people out there who believe this other way.
I told her that was the way that I believe. My friend knows, of course, that I am a Christian and she has known me for many, many years during which I have undergone radical changes in my way of thinking toward God, man, religion and spirituality. I felt disappointed that she didn’t say something like, “Oh, I know you do.” But, I realize that even those closest to me, like my husband, can’t really understand all of the leaps that I have made.
I go around thinking about all of this stuff all of the time. Really, I do. It is never far from my thoughts and especially because of my role as a spiritual director where I am sitting with people who are asking a lot of the same questions about their life and about God. But, some of my closest friends have no idea what my deepest held beliefs are. And the reasons for that
Image by Thai Jasmine via Flickr
For one thing, how do you have those types of conversations? How do they get started outside of a meditation circle or a church group or a spiritual direction session? For another, many people are just not interested. You know how some people call themselves policy wonks or computer geeks or sports freaks. Well, I am a complete and total spirituality dork. If I walk by a church, temple, synagogue, mosque or monastery I want to be in it. We don’t even need to talk about my favorite sections at Barnes and Nobles or the library. I love all of that new age-y floaty music that you hear at the acupuncturist (I have one of those) or the massage therapist and always gravitate toward artwork with a lotus or stones, or water. I meditate. I do yoga. I practice aromatherapy. Zen is one of my favorite words though I am far from being a Buddhist.
This is all of the stuff going on inside of me all the time. And all of it is stuff that I believe matters. But, what do people see from the outside? Do people just see this as stuff that I do or do they have some sense that this is something that I live. I really, really want it to be something that I live and that in some way, my way of being in the world allows those around me to find their truest and most authentic ways of being in the world as well. So, even if the people who know me best can’t tell you what I believe, I hope that they could tell you that they experience me as someone who is open, loving, and supportive of each person’s journey through this life.