The difficulties I experienced as a child with the strong, Biblically literal, and bigoted opinions of those in my family and community being at odds with my own experiences of living in the world resulted in several things. One was that God, made in my own image, was a heavenly parent with whom to share favours; if I did favours for God and was a ‘good Christian’, God would keep me out of harm’s way and help me survive in an evil world. Another was that God could not be trusted.
Now that my self-made image of God has self-destructed, because nobody is ever safe from harm’s way, I am left not knowing the nature of God. There seems to be a life energy in the Universe. An energy that is life and gives life to everything. And one aspect of that is that the universe wants us all to be well. Beyond that, I do not know if God (if this life energy is God) answers specific verbal prayer requests, or responds better simply to us living in a way which embraces, harnesses, shares, and reflects the life energy that is in us and all things.
But in the absence of a heavenly Parent God, the world is as beautiful as it is vile. There are no crutches, and this mysterious life energy does not seem to intervene in my affairs the way I want it to intervene. My constant experience is that the more I open up to living in tune with Spirit, the more I realise my requests and wants are the wrong requests and wants; I am listening more than I am talking. In fact, in zazen, I am not talking at all. “Just thinking ‘not thinking'”, in the words of Dogen. In the absence of a heavenly Parent God, what has come back to me is this second aspect of my experiences as a child – that God can not be trusted – simply because I could not trust the advice of my elders growing up in a fundamentalist community.
So where I stand today is that I have unearthed another block on the Way. Another piece of duhkha – to use a Buddhist word. Or an illusion, to use a Hindu word. The block is this: I am afraid of fully letting go, and surrendering, and living ever more fully in the harnessing, sharing, and reflecting of Spirit. And I am afraid because I do not trust Spirit, because I did not trust God.
My challenge today is to embrace Spirit fully, and let go my distrust. My distrust, at its root, has nothing to do with Spirit or what I comfortably call the ground of all being. It was a distrust of my elders.
So, perhaps as Muslims might say, mine is to let go fear, and surrender to the will of the divine.