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Although we’ve had a number of discussions on Ricochet about the damage that the Left is inflicting on those who are religious, we’ve seen very little about how people begin and nurture a religious life when there is so much disparagement by those who are secular. I also have been thinking that there are many people who are either atheist, agnostic, or who have no particular interest in having a relationship with religion, and with G-d in particular. I assume that they may be respectful (or not) toward those who believe in G-d, but the idea of pursuing or deepening their understanding of religion seems alien and not a helpful way to spend their time.
I’m not looking to motivate people to become religious if they are not inclined that way. The people I’ve been thinking about are those who, at some level, would like to have a relationship with G-d, but have all kinds of preconceptions about what that means in their lives. I’d also like to propose that their assumptions might be incorrect and make it difficult for them to find a relationship with G-d.
So, I’d like to propose that people from as many religions as possible share what it means to them to experience G-d. “Experience” is a broad and inclusive term, so you aren’t limited in describing your experience. You might describe prayers, particular prayers, meditation, rituals, holidays, study, music, and any other practice that allows you to sense or know that G-d is in your life. No one should try to judge your experience, because it is yours alone. This is not a competition to determine whether one practice is better or wiser than another. I encourage people to share experiences, as opposed to actively proselytizing; that approach has the risk of pushing people away. That doesn’t mean that if you experience Jesus as part of all of your practice, that you shouldn’t share it; on the contrary, that centrality might be important and precious to you.
To give you an example of the ways you might describe how you experience G-d, I’ll speak about myself.
First, I have a general sense of Presence most of my waking hours. It is subtle, but always there. G-d’s Presence is amplified when I hear sacred music—particularly Jewish songs, but even gospel music. I experience G-d in Torah study; I assume He wants me to learn from Him. I experience Him when I pray, especially when I pray in Hebrew; when I meditate in silence; and sometimes when I am with a loved one: I sometimes feel that G-d has blessed both of us and our time together. I recently saw the new grandchild of a friend; even on Zoom, that was a sacred moment. Finally, I often sense G-d when I’m outside when I’m walking; I think the silence around me, even when I listen to a podcast, is palpable. There are other moments as well, but that gives you an idea of what I’d love for you to share in your experience of G-d.
I also believe that G-d may show up without your seeking him, but the odds are not high. Some people have a profound experience in the beginning, but many of us have started in baby steps and seen the relationship mature. It can take time and attention.
The whole idea is for people to realize that one’s experience of G-d can be subtle or profound; connected to formal prayer and study or everyday life; alone or in worship.
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You may have noticed that I didn’t mention practicing a specific religion or denomination. I think for many, the idea of connecting to a religion and its teachings is a daunting task. Don’t misunderstand: I think pursuing a relationship with G-d through a religious framework is a key component of a deep practice. I also believe it’s essential for the moral tenets it provides and a supportive community. I think that many people have a difficult time creating a moral framework that isn’t about personal preferences; those are the people who call themselves “spiritual.” I think that pursuing a relationship with G-d first, followed by an exploration of religion, is achievable by most people.
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For those of us who believe that G-d is beyond time and always present and available, we only need to reach out to find Him. Feel free to share a single practice or several of them that you find especially helpful.
Would you share your experiences of G-d?Published in