"I walk with Jesus, is he walking with me? Hard to tell when everybody's on the same street..."
-The Devil Makes Three
What does it mean to walk with God?
The language we use often paints a picture that is romantic, powerful, even magical... but what it lacks in practicality, it overlooks in ambiguity. In other words, just because it sounds slick, doesn't mean its message is being clearly conveyed. If what we are saying is being lost in translation, then what is the point in saying it? Do we even know what we are saying when we say such phrases as, "God is with me", or "I can feel the presence of God", or such similar claims?
I suppose such remarks are deeply personal to the speaker; just as the question "Do you believe in God?" is highly complicated as it alludes to something uniquely personal to not only the person answering, but the person questioning as well. It reminds me of something I heard Dr. Jordan Peterson once say in a lecture:
"Part of the wisdom traditions that the world still maintains make the constant moral presupposition that you should always be aware of what it is that transcends both your understandings and your perceptions. And you should keep firmly in mind that that exists. Now when people talk about God in the modern world they tend to think about something that has more the characteristics of a being and I suppose that’s where most of the debate about religious reality comes in. But the idea that there’s an absolute outside of your perceptual capacity seems to be merely a statement of fact, especially given what we know now about the nature of perception, that the phenomena always transcends the manner in which you frame it."
If you have seen the show Cosmos then you may remember in Episode 1 it goes into the story of Giordano Bruno, the man who read some literature that was then banned by the church, leading him to an understanding of God that was unbound to the dogmatic practices of the time, making him dangerous to the church, of course leading to his death...because how dare he have a different interpretation of God. But before his death, he is trying to explain his newly found vision of God to people of the time and he is quotes (on the show) as saying "Your God is too small!" in response to immediate pushback. It seems as though Bruno understood the vastness of space but was caught in the wrong time.
Frederich Nietzsche is (in)famously credited for saying "God is Dead!" (from the book Thus Spoke Zarathustra). The story is something like this: A madman runs into the village exclaiming that God is dead and we've killed him. The villagers laugh at him and assume he has gone insane. He persists, "God is dead!" and suggests that God's blood is on our hands, yet there isn't enough water in the universe to wash us clean of this horrendous act. So, let me do my best to dissect the 19th century German author's implications here... I believe he is making the case that God used to mean something, God was a word used to describe the creator, creation, the Father, the Unknown, the Almighty, the Absolute...God was more than just a rationalized figure reductionists consolidated into an old man in the sky watching and judging. God was something that existed in the cosmos, as well as in the psyche. But he was now "dead" because the human mind has a knack for organizing information into something easily understood and assessed, for the purpose of convenience and survival. The nature of God should not be something we claim to have down to a science or treat as if it is a formula to be predicted, nor should God be something we dismiss as a mythological entity that was created to provide comfort. Instead, I believe, Nietzsche, is saying something along the lines of "Man has lost his way, devaluing virtue and nobility. We have traded in the highest good of all for the most egotistical stroke of one's ego."That is just my own interpretation from what I have read of Nietzsche, including the book in which "God is dead" has been quoted from.
Allow me to now shift gears here and turn the attention to something more pertinent to my own personal life.
I sat down to write this blog post because I caught myself in a terrifying lie that had been going on in my own mind for several weeks now. Ive been listening to podcasts, reading books, watching documentaries, saying prayers, etc. I have been seeking God. I've been studying God. I've even been discussing God and teaching others about God. What more could you want from me, right?
Then, while laying in bed with the TV off and in a moment of silence, I allowed myself to go into somewhat of a trance. I supposed you could call it meditation, you could even call it a form of prayer. It is something I learned to do a few years ago, but have only found myself able to do it with efficiency at certain times...meaning, not every time I try do I yield meaningful, spiritual results. (I will soon post something giving much, much, MUCH more detail as to what I do and how I do it and what I think it all means, but not this time).
I had just finished watching a documentary called "Imagining Jesus" that basically just covered the time and place Jesus was walking around in and what was relevant politically, culturally, geographically. It also covered his teaching in ways that appeared to be accurate with the biblical text, but also really matched up well with what I happen to believe in psychologically and, well, spiritually. I laid there contemplating what I had just seen. I considered some things I read earlier today. I remembered some things I heard on a podcast yesterday. Then, I went silent. I went to that place mentally where I was not just the product of my thoughts, but also aware of the thinker of my thoughts. I focused, listened, waited, and most importantly, I believed.
I do not know what people mean when they say they talk to God. I don't know what they mean when they say they hear from God or walk with God or even what they mean when they are in prayer. I think that is something that remains very personal. I think that is what Christ came to reveal to us, that a relationship with God is a personal thing that we are all not only capable of, but uniquely rewarded for seeking and finding. I believe some people find God in meditation. I believe some people find God in church. I even believe people can find God in music or art. What I don't believe, is that there is a specific formula for finding God that we all must use in oder to establish this relationship. I mean, generally speaking, the one rule is you must simply have faith and believe, but beyond that, I do not feel like it's accurate, nor is it even productive to suggest to people that they must pray in a certain style or that they must talk to God in words such as "thou" and "hast". I don't even know that we need to address God in the English language (or whatever language you speak). I don't think words are necessarily required in order to "talk to God", just like I don't believe that asking God to take your hand is necessary for you to "walk with God."
What if instead of these arbitrary, artificial, dogmatic, generic forms of reaching out to God, are simply suggestions. What if they are like hitting off of a tee or learning to ride a bike using training wheels? Can we evolve past these rehearsed children's prayers that are sort of "checking in and checking out" in attempt to keep tabs on God. God isn't your grandma and prayer isn't stopping by to say hey so that she'll remember to give you money in your birthday card next week. Our minds are capable of so much more, and so is God. Our brains are incredible pieces of equipment that provide us with technology that we cannot even full imagine, let alone understand.
To wrap this up and salvage some sort of meaningful takeaway from this post, let me summarize with this:
It's paramount that we do our research and absorb information about God, humans, culture, history, etc. It's crucial that we allow this new information to guide and shape our understanding of ourselves, AND the world around us. It's important that we discuss our ideas with others and see what our perspective really sounds like when we attempt to put it into conversational terms with another person. But is learning and listening and discussing really walking with God? Or is it just making a case, gathering intel, keeping the spirit fresh on our minds... What if those are components or aspects of walking with God, but truly walking WITH God, simply means shutting up and shutting out the world for a moment. How did people even know that God existed before the Bible was so conveniently written? How did people walk with God before they had ways of learning about God? Did they? Can you? Can you unplug your external inputs momentarily and really connect with your inner most being? Can you get to a place psychologically/physically/spiritually, where you feel God's love for you flowing through your veins? I challenge everyone to really consider how in tune they are with themselves, the world around them, and who/what they consider to be God. I promise it's not nearly as complicated as anything human intelligence has ever crafted. It is something that's so deeply ingrained in you that you, without a doubt, have the ability to access.
Until next time, chew on this...
Your body changes daily. The world changes daily. So, too, should your relationship to them. So too, should your understanding of them. God is everywhere...prepare yourself to look low enough to find Him.