Erecting the Barrier

            Will you please join me for a few minutes in the presumption that although we say we want a relationship with God, in fact, that is not true.  That basically we don’t want to know or be known by God, we don’t want to lose our boundaries and our separateness and our uniqueness, we don’t want to disappear as one drop disappears into the ocean.  Our egos are much preferred as our god.

            Building our Controller takes time and work and comes out of disappointment or hurt and is designed to insure safety.  In the first part of our lives, we all prefer safety.  Then we reach our 50's and suddenly safety seems like a coffin and we are not ready for that quite yet.  And the balance shifts in the safety vs. the unpredictable-aliveness-that-is-God question.. I have heard many people say that they started their spiritual practice originally out of great pain, with hopes of ending their pain and finding a path that worked to keep them safe from hurt.  God was an analgesic.  They subscribed to the butterflies and sunshine theory of spirituality: if I am good, life will be easy.

            This is a stance most of us outgrow.  When we see that we can’t manipulate God into giving us what we want, we may assume an attitude of never-mind-I-will-take-care-of-myself.  And by the way, screw you, God, for not being what I wanted.  This is a good platform for building a Controller.  We can erect an image of ourselves that is hard to see through, that erases vulnerability, and that is generally admired.  How long we dally in this stage is related to the success of and the rewards we receive from doing our In Control number.  It’s possible to live an entire lifetime here.

            For those of us fortunate enough not to be too successful, we move on to, OK, I can’t do it on my own. I need your help, so what do you want?  This is said with a sigh and an air of resignation which is not surrender.  It is not a total letting go.  It’s said on the downward slide when we see that we are losing, hoping to recoup some of our goodies by letting God be the one in front. However, our Controllers haven’t released the strings.  We do “spiritual” acts but our hearts are not present. We putter along without experiencing the depth and intensity of our feelings. We’re still relating to ourselves in a superficial way and hoping that that will suffice for God, too.  It is only when we have lost all hope, when we know we can’t survive on our own, when we can’t even find the path, much less make our way down it, when we lose hope in everything we have known, when we are shattered beyond apparent repair, that is when we can approach God. 

            What does God want with our Controllers and our success and our self congratulations?  Those are just barriers which keep us from knowing God.  When we truly want a relationship with God, when we are finally clear that we can’t live our lives meaningfully and satisfactorily on our own, when we know that there is more we must have but don’t know what it is or how to get it, when we can’t play the game anymore and have released our Controller’s claims to worthiness and safety, only then are we ready to stand naked and undefended, and say, I am here, God. 

            And then we wait. 

            For God isn’t far away, but is in the deepest cells of our being.  God is deeper  in us than our bone marrow and more essential to our being who we are.  So after we have spent most of a lifetime getting away from our weakness and vulnerability and sadness, we are thrust right back.  Into it.

            And that is where God waits for us. 

            It’s funny, isn’t it, that what we can do for ourselves isn’t of much interest to God.  She is not a teacher with rewards for work but a lover who says, Give me your heart.  Personally, I would rather do something any day than just be and trust and feel all that ensuing anxiety.  Having God say, I am here, let me love you, makes me nuts.  I want to say, Yes, I am here, or at least I will be this afternoon after I’ve made some phone calls.  And as for loving me, well, I’m still in process, God, and I’m working on this anger thing and I’ve almost got it, so let’s just wait a week and then I will really be ready for your love.  Don’t give me too much now.  I don’t want to lose my momentum.  Not too much joy or prosperity or, heaven forbid, love from another human.  I’m not quite ready yet, but I promise you, I’m working on it. 

            God hears, “I’m not available”  and accepts that.  So we are the ones (entirely) who decide how full a relationship with God we are open to.  She is always there.  Granted, her terms are harsh and it seems like through the first part of our lives, they get harsher and more demanding.  Maybe She tolerated us doing our Controller number out in the world in our 20's and 30's but by our 40's, She is saying, Come on now.  What about those parts of you you left behind?  You, remember, that sadness from your childhood you never did heal?  What about feeling that now? 

            Because we can’t separate ourselves from any parts of ourselves--uncomfortable feelings, perceived weaknesses, fears, vulnerabilities--without separating ourselves from God.  God is not on the altar in a cathedral with a sparkling chandelier.  She is in the darkest, most hateful spot in our hearts, waiting, hibernating, but not dying or disappearing.  She will be patient for just so long and then she demands that we look where we have avoided looking, that we acknowledge what we have denied and tried to kill inside ourselves.  She is not in the shiny facade of the mansion; she is in the closet behind the door, under the clutter, in the dusty corner of the basement. 

            And that’s where we have to be, also, if we want to be present to God.  She waits for us and calls to us softly at first and then increasingly loudly, through our bodies’ aches and our drinking and our tears and our broken relationships.  That’s where we find her and where she waits and will always wait.  Only when we go back to our messes, can we find God.

            God is to be experienced, not talked about.  Even though “knowing” is an intellectual word, knowing God is an experience, not an intellect driven endeavor.  When we stay in our heads we avoid God and we avoid the deepest parts of ourselves.  It is only when we dare to immerse ourselves in our passion and let it carry us that we are open to God.  As long as we feel in control, we don’t need God.  Allowing ourselves to experience needing God, to know that we are not whole in and of ourselves, is the first step.  Realizing that we cannot do what we need to to make our lives complete is terrifying.  The further realization that what is required is unknown and out of our grasps is unnerving. 

But by the time we have been beaten down so many times and discouraged and totally without hope that we can make things turn out “right,” then surrender doesn’t seem impossible.  In fact, it is the only door open.  How much more can we hope and try and how long will we bloody our heads against the wall that we are now seeing we have erected?  How many heart attacks are enough before we change?  How many lost loves before we say, What I need I can’t get from anyone else?  What does it take before we are ready to concede that while this ego ride has its moments, it is not a long term satisfying way to live.  Only a life based on a strong personal relationship with God offers that and that isn’t something that can be received from outside.   It can’t be bought or earned or given in a church.  No matter who your teacher is, it doesn’t come from outside.  Its strictly an inside job and God awaits.  Only not where you want Her to be and not in the way you prefer.

            God always chooses what is our least together area, our most unfocused point, and then demands that we live out of that.  None of our worldly successes are any help and, in fact, the defenses we have created hinder us in knowing God personally.  That is what is required–a commitment to a complete, full, total relationship with God.  No holds barred, no escape routes open.  Everything is on the line and there is no safety net. 

            And from that point we say, Your will be done.

            And we usually add, But not in this way or not quite yet and don’t let it hurt.  Be gentle and I promise I will get it.  

            But as long as we have that pleading, fearful relationship with God, we’re not ready.  Because as our other relationships have matured, so must our relationship with God.  We are not pleading and fearful with our friends or our parents or our colleagues or our business partners.  We don’t try to manipulate or shield ourselves from other humans.  And so must it be with God, also.  We stand in front of Her and we can’t impress her and we can’t convince her to love us more or that we are preferable to another human. 

            We simply stand and we be and we breathe and we wait. 

            And that’s it.  I am here, we say.  And we don’t know what to expect and we no longer think of trying to control or limit God. 

            I am here and I am available.  Your will be done.



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