Serving God in Our Day
My earliest concepts of God, gleaned from my religious training, were of a power distant and removed at best and vindictive and frightening at worst. From childhood through early adulthood, I frequently experienced connection with what I now understand to be God through a feeling of empathy and solidarity with other living beings. In retrospect, I realize that the reason I became a vegetarian by choice at age eight was because I felt a deep connection with the cattle that were being turned into my meal. At some level, I comprehended that both the cattle and I were different manifestations of the same life force. These feelings of empathy and caring created the basis for a more evolved and resonant concept of God as I matured. Learning from some of the great theologians of our time, I came to understand God as the transformative power of the universe, the force that brings that which is into that which will be, taken from an understanding of the Hebrew letters yod hey vav hey, which make up the name of God as written in the Torah.
God is the energetic source that I came from and the source to which I will one day return. In this way, God is both personal and transcendent, a part of every being, yet more than all beings. God is all there is and all there ever will be. It can be difficult each day to remember that the separateness we feel as we go about our daily lives is but an illusion. When I can let go enough to connect to God, whether through passionate prayer with a community or a solitary reaching out through a free flowing of words and emotions, I am able to release into the knowledge of the interconnection of all life. From this understanding I have found God everywhere I look, in every person and every living being. I see God in the webs of connection that link us all—plants, bacteria, animals, and microbes—to one another. I feel God when I am engaged in acts that help to reweave the relational fabric of life. This force is stimulated in me as I stimulate it in others.
I recently felt a strong connection to God followed by a feeling of deep sadness. After spending time at a local intentional community engaged in the art of permaculture, surrounded by flourishing plants, gardens, and fruit trees, small dirt roads, straw bale houses, and rooftops covered with solar panels and outfitted to collect and store rainwater, I felt a resounding connection to God. Returning home to the city I felt an overwhelming sadness that kept me up crying all night. I felt God in the streams now paved over into roads, the native animals driven out by buildings, the indigenous populations massacred for land, and the loss that this has caused to our relational web. Anywhere the life force is suppressed I feel a loss of God. On the other hand, when I turn a big, hot pile of decaying compost, aerating the matter and allowing it to further decompose so it can be used as nutritious soil, I feel the transformative power of God. In gathering with friends for a Sabbath meal and sharing lovingly prepared food made with produce from a local garden or farmer’s market, I feel God in our ability to care for and nurture one another and the natural world. I feel God when I feel myself in relation to the whole, when I slow down enough to notice and appreciate.
In every age human beings have been called upon to evolve our concept of God. Today, the call as I hear it is to truly understand the oneness of God, and from this the interconnection of all life on the planet. Rooted in our knowledge of ourselves as an important part of a much greater whole, we can begin to break free of the systems and paradigms that no longer serve us. We can awaken in ourselves and in one another a sense of hope and possibility and reinvigorate an awareness of what an incredible blessing it is to be alive. And it is from this place that we will learn what it means to serve God in our day.
This piece originally appeared in Radical Grace, 2008