Who Exactly Is God, Anyway?

 

I remember reading this scripture out loud at Vacation Bible School when I was 11 years old. Our assignment was to listen to the words of this verse and create our own interpretation. The best one would receive a reward. My response was: “Don’t take your life for granted. You should treat your body as if it were a gift from someone special.” 

I won the contest, and looking back, I now recognize  this was more than just a contest I happened to win. This was a defining moment, one in which I realized how I had come to choose such a strong first name, Temple, in this lifetime. Deep down, I knew my life belonged to Spirit and I would always represent God. This experience validated that for me. 

I have had to grow into my name—and this scripture—many times in the course of my life, while overcoming addictions, tragedies, rejection, and abuse. During my early years, my body temple did not receive the best self-care and treatment. Yet that scripture has always called me and even became a great shadow over me whenever I took my life and my divine mission for granted.

Blaming It on God

In my youth, I allowed myself to be overly influenced by the people around me and their beliefs. It was a vicious cycle. I longed to be loved and validated so I could fit in, while at the same time I knew I was different from everyone else. I had been abandoned and rejected so often by the time I was a teenager that I began a cycle of abandoning and rejecting myself, which lasted many years. 

As a kid I had attempted to ask new questions and be original, but originality and uniqueness were not common values in my neighborhood. It was way too hard to be committed to attaining my full potential in a small town filled with small minds, a town where most people simply did what their parents and the people before them had always done. Most had never questioned what they were told or even considered the possibility of being empowered. They had become very comfortable walking the roads and carrying the loads of the people around them.

I knew strongly that alcohol was not part of my path. I heard my inner voice telling me this, but I abandoned and rejected the message. I would become violently ill from drinking, yet I kept right on doing it for many years. Rejecting the inner voice seemed less painful than listening to it and taking the highest path of my life. This became a paradox—I longed to understand my identity and my relationship with the Divine because God had always spoken to me, and yet here I was no longer listening. 

The experience reminds me of a story about a little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, who was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Bible class. As she ran she prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late! Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!” But while she was running, she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again. As she ran she once again began to pray, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late … But please don’t shove me and knock me down, either!”

This little girl represents the dichotomy so many of us in our humanity feel toward God. We blame God for situations and events that are not related to God at all. In Unity, we are often challenged because we believe in a God who gifts us with free will and choice, and yet many of us still want to hang on to a God who is up in the sky punishing us, shoving us, and knocking us down. 

This little girl represents the dichotomy so many of us in our humanity feel toward God. We blame God for situations and events that are not related to God at all. In Unity, we are often challenged because we believe in a God who gifts us with free will and choice, and yet many of us still want to hang on to a God who is up in the sky punishing us, shoving us, and knocking us down.

We declare we have free will and free choice, but at the same time, we blame God for what we do or do not have in our lives. We are never able to grow into the awareness of being responsible as long as we blame rather than claim. Often we decide how we are going to let God in our lives and how we are going to shut God out. 

God’s Personality

I recently ran into a friend of some members of my spiritual community who asked me if I remembered our discussion the first time we met. She’d told me then she didn’t believe in God.

“Yes,” I said, “I do remember. I also remember my response. I said I don’t think people do not believe in God; they just do not believe in the God they were told about when they were growing up or the God they saw other people model at an earlier time in their lives.” In other words, God is not the problem—it’s the identity people give God that is the true challenge. What most people do not realize is that how we identify ourselves is always tied to how we identify God. This woman went on to say she is now involved in a local church teaching third graders, and her life has dramatically changed. 

God is not a personality, but a spiritual energy force or principle of love. As Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore wrote in his book, Jesus Christ Heals, “God is not loving. God is love … from which is drawn forth all feeling, sympathy, emotion, and all that goes to make up the joys of existence. Yet God does not love anybody or anything. God is the love in everybody and everything … God exercises none of His attributes except through the inner consciousness of the universe and man.”

My parents and grandparents used God as a way to discipline me. They would say, “Temple Ann, God is not very happy with you right now,” or “God is upset with you,” or even “God is disappointed in you.” I had become programmed to believe that most of the time God was not pleased with me at all. Deep down, it didn’t feel true, yet when everyone you love and depend upon is saying something, it’s easy to begin to feel it must    be so. 

In New Thought, we believe God is impersonal, yet personal to all who establish a relationship with the Divine. For a number of years, I had to step away from referring to God as male or female. Often people will refer to God as a “she” and feel it sounds funny. What they usually do not understand is even with these subtle acts a residue remains of God being a person with human qualities. So in the practice of a nongender God, I was able to free myself from a God who shoved and pushed me like the little girl in the story or from a God whom I blamed for every good or bad outcome in my life. 

 Ultimately, at our deepest core, we want to believe in our Creator who made us. We want to trust we are connected and believe life can work for us. When someone says to me, “Life is not fair; my life is not working,” I know what they are really saying is they have not learned to work with life. I understand this because I was once one of those people. I had not learned to identify God as my ultimate Source and Power and to believe totally in a God who was actually present and the presence.

Many years ago, I would always call my father when the time changed to or from Daylight Saving Time. I would ask him if I needed to move the clock forward or backward. Once he would tell me, I would ask, “Are you sure?”

“Temple,” he replied one day. “Why do you call me and ask me if you do not believe the answer I give you?” His question not only changed my view about my belief in him, but it also changed my trust issues with God. I realized that I had created the same dynamic in my relationship with God. I would call upon God to provide the highest and best for my life. I would invoke into my reality a dream, a desire, or something needing to be healed and revealed—and yet I would not trust the guidance I received.

In order to truly align with my own spiritual identity, it’s essential that I not see God as so many others do—as some sort of authority figure. As long as I believe that someone else or something else has authority over my life, I will never be able to be the authoritative presence in my own life and I won’t be able to be totally responsible or fulfill my potential. I give thanks for the ability to be my own authority—the author of my life—while at the same time I appreciate a God who gives me the empty pages to fill at my discretion.

I celebrate the freedom and gift of my life as if it were a gift from someone special.

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