When I pray with God, I start out with words.
He responds in words.
We get right down to business. The words start happening immediately. The back-and-forth turns rapid. If I am fortunate, it quickly proceeds to fundamental principles about which little more can be said, and yet, if I am blessed, transmission continues in both directions.
My cup runneth over. Words prove extraneous, so we stop talking, letting the echoes of our words trail off into the distance; they bounce off vast canyon walls until we are listening only to the unfiltered silence that has grown there now like a flower sprung from a crack in sheer rock.
In moments like those, religion falls away to the ground far below. I am not thinking of doctrine, not thinking of dusty laws or gnarled statements of moral principles. Not seeing the faces of my religious leaders in my mind’s eye and worrying about disappointing them or being corrected by them. I am not obsessing over whether Jesus wore white robes or brown ones.
I am not even thinking of Jesus at all. For he is in the same camp as words and doctrines and opinions and symbols, as far as my puny human mind can comprehend. He is a word, he is physical, he is conceptual and well defined, ergo he is not the Ultimate, he is not Transcendence. He may be the way for some — he is for me — but he is not always the destination.
The moment I open my mouth to talk about God, I have already begun throwing objects between myself and him. Now this can be helpful, as when building a rope bridge across a chasm. But if I have crossed that bridge to God and am standing before him, I must let go of my tools and let God take my naked hands.
My memories are faulty, dear friends. So I must build that bridge over and over throughout life. I must read our holy text, I must receive teachings from our worthy leaders, I must fellowship with people who share our doctrines, I must practice the ways and customs of our tradition. This process can be supremely enjoyable and extremely beneficial to my life in the presence of God. These things get me from point A to point Y.
But I don’t get to point Z until I forget the entire rest of the alphabet.
It only lasts for a moment.
May your time with God be like this.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
– Psalm 23, King James Version
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