To make people aware that resisting our needs limits our experience of God
Our next objective finds us at a very familiar place. We frequently visit the subject of need as a supply pipeline, a gateway to mercy and a means of connection. Each of these elements, we have said, is an avenue to experience God; but have we truly paused to consider what we mean by “experiencing God?”
This gets tricky very quickly. Each individual person experiences God as an individual, as much as all individuals experience all things individually. The same vanilla ice cream will be experienced differently by as many people who sample it. There will surely be people who have similar, or nearly identical experiences – because, after all, we are all made up of the same “stuff” that makes people what we are – but each experience will ultimately be uniquely and infinitely definable, down to the tiniest nuance, unto each separate individual.
So it goes with God. What really complicates things is that God is invisible; discernible, but intangible; singular in concept, but infinite in existence. Ice cream, by comparison, is measurable and finite. Infinite variables experienced infinitely by individuals is just too infinite to try and condense into a pamphlet called “What to Expect When Experiencing God.” To further complicate things, we are all at different places in our spiritual lives, some at great heights, some rejecting spirituality altogether, and most of us scattered somewhere in between. How can a group of Missionaries claim anything about helping or hindering our experience God?
Let this be very clear: We are not selling any absolutes, any guarantees or any formulas. We are following a string of “ifs” which seems (to us) to logically hang together.
IF we all have human needs to be recognized and understood;
IF God has that same need, for us to recognize and understand Him;
IF “need” is a channel through which human connection flows;
IF God Himself is our Origin and Source, found at the very first link in our chain of connectedness;
We would expect that, the more we actively practice embracing our needs, the more likely we are to experience connection with others;
The more likely we are to experience connection to God through our connections with others.
This is a vital and defining element of our Missionary philosophy. We are out to help people connect with God, but rather than preaching a way to do that directly, one on one, we are suggesting a different route: connecting with God, eventually, by first connecting well with others.
Why take an indirect approach, when our core philosophy demands sincerity? Let us assure you, we ARE being quite sincere. We sincerely think that, in many cases, the indirect approach is more effective than flying straight toward something we are not prepared to handle.
Consider these points:
And so, here we are. We offer this as an alternative route, as a proposal to see if the Way of Saint Thorlak is a way that takes us to God slowly, gently, with plenty of support and practice and small steps along the way. Those of us familiar with autism spectrum disorders know what it looks and feels like to be in a state of sensory overload and anxiety hijack. These are very real experiences, and certainly not exclusive to those affected by autism. Imagine, then, being curious about God but feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, disempowered, excluded, overlooked or too different to fit in. Imagine saying things like, “I’d like to know God better, but God would not like me. I do things, I think things, I like things that are way out there.” Maybe so. Maybe, too, we have heard that such “things” are explicitly opposed to God or the church we heard them discussed in.
It would not be the first time that has ever happened.
Nor does it mean that our comforts and preferences should be automatically approved by God “if” God loves us.
It does mean that, no matter what we think, or like, or want to do, God thirsts to be known and understood.
If we presumed to put words in God’s mouth, they might be, “Before you write Me off, please, see first where I am coming from. For my part, I will never write you off. I may not approve one bit of your desires, but that is because I can see further and wider than any big picture you can see. Can you at least learn about My intended design before making up your mind?”
Furthermore, the standards by which we define civil behavior apply no less to the way we approach our concept of God. “Our needs” include the need to not be mocked, ridiculed, belittled or disabled by the words or actions of others. It is just as wrong to make those gestures toward God. In this way, resisting our need – our need to be human toward one another – does indeed limit our potential experience of God.
This week’s Missionary Thought is likely to stir up questions and strong feelings. We conclude here with two very important closing items:
We repeat once more that our purpose is to foster understanding and connection. If our Catholic loyalty is a stumbling block for some, we respect that. We also hope, sincerely, that readers will extend to us the same purpose, to foster understanding and connection… for, we believe, it is through connecting with one another that we will all mutually begin to experience God in new and enlightening ways.
Pray: God, Father: Help me to see You in the connections I have, and the connections I form.
Contemplate: Is it the case that I need God, or that God needs me, in order to experience Him? Is there a distinction?
Relate: How does connecting with people around me help me to better approach God?
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak