An Evolving Faith

Judaism

An Evolving Faith
Thursday, August 30, 2018

[We come into this world to] align our souls with God: The relationship between God and soul is analogous to that between the sun and its rays. We are the extension of God in time and space. How, then, can we be misaligned with God? Misalignment is a state of mind that arises when we forget our true relationship with God and act as if God were other. —Rabbi Rami Shapiro [1]

The Hebrew Scriptures show an evolutionary development, a gradual coming to see how God acts in human life. God is not changing so much as our comprehension of God changes. Throughout the Scriptures, the people of Israel’s growth reveals the pattern of what happens to every person who sets out on the journey of faith. Over time, we gradually come to know how God loves us and what God’s liberation does for us. But we humans come kicking and screaming.

Early in the spiritual journey, we start to experience the reality of God and God’s love as more than an abstract concept or theory. At the same time, however, we tend to start by believing that God’s love is limited to just us, just our group! The circle takes a long time to widen.

Little by little we begin to respond to God’s love, but we still perceive God’s love as dependent on our ideal response. We believe that grace is a conditional gift, that God will love us if we are good, that God will save or reward us if we keep the commandments or go to church.

As we practice giving and receiving love, we begin to see God’s love is infinite and unconditional, but the implications are just too mind-blowing. We acknowledge that God loves us whether we are good or bad, and that God is gracious to the just and the unjust alike. But we still think that God is doing that from afar, from up in heaven somewhere. We do not yet see ourselves as inherently participating in the same process. Frankly, we have not yet discovered our own soul.

Finally, we make the breakthrough to seeing that God’s grace and love is present within us, through us, with us, and even as us! We wake up to who we truly are: the image and likeness of God. The mystery of incarnation has come full circle. We can now enjoy God’s temple within our own body as the Apostle Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and throughout), and we can love ourselves, others, and God by the one same flow. It is all one stream of Love! We fully realize that it is God who is doing the loving, and we surrender ourselves to being channels and instruments of that Divine Flow in the world. We do not initiate the process; we only continue it.

We are loved and chosen so that we can pass on the experience, not hoard the experience. In fact, if we feel a need to guard it, as if it were limited or scarce, that is the certain evidence that we have not accessed the Infinite Source within ourselves. It has to start with some kind of “I got it” experience which should lead to “But everybody else does too!” To echo Ken Wilber’s wise observation, “Religion starts elitist, but ends egalitarian. Always!” [2]

References:
[1] Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained (Jewish Lights Publishing: 2004, 2013), 4.

[2] See Ken Wilber, One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2000), 32.

Adapted from Richard Rohr & Joseph Martos, Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament; pp. 110-111 (Franciscan Media: 1988), 110-111;
and Richard Rohr, New Great Themes of Scripture, disc 2 (Franciscan Media: 2012; no longer available).

Image credit: Red and Orange Solar Flare (Rosette Nebula [detail])
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God reveals the essence of divinity to Moses: ehyeh asher ehyeh, most often translated as I AM what I AM. A more accurate Hebrew translation would be “I will be whatever I will be.” In either case, the Hasidic understanding of the text is the same: God is all that is. God is all that is happening at every moment. God is I AM—not a being or even a supreme being, but Being itself. . . . [Each of us is] a keeper of the I AM; just as a wave is a “keeper of” the ocean in its particular place and time, so are you a keeper of God in your particular place and time. To realize this about yourself is to realize it about all beings. —Rabbi Rami Shapiro

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