I once did a year-long internship in New York on Long Island. On days off I would take the Long Island Railroad into the city. Years after the internship was over I still pined for New York, particularly the energy of Manhattan. I returned about once a year to visit the wonderful people I had met and to immerse myself in familiar favorites (MOMA, Broadway shows, Central Park, and The Cloisters) as well as seeking out new experiences. Several years ago I decided to explore moving to New York. Rather than live as a tourist, I decided to live like a resident. What would it be like to bring groceries home on foot from the nearest store, which was four blocks away? What would it be like to walk through the snow to and from the laundromat in February? How would I thrive week after week, month after month in weather that was far too cold for my comfort level? How would I feel living in a fifth-floor, 350 square foot, walkup flat?
I quickly realized that I was not so much in love with the idea of living in New York City. I was in love with the idea of being on a permanent vacation in Manhattan. What seemed like magical perfection in my 20's now seemed like far too much discomfort, frenzy, noise and effort with not nearly enough connection to nature. I had outgrown my image of the perfect place for me to live.
Just as I had outgrown that image of where to live, I realized I had also outgrown my image of God. The God who sent all non-Christians to hell or who condemned homosexuals or who wanted women to keep their mouths shut in deference to men, that God no longer resonated with me. I could no longer relate to a God more petty than I knew myself to be. My image of God was too small.
Have you outgrown your image of God? Is even the term "God" insufficient for your experience of the Divine, of the Essence of Life? One way to tell is by the fruits of your divine image. If your experience of the divine makes you more open-minded, open-hearted, fully alive and willing to serve your neighbors and even have compassion for your enemies, then that image is congruent for you. If, however, your image of the divine leads to judgment, fear, self-loathing, restricted living, and spiritual highs with no genuine concern or action for those at the bottom of life's barrel, then that image of the divine is too small.
The spiritual path is one of surrender, embrace and surrender. We surrender and release an old image of the divine with gratitude for how it served us to this point. We embrace the new life-giving experience of the divine that is emerging for us, knowing that it too must be surrendered some day if we are to keep evolving.
The journey never ends. You can never experience the fullness of the divine. The Mystery is inexhaustible. Therefore, our images of the sacred are always incomplete. That is not meant to discourage but to excite us. Whatever our experience, emotion, dream, woe, latent potential or growing edge, the divine is already there ready to meet us with more life-giving possibility than we can imagine.
I read once that if you started at one tip of Manhattan and ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at a different place for every meal, it would take over 80 years to reach the other end of Manhattan. And, of course, by then new restaurants would have arisen, not to mention all of the non-eating stops along the way that are worth savoring. If it is impossible to experience all that a 3-mile strip of land has to offer, then how limitless are the adventures within the entire sacred universe. That exploration is one thing we can never outgrow.
P.S. Join us for a day retreat on Saturday, December 1 and explore what the divine is for you now and update how you relate to the sacred so that it is meaningful and life-giving for you today. For more information and to register, visit the Classes page.