Monday, December 11, 2006

Religion Is Merely A Guide

The following was written today as I sat and waited at the eye doctor's office. I haven't really edited it much. It wanders a bit, though I did cut out the total non sequiturs.

Some of these ideas have been bouncing around in my head for quite some time. I recently finished reading a book called The Lost Secrets of Prayer by Guy Finley. In it he talks about much the same thing and it helped begin to clarify my own thoughts.

I welcome any thoughts or comments on this (subject or writing).


The path to God is not only stright and narrow, but lonely. I'm not so sure about straight, but that is perhaps because no one has really managed to stay 100% on it. In part, this is because that lonely path goes through the wide path of life. There is no other place for it to go! We must travel on the life path and we may go where we will on that path.

We find the narrow path in may ways. Religion is one way. Some find it accidently. Others may be looking for signs and find it. The thing about religion is that it is a wider path. Those who cling to it may possibly not be on the narrow path. This is true if they insist on not going alone. You cannot walk beside someone who is on the narrow path and be on that path yourself! The gathering together of Christians (or any other faith) is a good and helpful thing, but it is not being on the path in itself. One (maybe the only) reason the path is single file is because when we are on that path all we see is God. We don't see others. We don't look to others, only to God.

But the path is through the whole path of life. To focus solely on God is not to ignore life around us. Focusing on God provides us with the lens through which to see what is around us. If we have focused on God, we will see the world as it really is. If we are focusing on anything else that will tint how we see th world. Through God, we will see the need and the need to respond with love.

Mother Theresa was fully focused on God. It led her deeply into, not away from, life. She didn't lose her focus. It helped her to see what she needed to do in life -- to love and care and do what she could.

If our focus is wealth, we will see everything in terms of money and monetary value. The bottom line becomes the most important thing. In the end, however, no one has ever been fully satisfied with wealth -- no matter how much. If we focus on "the good life," we see things in terms of our pleasures of various kinds -- "This is a good thing" and "That is not a good thing" both based on how they please us. Ultimately, any non-God focus is a focus on self -- even those that appear selfless. Taking Mother Theresa as an example again, if her focus had been on anything but God, she could not have done what she did as well as she did, would not have been the saint we see her as. Focusing on "helping the poor," though it sounds noble, is for the self if the real focus is not on God. Why else to do any good thing except to be thought "good?" Doing something to influence how people think of us (or to get what we want, or to feel good) is a self focus. The only other reason that exists is because we love God, becaue we are focusing on God.

Whenever we do something with a self focus we are building on sandy ground. Most of the time we don't know who we are. Even when we do think we know, without God's lens we don't see things as they really are. We may have a sharp view through a false colored lens. Self without God is nothing. Yet, with God we are everything! It goes contrary to logic, but we must forget ourselves to be worth remembering. We must see our lack of value to find our true worth.

When it comes to staying on that narrow path, focusing only on God, everyone has ADD! Life remains all around us and both the sweet and the bitter things grab our attention. I suppose personality determine, in large part, whether it's the sweet or the bitter that gets more of our attention. Personality and circumstances determine how selfless or slefish we are, but without focusing on God both are about self!

Religion guides us to make God our focus. In the best sense of religion, it leads us gently and lovingly (even if it uses a little fear!. But the problem with religion is that it too often becomes the focus. In its reminding us to turn to God, it directs us to itself. The rituals become the focus rather that why they were instituted. Even those religions that developed against the ritualistic formailty that replaced God too often end up with a non-God focus. This is when religions become fanatical in a negative sense. It's no longer about God but about (fill in any religious group).

Even as I write this, I am vaguely aware, though I started with my focus on God, I am drifting. We can do nothing without God. Just because we get started with God, it does not mean we will continue. It's like trying to move upstream without using the paddle -- in the dark! We may be facing the right way, but we will not be going the right way.

Test everything through a God focus. No religion, no person (not even Mother Teresa) is immune from drifting. We need to be reborn only once. This is when we set our hearts and minds to follow God. Our commitement, however, must be renewed daily -- perhaps several times daily. Without this renewal of commitment we can too easily drift from our God focus. Because, at first, anyway, our outward actions can remain the same, no one else can tell us we have drifted. Perhaps it will only be our dissatisfaction, frustration, lack of inner peace that lets us know we have drifted. At the worst end, we become totally absorbed in self either by giving in or by trying to fight our demons by
ourselves. In any case, rather than draw others to God, we end up repelling them or, at best leaving them neutral.

Without God, we can do nothing and we are worth nothing. With God we can do anything (even move mountains!) and our worth becomes infinite (or priceless). We do not give up our freedom or limit ourselves by our trust in/focus on God. It's just the opposite. God doesn't force us to focus on him. Everyone knows Godless people who live well and have all they need, maybe more. We can't even know for sure that they are unsatisfied. We can only assume that because we feel it ourselves without God and many people have expressed it whether or not they ever turned to God. But if we choose to turn to God and make the minimal effort to keep returning to him, what we get in return for giving ourslef up is beyond measure.