Our views on spirituality and how to practice our beliefs are so deeply personal. An assignment for my intercultural communication class years ago had an impact on me that I carry still. In studying the Japanese culture of the day, I learned that it was bad manners to ask about a person's religious beliefs.
What they believe to be bad manners is an expectation in our western churches. We should not only ask but work to convert anyone who doesn't believe the same thing. I can see how this western approach to such things can be hugely offensive.
As I considered how different the Japanese culture's approach is, I recalled my bold encounters with friends who did not believe the same as I. Suddenly I felt myself in the shoes of my high school friend who was an atheist and my earlier college friend who was Jewish. As I relived the words I had spoken to them, I felt embarrassed for my rudeness.
The focus on proclamation and conversion provides excuse to poke one another in the eye. We can never find internal peace, harmony and wisdom with an external spiritual focus. Understanding God, I believe, is in discovering universal truths. The devil is in the details. God is the bigger picture - the connectedness of all events and all things. The perfect cycles of life. The never ending spirit. The continuation of all that ever has been and ever will be.
I failed to understand that my atheist friend and my Jewish friend had much to teach me. I missed an opportunity. Our western religious teachers have taught us to fear hearing those messages. I believed I must try to make them like me. No wonder people think we are getting further and further away from God. God is everywhere. In all people. In all things.
God is universal truth which means if it is from God, everyone and every thing is lifted to a better state. The picture is bigger, interwoven and interconnected in ways that are far beyond our comprehension. Our detailed beliefs are small crumbs that are sometimes quite spoiled and should be left as fertilizer for growth. We sometimes hold those crumbs so tightly that they stunt our growth.
The greatest gift I have had this year is from friends with vastly different spiritual beliefs who have taught me not to fear them. One universal truth I am certain about is that our spiritual journey cannot be fear driven.
I now look at all people and all things as interconnected and marvel in those thoughts. How do I apply those understandings to the things I do every day?