Over the last few years I've pared my beliefs right back to basics as I've personally struggled with religion and experienced certain crises of faith. Because I write to provide clarity for the old version of myself, I also tend to write for others who are slowly working their way through the maze as well. Working out faith is a lonely business, which invites criticism and incites fear in those who witness the changes in us, as we deviate from familiar rituals and long-held religious practice and develop beliefs we can truly call “our own". It might help you to know there are others out there nutting out the basics. In my case, I've ditched a lot of the trappings but hold onto my belief in the existence of God.
These are some of the thoughts I use to reassure myself that, whatever else has changed in my thinking and practice, the Divine can still be seen and known:
I don't believe in random coincidences. There have been far too many of these for me to discount the hand of God. In moments of desperate need I've issued a plea and the responses have been so timely and so specific that I acknowledge a greater power has been at work.
In moments where new ideas and unfamiliar concepts have been swirling around in my head - a conversation with a friend - a book - a word from a song - has come in a serendipitous moment managing to crystallise new ways of thinking and understanding.
Synchronicity is a divine gift, which brings things together in perfect harmony.
I find God in music. And I don't mean church music with Christian lyrics. I mean moments like the one where I was sitting in a theatre watching the Queen musical "We will rock you" and finding myself in tears because every member of the audience was suddenly singing "We are the Champions" along with the performers and orchestra. Or moments like the ones where I've been alone in the car singing along to some new ballad on the radio only to find I'm all choked up because a particular combination of words and music ‘just does something’ to me. And then there are the songs that carried me through the toughest of times.
Could the resonance of music be a fortunate evolutionary accident? The hum of our soul when music vibrates through sole may not be essential to our survival - but it is about wholehearted living and our connection with the Source. My physical response to music is my personal evidence that God exists.
There is a spark of the Divine in each of us and the Divine is at work in the way we connect with one another and our world. I believe in God because of the way it feels to embrace the ones I love. I remember cradling my little boy like a baby when he was about six years old. The wash of emotion that flooded my heart as I gazed down into his smiling face was something greater than a mother's love and was instead a momentary insight regarding the heart of the great Creator.
Periecho Contributor Catherine Joy with her son, Silas.
Photo Credit: Tara Lee Photography
I believe in God because of the way things affect things, and people affect people. I believe in God because of what Jung describes as the “Universal Unconscious” which sees stories and myths emerge across cultures despite enormous distances between time and place... stories of the Divine with so many recurring themes and familiar aspects... stories of people with the same underlying moral code as our own... stories of a God who wants to connect with us as much as we desire to connect to something beyond ourselves.
God is present in the beauty of this world. Consider the intricacies of the human body, the dimensions of this universe, the wonder of a sunset... Beauty is an excess of creation. Beauty is a gift. I see God in the comparison between a grey utilitarian bunker and a carefully designed home which is decorated with creativity and consideration. Artistry is not essential to our survival and yet we have artists. Art and beauty and creativity are blessings, which point us in the direction of the Divine.
I've written before about the expression of kindness being the world's truest religion. But, it is not in the religious practice of providing alms to the poor as a way of winning God's heart – it is in the softness of a human heart responding to another's need in a specific moment. It is in the empathic response to suffering that sees individuals giving out of their lack or acting to redress injustice wherever it may be found. Again, compassion is not something that happens because it is forced - in fact it often goes against our basic instincts of survival to help another. I believe it is the presence of the Divine that leads a person to donate their hard earned money to help a family who has lost everything in a house fire. It is the presence of a greater force at work that leads people to put aside thoughts of their own safety while they rush into a war zone to bring a stranger's child to safety.
Compassion is the subconscious understanding that beneath all of our differences, we are connected through God and in God, which means when we help others we are also helping ourselves.
To my way of thinking, God can be found in the unique gifts and strengths each individual has been given. As much as we may struggle for a sense of direction at times, the fact remains that most of us are still driven to uncover our life's purpose. I retain a sense of wonder at those who are gifted to solve mathematical problems and at those who can compose a song or choreograph a beautiful dance. There is so much variation in talents and personality and personhood that it amazes me. That each creation has a unique place and purpose on this earth is something I attribute to Divine Design.
At the basis of all of these thoughts is a deep assurance regarding the underlying goodness of God. Not because bad things don't happen to good people. Not because random accidents never occur. Not because one child is born into poverty while another is born in the lap of luxury. Not that this world is exactly as it should be (it's not)... but because it is only human to hope for something better and I think that aspiration has a Divine Source as well.
I believe in a Creator God who speaks through nature and beauty and art.
I believe in a God with a heart for those who suffer.
I believe in a God who has a plan and a destiny and a place for every person ever created… because if we don't have that, I wonder if we have anything.
Catherine is a teacher, life coach (linedwithsilver.com.au) and single mother of four. She loves trying to keep all of those balls in the air but fails spectacularly at times. Perfectionism and people-pleasing seemed to be written into her DNA but she's slowly releasing expectations imposed by others and settling into a more generous view of a loving God at the same time. Catherine's goal is to experience life in lots of different places and to use every wrong turn as an opportunity for learning. She resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Catherine Joy