Friday, July 25, 2014

God As Project Planner

Creativity.  It is taking a speck of “nothing” and transforming it into a “something.”  Sometimes creativity arrives in an instinctive flash.  But in most instances, creative endeavors require “a plan” in order to arrive at that creative end point and avoid disaster.  God is all about creativity.  God’s creativity shows in the physical world within which we live, the human form we inhabit, the spiritual being that we truly are.  All of which required their own project plan from the excellent project planner that God is.

Recently, I was feeling highly frustrated by seemingly having hit yet another brick wall in my spiritual path.  The questions of what spiritual direction(s) I should be going, what actions I should be taking, what decisions I should be making, led me to wonder: am I trying to follow a path solely of my own making, or am I allowing myself to be guided by God’s path for me?  I asked myself: If I were God, who wanted to take me spiritually from a beginning point “A” to some end point “Z” (“Z” being known only to God), how would I do that?  What would a smart project plan (i.e. spiritual path) look like?

Putting on my 40-years project planner hat, I opted to play God for a moment.  Over a period of quiet reflection, I retroactively extracted what God’s project plan for my spiritual development has appeared to be thus far.  The Plan for God’s intended purpose and role for me.  The Plan to fulfill the contract we made together when I was born.  I wrote down the spiritual chronology of my current journey begun twenty years ago.  Not in great detail or exhaustive text, but just simply the bullet points of the major phases, turning points and significant milestones in this journey.  When I was finished, the logical flow and appropriate steps that have been taken – i.e. my spiritual path – were laid out in front of me.  Seeing the overall sensibility underpinning the seeming chaos of where I have been does not tell me where this path is to end.  But it does remind me that my life is not just a series of random events, as it often feels day-to-day.  That God does have a general plan, a framework, for me to act within, with a lot of options for adjustment, and a lot of blanks for me to fill in.

It is when I start to think I am all alone in this journey, and my direction and outcomes are totally on me to make happen, that my life usually gets into upheaval and frustration.  But seeing these individual links that connect the chain that is my life brings me back into synchronicity with the Universe’s co-role in guiding my life.  I have much spiritual work yet to do, but The Plan tells me, in gradual increments, what work is to be done and where to find it.  Which rocks in the stream are solid and will support my feet as I move across the dangerous rushing water to the other shore, versus which are the deceptive, unstable rocks that that will toss me into that water.  As Lao-Tsu teaches us, the challenge is to know when to act on our own, when to react to the Universe’s guidance, and when to just sit quietly and wait patiently for clarity.  In the end, the result of our life is still our series of choices.

I invite you to pursue a similar exercise of retroactive planning for yourself.  From whatever starting point is appropriate, to examine the major phases of your spiritual and/or secular journey and their milestones.  Perhaps the phases will stand alone as independent links scattered about the landscape, without the cohesion or connection that forms a strong, secure chain.  If so, we might surmise that one has been only on his/her own plan, without that larger cohesion that comes from God’s planning.

But if we see an overall orderliness of our life within broad, connected linkages, even the most difficult moments of our daily chaos can settle quietly into their proper perspective.  Thereby, we relearn Trust.  Trust that our life will proceed within Purpose if we are humble and willing enough to live within God’s Plan that envelops us.  By seeing the connectedness of how we have lived, we can then walk into our future with the confident understanding that only some of our life is about what we plan to do.  Some of it is about what God is planning on our behalf.  Working together.  That is The Plan.  Whether we are willing to give over some of our ego and illusion of sole control, and instead partner with The Plan, is our only real choice.

©  2014   Randy Bell    

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Guilt And Sin

Guilt.  The very word itself hangs over us like a suffocating blanket, blocking out our ability to see the light that is around us.  “Guilty as charged” – whether for violation of the prevailing social code or a heinous crime – may be a necessary owning up to our actions, a necessary step in learning and contrition, a prerequisite to necessary punishment and retribution.  But the fact of being proclaimed “guilty” is only intended to then give way to moving beyond that moment and into a new future.  More often, the judgment of guilty becomes an ongoing, perhaps never-ending drama of repetition.  The original act is continually reimagined; the verdict is re-pronounced by a series of mental juries; the judgment is reiterated from the faces of new stand-in judges that come into our life; punishment is inflicted without end.  The punishment that society deems appropriate may be levied over a long duration.  But the weight of culpability that should be momentary is transformed into a life-long burden we call “guilt.”

If “guilt” is the secular statement laid upon our errors, “sin” is the parallel language of the cleric.  Certainly when we turn away from God, forget the calling out of our best self, and lapse in our judgment of doing the highest good for the most beings, such forgetfulness needs to be identified, acknowledged  and accepted.  It is only from identifying-acknowledging-accepting that we learn what better choices were possible for us, what is the clearer path to God.  Making good choices usually gives us a valuable confirmation of what we have learned, but rarely teaches us new things.  Errors more easily demand our attention and our reflection due to the significance of their consequences.  If we are open to it, our errors are our greatest teachers of Life.  In the context of our true Purpose, our errors are to be welcomed and treasured even though they may cause us (and others) pain in the moment and thereafter.

Unfortunately, guilt manipulated in the hands of some secular authorities (parents, teachers, bosses), or sin in the hands of some religious authorities (priests, ministers, rabbis, imams), simply becomes another tool of control and domination over the mind.  For these “authorities,” a continual emphasis on avoiding guilt and sin seems more of a priority than living positively in truth within the actual experience of God.  Administered with a heavy hand, continually reinforced, guilt is used to equate our actions with the very worth of us as a human being.  “Guilt and sin” swallows up our soul like an anaconda wraps itself around the body of its prey, choking the life out of its victim.  No good lessons are learned, only the diminution of our soul results.  Error of judgment is made into an error of self; a moment of bad action is made into badness itself.  Learning is lost to punishment; a potential teacher instead becomes an executioner of a soul.

Guilt is one of the least productive emotions that live in our minds.  Sin-based guilt is even more damaging and ill-productive, because it comes between us and God, and God’s overall design for our life.  God cares less about what we have done, or where we have been, versus who we have become and what we are doing now.  The “holy ledger” of our good and bad deeds is less important than the diploma that acknowledges what we have learned from those deeds.  God starts and ends with us in love, forgiveness and acceptance.  God understands that – IF we do not lock ourselves in a prison of the past – error is a prime tool for finding our way forward.

So we need to resist our conditioning towards guilt and sin.  We need to use whatever secular therapy and/or spiritual discovery tools can purge ourselves of past guilt, and disconnect ourselves from the anchor of regret.  We need to reject those who would lead us into the spiritual abyss that lies behind the twin doors labeled GUILT and SIN.  Only then can we lighten our load so as to be able to live freely, and thereby walk into the future that God is providing to us each day.

©  2014   Randy Bell