In college, I had “born again Christian” friends who had personal relationships with God. They had chats with Jesus… not Jesus the concept… Jesus himself. I wondered if I would ever get to talk to God in such a personal way. I took Religion 101. I studied ancient mystics who also knew God. My professor had seen God in person. What the heck was wrong with me? In the summer between sophomore and junior year, I lived in an old house that was said to be haunted with ghosts. One of my friends saw one in the mirror in the bathroom. I never saw any. I had no talent for the supernatural.
After college, I didn’t think too much about God. I got busy with more prosaic stuff, you know… studying, working, raising kids… After the kids were born, we started going to church, but by that time, it would not have occurred to me that I would see God in person. God had become an abstract idea. He was an ancient concept that explained the mysteries of nature to primitive peoples.
Then one day, about 5 years ago, at Mt. Rainier, I meet Him. Rose was 5 and Christopher 3. We were hiking up a steep trail. There was this worrisome cliff on the left side of the path. There was a fence made of wood, that beautiful thick wood characteristic of all construction in National Parks. The cliff was impressive. Far below was a waterfall that I knew to be very large and noisy. But from that height, it was tiny and silent. It made me dizzy just looking down.
I was walking along very happily and then God appeared. Christopher tripped over a stone and rolled under the fence and disappeared over the edge. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t shout. I couldn’t move. Then we looked over the edge to see that a tiny little tree had stopped Christopher’s fall.
To tell the truth, I didn’t really recognize God in that moment. Instead, I argued with my wife. This happens sometimes when God shows up.
What do I mean by God showing up? I mean those moments when you notice the infinite size and power of the universe in comparison to tiny fragile us. When you really notice it, it is not a pretty picture. It is blinding and deafening. It’s like a horrible car accident, very hard to look at, but very hard not to stare. An ancient Hebrew once said, “God is not your uncle, He is an earthquake.” I think he meant that God shouldn’t be reduced to a personal friend. He is so much more than anything you know or can imagine. And He’s not necessarily friendly.
Fortunately, our ancestors recognized the need to close the gap between God and us. They created religions. My Hebrew ancestors’ technique was to make a deal with God. We’ll pray toYou and follow Your rules and You’ll make sure nothing bad happens to us. Maybe things would have worked out better for us if we had hired lawyers to review the contract before signing it.
The Christians believe that God worries about us humans like a parent worries about his or her kids. He sent His only Son to live among us like a parent would send their kid to overnight summer camp. But the other campers didn’t treat God’s son very well. First they made fun of him. Then they killed him. But God didn’t sue the camp. He didn’t go for revenge. He said that even with all their defects, he still loved those cruel little campers. He even loved the camp management. Of course, it turns out He was the camp’s owner from the very beginning.
The Buddhists believe that we all are a part of infinite reality and any space between us and infinity is illusion. This sounds great but how can you feel infinite when you just burnt the toast?
Oh well, at least, once, I met God.