Meeting God Face to Face
I’ve spent my life falling in love with God. The first time I met her was under the great oak table that served as an altar in my childhood church. She was mysterious, comforting, and maybe a bit mischievous; since I was at that very moment hiding from the frantic adults searching everywhere for me. She was easy to fall in love with, this God of dark, cozy, and hidden spaces. There wasn’t any of the angry sky God who flooded the world in Noah’s ark in her; none of the scale balancing abuser who had supposedly killed Jesus because I said “fart.”
She was in my mother’s hands when she caught a trapped sparrow in our garage, in the release of him back into the winter sky as he exploded from her gentle fingers in a burst of wings. God was in the chickadees who hopped onto my still mitten to peck at the birdseed I had been holding for half an hour, barely daring to breathe as they danced closer.
The Divine was in the bright blaze of the Milky Way cascading down the bowl of the sky, so full and bright I felt like I would fall up into it’s starry expanse. And her hair was the sparkling green curtain of the Northern lights that my parents woke me up for, and bundled me (still in my quilt) out into the frosty winter air to gape at in awe.
Falling In Love
Given all that, I suppose it is no surprise at all that I fell head over heels in love with the Divine before I could really even understand what such a thing meant. From my earliest childhood I was fed Her love and beauty like sweetened milk. And my own stubborn spirit insulated me from what could have been all sorts of damage, stories of Godly violence and anger washed over me and ran off like rain on a duck’s back, they simply did not match the One I knew.
I had glimpsed too many laughing faces in the centers of dew starred roses, and watched too many stars dance on my lawn in the guise of fireflies, to believe that God was anything but the warm loving presence I met in the dark. Mysterious, yes; strange, most certainly; wild and dangerous even; but never malevolent, violent, or hate filled.
But perhaps you were not so lucky. Perhaps the stories of terror planted in your ear as a child actually took root. Mayhap your nightmares were full of a whole dead world drowned on a whim, of blood and anger and whole peoples wiped out. If your own mother or father was never pleased, never content, if you tried to earn their love and failed again and again; I am not at all surprised that a Father God (or even Mother God) was no sort of good news.
Falling in love is a vulnerable thing. You cannot do it slowly, or carefully. You cannot do it and not become vulnerable, open, exposed. To trip and fall headlong into the Divine is ill advised unless you know what Divine it is who will break your fall.
Poets and Mystics
Don’t give up on God, or yourself, or the mysteries buried among the roots of trees, standings stones, and cathedral bones. If you were not introduced to a God worthy of love as a child you can still meet her now. As I grew too old for hiding under altars and spending evenings curled up in my Mother’s lap I met other wild eyed souls who introduced me to a more grown up sort of Love.
There was Rumi, constantly drunk on the wine of Creation. And Hafiz spinning sonnets of pure bliss for the immortal Beloved. Mary Oliver, John O’Donohue, Madeleine L’Engle, Julian, Brigit, and Hildegard to name a few. Their words and their love march on and on into time overflowing with the sweet red wine of mysticism. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and more.
What unites us is that wild, soul stirring longing for One beyond all names. But who we are constantly describing.
Somehow, in the midst of crappy theology and religious politics our great religious traditions have somehow fostered mystics, poets, and other creative souls. I trust that the Divine is still alive and well even in our human institutions simply because they still produce such people, even as they fail at much else.
If your religious fare has been repression, anger, and a vindictive God out to get you (but of course called loving) a deep dive into the mystics, the poets, the dreamers of the religious world (of any faith tradition!) can feel like a dive into a cool refreshing body of water. Boyant, cleansing, strange, and new. (Come in, the water is fine!)
What We Fall Into
The Divine is already madly in love with you, head over heels, giddy. It was love at first sight for Them. You might not believe it, but She took one look at you and that was it, He was hopelessly in love. Always has been, always will be. We don’t hear this enough. How much easier to fall madly in love when you know you are already loved, madly?
And here is what I love so much about the Divine. She isn’t pushy. She’s loved me from before time, but she won’t rush me into anything. She does not force herself on me. She waits in quiet still places, in the dark, the stars, the lilies. Oh sure, she puts herself out there, flashy, in every over designed snowflake, in constellations filled in with stars we cannot even see (their light hasn’t had time to arrive, give it a millenia). But she doesn’t demand anything in return.
You can feast on her beauty your whole life long and she will never be less generous because you gave nothing back. (Oh but They will miss you.) There is no manipulation, no guilt, no coercion in the Divine. There is gift, and invitation, and waiting. For you. But if you never knock on her door, if you never do more than enjoy the gifts she has given there will be no stormy letter in your mailbox, no guilt inducing phone call.
(But I think you will be missing something.)
If you fall in love with God it will be because you let go and let yourself fall. God will not push you, or drag you down.
But she will always be waiting, ready, excited to catch you, you beautiful comet.
Dip Your Toe In
Perhaps you are here maybe you are already falling in love with God and wondering what next, wondering what love God even means. Or you have begun to feel claustrophobic within the leaden religiosity of your tradition. Or you have loved and lost in the great echo chamber of life. Either way, you are not crazy or alone. It is human, natural, to want more. To be impatient for being swept off our feet. We are the spiritual magpies of the universe. We are designed with an endlessly deep well within us constantly calling to be filled.
The Holy Spirit has been blowing through our lives, whispering her wisdom since our ancestors first looked up at the stars and wondered. She has been stirring up trouble ever since, pushing us beyond the safe bounds of our already answered questions. Sending us off on great quests of the heart, igniting a passion that nothing but everything can quench.
And I’m here to say there is wrong way to (as Rumi says) “kneel and kiss the ground.”
Falling in love takes practice. Which might seem utterly counter intuitive, but you cannot fall if you never fly. You cannot fall in love unless you catch glimpses (at least) of the Other, get to know her, take him to coffee, spend time together.
To practice love is to spend time with your loved one. To choose them when you could choose something else. There are as many ways to spend time with God as there are people in this world. But the post above is a good place to start, exploring these odd things we call spiritual practices. (Really just another word for matching making with our soul and the Divine.)
And as you fall, you’ll discovered that your bible (if you have one) fades from words on pages to the whole universe blooming like a rose, soft petals revealing secrets one by precious one. The ancient celts emphasizes the two revelations: that of the written word (scripture), and that of the embodied world (the universe and all we experience.) Sink into this second scripture, written in DNA, fractals, and towering pines.
Fall in love with your fellow humans, glimpse the face of the Divine in them. Change one tiny corner of the world and feel the Divine’s love and power flow through you, get drunk on God’s wild graceful abandon. Get your hands dirty.
Love your body, yes your perfect-imperfect soul vessel. You beautiful flawed creature; after all, the Divine is stunned by the beauty of you, thrilled by her creativity in making you just exactly as you are. (It really was clever.) Throw yourself (your Beloved self) wildly into your joy; meet God there, laughing.
Are you starting to see the pattern?
Wildly, unwisely, well. Love the stars as their wheel above your head, and the earthworm patiently resurrecting the soil. Love yourself, love your neighbor, sink into the Love that surrounds in fills every fiber of your being and connects you to a hundred thousand suns. Be dazzled.
It is never too late. You are never too broken to trip, and tumble head over heels into the love that has been waiting for you from the beginning of time.