I don’t believe it matters how we start, when we start, or even where we think we’re heading, the only thing that seems to matter is listening to the part of us that longs for and just knows there’s something more.
We tell ourselves, or are told by others, many things about why we should ignore it (that it’s silly, that it’s selfish, that we’re tired, or bored or mad, or bad) but we don’t often consider, even the slightest possibility, that it could be something infinitely more positive; the Spirit moving within us and calling us on to the next growth stage of our lives.
The nay-sayer inside us tells us we’re too old, or too weak, or too stupid, or afraid to do anything about it. The nay-sayers around us tell us we’re too headstrong, or stubborn, or naive, or selfish if we follow its call. But the voice of Life doesn’t call us for no reason, it calls us because it loves us and it knows that, deep inside, we were created to respond to and to begin searching for that Love-inspired ‘something more’.
I call it the Holy Spirit, the sacred Spirit of Life, the divine Spirit of God’s Love, trying to capture our attention in a gentle, kind, but unsettling and deeply intimate way. I believe that it moves itself within us, around us, and between us; prodding us out of our comfort zones and calling on us to notice it, to listen to it carefully and then to follow where it leads us, to a more abundant, fuller, richer and more fulfilling experience of Life.
From listening to countless people’s personal experiences of responding to that call, I believe that the place it leads to is unique and different for each and every one of us. But, for me, the place it led to was the reality of God’s felt and active presence in my life and, more importantly, the life-changing sense of God’s ever-present, unconditional Love. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, imagined, or been told it could be at any time before…but I had to find it in my own way; and following that ‘something more’ call was the way that led me to it.
It’s what has given me the confidence to stop always believing what other people tell me and to start believing more in that quiet voice within.
“Start here, start now, start from any place inside or outside, but start…and keep starting…until there is no more will to start” is what the voice inside me was really saying. “Start out on your true search for me, and leave aside anyone else’s opinion of how and where you’ll find me. Just bring a truly open heart and mind and I will do the rest.”
If, like me, you abandoned belief in God long ago when you rejected what others, in their certainty, told you God was, I invite you to suspend that disbelief. If you believe that your way of relating to God – following a specific religious doctrine – is right and other ways of relating to God are wrong, I invite you to suspend that sense of certainty…and start out on your own, deeply personal pilgrimage.
If the Spirit is moving within you and is calling you to go in search of it, I believe it’s trying to tell you that your certainty there is no God (or your unshakeable belief that there is only one way of relating to God) is keeping your soul from finding the true peace that it longs for. It’s a peace that is experienced in a deeply personal and intimate way; one that will be as unique to you as you are to God.
Love is a deeply personal and intimate experience. It’s the most intimate, subtle, beautiful, life-enhancing and spirit-and-soul regenerating experience known to man. And I’m only talking about genuine, shared, human love when I say those words.
The Love of God, and the experience of that Love, is far deeper, greater and more powerful in its intimacy. It can strip us naked of our preconceptions and rip down our defences in an instant. It can flood us with a tidal wave of forgiveness and unconditional acceptance that is so unsought, and unexpected, it can leave us stunned, tearful and overwhelmed with a profoundly physical sense of gratitude and relief. How do I know? Because I’ve experienced it and, once it has been felt it can never be forgotten.
God has taught me that in choosing to live a life of daily conscious awareness of Him, I must also choose to release my need for certainty and control. ‘I must lose my life to find it’. Because God is mystery, divine mystery, and to live in intimate relationship with Him is to learn to trust in his Love and purpose and to discern when it is calling us to let go of certain fears or situations and to allow his Spirit to lead us to a deeper and richer relationship with Him and experience of Life.
He taught me that doubting what others would have me believe was the starting point of my individual questioning and that it was that individual searching that uncovered, and continues to nurture, the mustard seed of true faith that He planted in me at birth.
My journey to faith in God has been both helped and hindered by involvement with other individuals and groups. It’s grown naturally and organically from personal experience, by learning what is Love and what is Grace…and what is not; through observing the example of others and the effect it has on those around them.
I’ve seen others demonstrate a depth of generosity of spirit that I don’t possess and a height of arrogance that I do. But all of it has shown me what helps us to continue growing as human beings and what it is that tries to crush or stifle that growth.
I hope that, one day, my example and my journey of faith and trust in God will have enough power to provide strong branches of hope and encouragement to others seeking meaning, fulfilment, growth and understanding of what’s truly behind their nagging sense of ‘something more’.
Because all true pilgrimage is not really, at its heart, a journey to the physical site of any religious temple or relic or the regular celebration of commemorative sacraments or rituals. Rather, it’s a way of travelling to the internal place within us where we find a growing understanding of who and what God is, and what meaning this understanding creates within our lives.
It’s where we gradually and ultimately come to see and accept how God moves within our lives. It’s where the first steps of our deeply personal relationship with him are formed and it’s where we learn the healing power of speaking honestly with Him about the doubts and desires of our hearts. This is true, heart-and-soul-felt prayer and this is the place where our personal understanding of and peace with God is both found and made.
It’s where we find the spark of inspiration, the root of our belonging, the way of seeing what really matters and, in the seeing and understanding, it’s where we find our personal pathway to the purpose, meaning and inner peace we seek within our lives.
It’s in these moments, when we speak and listen from a place of truth with God, that we discover how inseparable Truth is from True Love, and how True Love is inseparable from Divine Love. The Love that God is.
It takes courage to start out on a personal pilgrimage, one that trusts more what the Spirit moving inside us is trying to tell us, than the voices around us who want us to ‘stay safely as we are’. But every act of true faith involves confronting the fears within us and the fears of those around us.
So let me be the voice that encourages you. Start walking your own personal pilgrimage, whatever and however that may be, and I guarantee that you will meet with God in a unique, personal, totally-disarming and life-enhancing way…as sure as the sun rises on the distant horizon, each and every day.
I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve seen it happening, time and time again; God responding, in seemingly miraculous ways, to people’s sincere and heart-felt desire to know and to more fully understand Him; and to the commitment and courage of any individual who truly seeks to find Him. Because we all, knowingly or unknowingly, long for and seek non-judgmental acceptance, compassionate understanding and unconditional Love. And these three things I’ve found, after many miles of personal pilgrimage, are simply other names for God.