Disclaimer: The title of “God” and the gender pronoun used for such an Entity can never fully express the Creator, but are used as placeholders for the sake of this piece.
Getting Off-Balance With The Worldly & The Godly
I like to think of myself as a person with a fairly broad worldview. I have friends of differing backgrounds — ethnicities, nationalities, sexual preferences, political views, gender associations, and definitely religions. I’m not sure why, but within the past five or six years, I’ve had this overwhelming desire to not offend anyone. While I can’t pinpoint where this desire to avoid confrontation first stemmed, I feel that it grew as my worldview began to expand. The less I saw myself as a member of a certain political party or other group and the more I saw myself as simply another earthling, the more respectful I wished to become. That fear of confrontation went from eggshells to a self-imposed muzzle against views that I felt may make others feel uncomfortable. I felt that I was being a good steward of my people. Over time, my internal dialogue began to change to accompany my external expression. I began to see myself losing my very firm grasp on something precious to me — my continual personal relationship with God.
It’s not that my religious observance stopped. I still kept all of the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tenants of Judaism and thoroughly enjoyed them. What I noticed lacking first was speaking to other God-believers about God as though He were real. Whenever the conversation would head in that direction, I would sterilize it with some talk of a religious observance that didn’t necessarily require a firm belief that something was metaphysically in control of things in the universe. Talking about an upcoming holiday? Is that certain brand of food kosher? Attending religious services? Those were effective masks for more spiritually intimate and revealing questions, such as asking a known God-fearer how they best connect to God. I felt like the mental concept that God exists, that I believe in God, and that He cares at all about me and anyone else was a muscle that hadn’t been exercised and was beginning to atrophy. That neural pathway had not been traveled actively and the trail was less worn now. I knew I believed in God and felt Him in my life, but how do I balance being someone who seeks to grow a relationship with God and being a part of the collective of all of mankind? Here are some things I’m beginning to realize.
Realizations When Attempting to Balance a Relationship with God and Being a Courteous Earthling
1. Even for those who don’t believe in God, your belief does not necessarily offend them.
I feel very blessed to be a part of a faith that does not evangelize. Jews are not looking for converts to Judaism. This means pushing my religion on others is not one of the tenets of my faith the way it is of many other religions. When someone else thrusts their faith on me, I feel like they are attacking my own faith. In order to never put a non-believer through this, I opted to shut my mouth about God whenever I felt like a non-believer could be listening. I quickly learned that this was most situations, even in a religious setting. However, over time, I began to realize that most people don’t find someone’s own personal relationship with a Higher Power to be offensive and if they did, why would I covet their approval?
I also realized that speaking about God is not necessarily thrusting God upon a person, which leads to another realization…
2. Know your audience when sharing your heart.
Here’s an odd statement that I feel ok saying: I don’t want to talk about God with people who don’t want to hear about God. Many religious zealots will claim that a true God-fearer should never be afraid to mention God. While I believe that’s somewhat true, talking about God to someone who doesn’t want to hear about God is just, well, rude. It doesn’t increase the likelihood that they will want to have any kind of relationship with God in the future. While I don’t believe in evangelism, I’m happy to answer any questions anyone may have about my own relationship with God. How does one compel someone else to ask? By living in such a way that demands an explanation. In living an ethical life that is respectful and helpful to peoples of all walks of life, keeping God close without having to speak a word about Him is much easier and less intrusive.
3. Exercise talking about God with other God-fearers or at least those who desire a relationship with God.
My initial reason why my personal relationship with God began to wane temporarily was due to an atrophy of the part of my mental process that kept Him real to me. When I was afraid to discuss having a relationship with God, the weeds grew over that trail, making it nearly invisible. One remedy I’ve found for strengthing the realization that God is real is to have a group with whom you speak to about having a relationship with God. While this form of support group doesn’t need to exist solely for this process, this group of like-minded/hearted individuals will act almost like a spotter would act in a gym. When you feel safe discussing what it means to have a relationship with God, you can help to maintain those pathways in your heart and mind.
4. Seek out continual spiritual education.
While talking with others about how to strengthen your relationship with God on a daily basis is beneficial, sometimes you don’t want to speak — you just want to grow. For the purposes of exercising your relationship muscles with God, seek healthy spiritual education from authorities you trust. This is not to be confused with simply seeking out any religious education, which sometimes can seem completely devoid of spiritual connection. To receive instruction from a teacher who is dedicated to helping strengthen their students’ alignment to God and to build their relationship on a daily basis can be instrumental in one’s spiritual maintenance. This can be done by attending actual classes with this focus or consuming media on the subject, including video classes, reading books, or listening to such podcasts. Having a compass like this when you’re away from your core group can help maintain the idea that God wants in your life.
5. Talk to God wherever you are.
While the title of this blog does imply trying not to appear insane, it may seem counterintuitive to appear to be talking to yourself. However, making God a real part of your life is extremely difficult without letting Him in. While I’m not recommending talking to God out loud in public (especially not while aboard airplanes), talking to God like you would have a private conversation with a physical friend not only helps you begin to sort out your thoughts and emotions better, but it also makes God a part of the process. In all honesty, a lot of our prayer is not only meant to express to God how we are feeling, what we’re experiencing, and to ask for assistance — for He already knows these things before we ask. Prayer is also a time where He gets the chance to answer in the form of realizations, feelings of comfort, jubilation, or even much needing mourning when we’re bottling up negative emotions. There is a practice in Judaism called “hitbodedut” (Hebrew for “seclusion”) in which the practitioner secludes themselves, often in nature or anywhere away from where others can hear them, and they speak out loud to God in their own words. They express their thoughts, pour out their hearts, or even sing and make music for the Creator. The spiritual benefits of hitbodedut are immeasurable.
However you choose to maintain your relationship with God while living in a largely Godless world, understanding the following truths:
– There will always be those who will be uncomfortable with the idea of anyone having a relationship with a Higher Power — even if you never mention it to them. That is their problem and there’s nothing you can do about it.
– When you worry too much about what people think about you to the point of that changing you, you are no longer yourself.
– If you truly desire a relationship with God, that means there’s nothing can stop you.
– If you feel distant from God, it wasn’t God who moved.