I often act like what author Parker Palmer might call a “functional atheist,” I wrote in my October newsletter. (My measure of love for a book is reading it again and again, and Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak feels new each time because I am different.)
Humans have many names for God, including a nameless but benevolent force at work in the Universe. Spiritual paths such as Buddhism, with its concept of non-doing, recognize a larger-than-us Doer.
For me, God is more than a force of good. God is the undefinable, ultimate Source, a heart-healer and heart-seeker connecting with us through many dialects of faith.
And yet, there I go: behaving as if I’m alone in the world, a know-it-all who must hustle for specific results. I meditate or pray, and then rush into action, forgetting that a pause, a time of waiting, might be the right action. I might be called to make space for a miracle to arrive, instead of trying to force it.
What happens when behavior contradicts belief?
Functional atheism makes the individual into a loner. For example, a fellow employee once advised me, “No one is looking out for you, but you.”
Even if we would not offer the same advice, we might be living it. How?
- Are we enduring the behavior of a difficult client, prickly volunteer or bullying donor as if that person is the singular salvation of our business, career or organization? Faith sometimes requires letting go of one ill-fitting opportunity with hands empty and open to receive. How much do we think we “need” to endure because we are trying to accomplish what God can do? Watch this play out in a favorite Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife. Cary Grant is an angel, and a bishop attempts to build his cathedral at any cost or compromise.
- Expecting instant results can be the sign of a scheme rather than a true solution. “With a heart for any fate…Learn to labor and to wait,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in A Psalm of Life.
- Rose-colored glasses can obstruct, rather than enhance, my sense of faith. Optimism is fine, but when I catch myself seeing only the positive in a person or opportunity, I want to stop and use the critical skills also installed as part of my hardware. “Is this job, client, person or opportunity good for ME?” Self-knowledge is not self-indulgence; it’s the active appreciation of an individual soul with all its gifts and limitations.
I believe we exist because of a desire for Divine Companionship, a created world becoming more complete. We are light and salt to each other. Loving actions make us the fingertips of a big-picture God.
Whether consulting God, gut or both, listening is sacred.
Wisdom speaks more quietly than impulse. With a leap of faith, guidance weaves the net, and sometimes that guidance says, “Wait.”