July 29, 2013

Something Bigger Than Me

Almost two years ago I wrote A Hidden Piece Of The Puzzle. The subject was the re-discovery of my spiritual life in the last few years of my satisfying retirement. I wasn't directly advocating any particular religion or path to fulfillment, just fleshing out a bit about my personal journey. More recently I penned Retirement and Spirituality; What's The Link?

A few weeks ago blogger Linda Myers wrote Sliding into home, churchwise about her decision to become involved again in a church community after thirty years away. RJ Walters makes no bones about his religiosity in both his primary blog, RJ's Corner, and his postings at Red Letter Living. Good friend, Galen Pearl, writes about her spirituality quite frequently on 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place.

I'm sure I am missing references to other bloggers I read on a regular basis, but you get the point: being spiritual or religious is a part of a retirement lifestyle for many. Maybe it is the increasing awareness of our own mortality that causes folks to think about such matters. Maybe it is the social aspects of finding like-minded people to spend time with. Like Linda, maybe it is just an awareness of something missing that once was an important part of life.

I have no intention of preaching in this post. I have firm beliefs that I would be more than happy to share with you in a different setting, but this isn't the place. My faith teaches me to be tolerant and loving of others who have found a different path to meaning. While I believe they are missing the boat quite badly, being aggressive and pushy on my part will accomplish nothing. One of the great disappointments I have is the willingness of too many to offend and drive away others rather than actually follow what they profess: love your neighbors and enemies. Sometimes organized religion can be be its own worst enemy.

So, all I want to do is lay out a few of the reasons I have found a deepened faith life to be important:

  • A reminder of the precious nature of life. Any religious tradition I am aware of stresses the unique benefit we have over all the other animals on earth: a conscious awareness of our life and its importance. We don't just breath, eat, and sleep. We have the ability to use our talents and desires to make the most of our life. I believe I have been created to accomplish something. I may not always be sure what that something is, but I believe it exists.
  • A reminder that my time on earth is short. When we are young, time has no real meaning to us. As we progress through our adult years, life tends to fill up with the process of living. Time for reflection is often limited. But, at some point, our mortality stares us in the face. The time to accomplish what we are here for begins to dwindle down. While I believe I have an eternal life ahead of me, I am responsible for making the most of my time on earth, and that time is gone all too quickly.
  • A reminder that I'm part of a larger whole. Particularly in a culture that praises the individual, determines one's worth by success in the business world, or the size of one's bank balance, it is important to have a wake up call. We are a very small part of a very large universe. When we die, most of the other 7 billion people on earth won't notice. If I didn't believe I am part of a larger cosmic plan and am connected to my creator, then it would be easy to ask, "what's the point?"
  • A reminder that I'm unique. How can I be a tiny part of a larger whole, and also be unique? Simple: I was created that way. Everything on earth is unique in some way or another. There is no one else who has the exact makeup that I do, and no one ever will.
  • A reminder to be loving and giving. The primary premise of my religious beliefs is the need to love others as I love myself (as a creation of God). I am here to reflect the love of my creator to others. I am here to give of myself to others to make their lives more complete and satisfying.

Important: I have not achieved even a modicum of success in any of these five areas. I am a work in progress with many more failures than achievements, and will be until the day I die. But, I can be satisfied if I accept my shortcomings, know what I am trying to do, and never stop moving forward in that quest.

My spiritual life gives me hope, without which, I would be lost indeed.



29 comments:

  1. Nice post Bob. I love your way of giving the reader some gentle nudges. Of course I am a little more blunt than you about almost everything. :)

    I posted a very similar theme today as you did. Until you find a purpose in life you will not find joy (or as you say a satisfying retirement). As teenagers we often faced our personal abyss in who we are and why are we here. But that doesn't go away with our teen years. It is an ongoing challenge, even in our senior years.

    As you mentioned, like you, my spirituality is an important part of the purpose of my life. Keep on loving my brother in Christ....

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    1. I find it fascinating that blogger friends and I will often post on the same subject on the same day. Like minds and all that.....

      Your steadfastness in your expression of faith is inspiring.

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  2. I enjoyed every aspect of this post Bob, but would respectfully suggest that believing differently isn't necessarily 'missing the boat.' As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Just because my path is different from yours, doesn't mean I'm lost."

    Beliefs are just beliefs, you know? It's how we internalize them and treat our fellow humans, and this planet we live on, that is the true essence of spirituality. At least to me.

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    1. I understand completely, Tamara. But, if I deeply believe the path I am on is correct, then by definition, someone taking a different path must be "missing the boat." Importantly, though, that statement has no effect on my desire to love and honor that person, or have them in my life.

      I also accept the fact that I may be wrong. A belief is an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. It is something that I accept as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction, but something not based on personally confirmable facts.

      A sincere thank you for stating your position so well. And, for the record, Gandhi was of a different belief system than mine, but a great man who made the world a much better place.

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  3. I enjoy your posts related to spirituality and giving back to the community through service.I think you're not being generous enough with yourself as far as your " progress" in these areas!! Of course it's the journey, not the destination-- being on the path towards spiritual growth is the thing..

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    1. The end of the journey won't come until my death so I am in no rush! I am happy that I see "baby steps" of progress to my destination.

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  4. I agree, Bob. We are all a work in progress until we leave this place. I have to say, reading this morning what the Pope had to say, about gays and women in the church, leaves me hopeful for more spiritual and less doctrine dictates. I'm not catholic, or a strong church goer, but I like to think I have my own relationship with God. He 'gets' me, and I get him, too. It's about love and tolerance.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    b

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    1. I believe a group of fellow believers is important not matter what one's faith because it gives you a sense of support and community. That group doesn't require a church building or a formal service, just shared beliefs among a few people.

      Like you, I was encouraged by the Pope's appearance in Brazil. He gives every sign that he is motivated by true compassion and love for all.

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  5. Wonderful post. With respect to Tamara's comments, I tend to believe that when it comes to a higher power, we can all have different perspectives. My daughter's best friend is a Muslim and when they were in high school she fasted with her during Ramadan and Christmas was spent at our house. So I respect different belief systems. I have a huge problem with alack of belief, but frankly admit I am trying to work on that-and think people who are missing that are denying themselves.

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    1. Humans are born with the ability to think and question. That gets us into big trouble at times, but also gives us the opportunity to find our own path. Can there be only one correct path? My beliefs tell me yes. I moderate that to the degree that I don't presume to tell others they are wrong. After all, what if they are not and I am?

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    2. It's amazing how we all beleive differently. I was raised to believe faith has value alone, so while I don't believe in Allah, I tend to think that people who do are as valid as I am.

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    3. well if they are right and you are wrong, no harm done - we all make out OK. But if you are right and they are wrong...woe to the non-believers. That may be why so many of us who grew up in an orthodox Christian church are so conflicted. We can't honestly say we believe it, but there is always an uneasiness about it. That uneasiness should increase with age, but I find the opposite to be true. I think I am finally getting over it. I now consider myself an unorthodox Christian... or just a follower of Jesus.. a Jesus who comes to us in many forms. Great post. You made so many good points.

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  6. I just read your blog and was impressed with the clarity you expressed the fundamentals of your faith. For many of those that lack the security of their future, contentment in life and limited understanding of how religion and faith in God can satisfy all areas of life, hopefully through your explanation, they will seek out how to obtain that contentment.

    It is great to see how God is using you in many venues of service. Have a blessed day!

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    1. Thank you! I hoped to express myself clearly without driving folks away, but making it clear that spirituality is an important part of my life....in fact it is #1 on my priority list.

      A blessed day to you too.

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  7. I always think of Fiddler on the Roof.
    Tevya pointed out that what is better in a rich life then to be at the point of study and prayer? I would add service- because that is the direct outcome of prayer in my life.

    Your last point hits my religious beliefs on the head. As a Child of God I am called to help others in the best way I know.
    He gave me certain gifts. Using them is my dedication to God.

    There seem to be many paths. I believe that they eventually end at one God. God chooses the way to reveal to people what they need. I understand that - but still believe that the path laid by Christ is unique and should be shared.

    I had a dearly departed friend who counseled me when I was young to always keep my eye on the Eucharist (Communion between God and the people) and not the trappings. That is what I have been following for my guide for the last 40 years.

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    1. The trappings and ceremonies are what cause much of the problem. Humans love to complicate something and put their own stamp on the process.

      I think it was the ancient Pharisees who basically erected a wall of laws around their version of God, keeping everyone else out. I would suggest they missed the point.

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  8. Luckily for us nonbelievers there are many boats pulling into the port before heading out for a satisfying life :)

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  9. Another thought provoking post, Bob.

    I am hesitant to post, but.... I guess have to chime in.

    I spent 16 years in the Lutheran Church--was confirmed (because of a promise to my mother), but the "believe it or else.." nature of the mainline faiths always alienated me. I have an extensive library, and because I am a scientist my friends are always surprised that most of my books are concerned with religion and philosophy. It has been, and continues an interest and a passion for me.

    The wonder of science and nature has been my "something bigger than me." I would now describe myself as a "happy agnostic," buddhist in philosophy (not religion) and striving to practice compassion, attention, gratitude, loving kindness and mindfulness. I have many friends from many religious backgrounds and practices. I think they would describe me as a kind and generous friend that they can count on. I hope that remains true because that is what I strive for.

    I did have one christian friend who always said to me, " of course you need to know you if you don't accept Jesus you are going to hell," to which I generally responded, "with that attitude of judgement, I suspect I might be meeting you there..." :)

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. The judgmental tendency of some people, regardless of religious beliefs, is so counter-productive. Isn't it more likely that "selling" the benefits rather than screaming about the results of non-compliance would have a more positive impact?

      Thanks for sharing, Rick. I'm glad you clicked the publish button and added an important perspective to the discussion.

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  10. By your estimation, I've probably "missed the boat." And yet, I'd certainly subscribe to your five commandments.

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  11. If your faith reminds you of those five things....then you have found your place. This post makes me realize what an interesting person you must be. Deep and thoughtful. Thanks for the reminder that life is short.

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    1. My wife got a small laugh out of the "deep and thoughtful" part...but then agreed with you for most of the time. I'll take that as a win-win.

      Thanks for the very nice compliment.

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  12. John Wort Hannam of southern Alberta penned a song titled "Church of the Long Grass" in which he extolls the presence of God in nature. I never feel closer to God than when I'm in Nature. I also feel close to God during life transitions, being present at births and deaths as a nurse. I'm a believer.

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    1. You Tube has a clip of that song. If anyone is interested copy and paste:

      http://youtu.be/wS8kFqKoJvY

      Maybe that's why I like RV travel so much. I am closer to God's natural world. Thanks, Mona.

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  13. Excellent post Bob! You really have a gift for sharing your thoughts without being judgemental. After all "who are we to judge?" Although I struggle with my faith at times, I DO believe in God and I believe Jesus was who he said he was. I have also been turned off by "Organized Religion" and feel closer to God in nature the I do in church. One of my favorite sayings is... "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. :-)


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    1. While I know my faith is strengthened when I am in the company of other believers, I agree that sometimes the "church" or organized religion becomes an idol or its own worst enemy. The early Christian met in small groups. It wasn't until much later that organization and rules started getting between man and God.

      Thanks, Paul.

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  14. If I were God, I'd create many paths to Me.

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