By David Jones
What calls you to the dinner table?
Your mom? A dinner bell? Your tradition of eating at 6 PM? Your tummy demanding to know if your throat’s been cut? The origin of the calling doesn’t really matter, does it? We feel the urge to eat, and we sincerely hope the dish isn’t carpeted with pepper.
Sure there could be other explanations besides saying God called and I picked up the phone. Believe me, I’ve heard a bunch. I was in junior high school and up until then I had negative interest in religious matters. Most of my family were either Baptist or Mormon, so religion was a constant, even though the messages often conflicted. But I remember one afternoon after school, a light bulb clicked on: I should look into God myself.
I looked into many other religions, but none spoke to me like the words and deeds of this young, blue-collar (did robes have collars? I digress.) Jewish man. He had his personal religious experiences, and I’ve had mine—both momentous and memorable.
Now am I a practicing Christian? Not by any orthodox definition, no, but then neither was Jesus.
I don’t go to church; been there done that, and even though each one I joined had a different flavor they generally had the same message: ours is right, theirs isn’t. I don’t need that in my life, nor must I have a group of folks surrounding me with the same belief system to shore up my faith.
I’m not in it for the rewards. I don’t believe in Hell, and I ain’t headin’ to Heaven. I mean, I figure if God wants me in Heaven then I’ll be there. But my church-hating uncle died and was proclaimed to be in Heaven by his wife’s church, so maybe I just don’t understand the full admissions requirements.
I do talk about my faith, but since I don’t, and won’t, define or quantify what God is, it’s not much of a testimonial. When people tell me I have the wrong beliefs or that there’s no God, I shrug. It’s no skin off my nose if anyone defines Him their way.
I don’t think the Bible is infallible nor error-free. I love to study it, especially the Hebrew and Greek, but I don’t take it all literally. John Shelby Spong, a bishop once upon a time, essentially put it this way:
Who cares if this exact thing happened exactly this way or even at all? You can still benefit from it. It even has a lot of mindful guidance.
Following Jesus’s words and example can be tough since we don’t know if everything He’s quoted as saying is accurate or authentic. There wasn’t a reporter embedded with the apostles. It’s a bunch of anecdotes written down decades after He died.
So what does this leave me with? I’ll tell you: a message and example of taking care of people, helping where I can, and showing love and compassion towards all.
“You don’t need religion or God to do that.” Very true, but this is the path which led me here. This is where my heart beats.
Now I don’t have faith in a magical wish-granter who apparently flips a coin to see who He’s going to help and who He’s going to ignore. My experience of God isn’t the Batman villain Two-Face, nor the genie from Aladdin. God didn’t save my marriage, nor prevent me from marrying a person who wasn’t good for me in the first place, and I’ve never proclaimed that “I’m Too Blessed To Be Depressed”—ask my therapist.
What kept me from jumping in front of a speeding semi at my lowest point of hopelessness despite being a Christian? A psychotherapist who gave me a small handout talking about Mindfulness. This led me to a wonderful Buddhist community, the next step on my path.
So here I walk, practicing Christianity by trying to emulate a First Century Jewish apocalyptic teacher in a mindful way. I pray, and I also listen to the wind and water. I try to be the peacemaker Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, and I help my children focus on being in the moment.
That’s the thing: my path and my practice don’t need to make sense to anyone else. My sense of God is mine and doesn’t need validation from anyone else. It’s perfectly fine if folks don’t want or need a belief in God.
My advice to anyone who might feel angry about my particular path of belief? Just breathe. I can even help you learn how.
David Jones has a 30-year career with the United States government. He encountered mindfulness in therapy for his endangered marriage (which had led to anxiety-based depression and dissociative disorder symptoms), and writes about the experience in his blog as well as articles in various publications. He started writing articles about mindfulness for Yahoo Voices under the brand: A Mindful Guy.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak