This post could easily be titled Awkward Dinner Conversation!
I know I said that I’d introduce you to my friend who recently died, but last nights’ conversation at my in-laws’ dinner table is worth commenting on.
At our very nice New Years Day dinner, my mother-in-law asked what seemed like an safe question: What are you reading now?
Except for A Course in Miracles, I’m not reading anything, but I didn’t really want to talk about that at the moment. I love — ADORE! — my mother- and father-in-law. I am blessed to have married into a family that I not only love, but I like. I genuinely enjoy their company. I like to hang out with them. Even so, I didn’t really want to talk about ACIM because so many Christians see it as something of a bastardization of the truth. I don’t know if that’s how my in-laws see it, but I didn’t really want to go there to find out.
So, I said I’d just finished reading a book that my husband had given me for Christmas: Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver. Of course, I had to expand on what it’s about. I said it was about developing a more direct relationship with the Divine. So my very bright, curious father-in-law asked “What is the Divine?”
“It’s just another name for God.”
“Why do you need another name for God?”
Uh-oh. We’re going done that road I wanted to avoid.
I started speaking in very broad terms. Something like, “For some people, using the word ‘God’ is very uncomfortable, because it carries with it a lot of connotations that aren’t comforting or don’t go along with with those people believe.” Blank look. “Like the angry God of the Old Testament, for example.” Ahh, what seemed like a look of understanding briefly crossed his face.
My first feeling was that I was done with that and could change the conversation to something safer. Then, I quickly realized that I wasn’t done with my explanation. He didn’t ask some people; he asked me. So, I had to answer. (This all happened in the blink of an eye. There was only the slightest pause between what I initially said and what I said next.)
“And gender. A lot of people don’t believe that God is male. I don’t believe that God is a man. God is both male and female, and yet beyond either. Using the phrase the Divine allows me to imbue God with the traits and characteristics I believe in without carrying with it all the stuff from my childhood and common culture that I don’t believe in.”
I expected the conversation to continue — and devolve, to be honest — but my father-in-law simply said, “Oh. You mentioned the Divine several times in the essays you wrote for that book, and so did others. I wasn’t sure what you meant.”
I was relieved the conversation was over and we moved onto something else, something where the chance of disagreement was substantially less.
And I felt good.
Later, as I reflected on this conversation, I realized that the reason I felt good was not simply because a confrontation with someone I love and respect was avoided (My father-in-law is a convicted Christian who does not always have a lot of patience for non-Biblical based beliefs or thoughts. I am not a Christian, so I have a lot of those beliefs and thoughts.).
I realized that the reason I felt good about the conversation was that I was authentic to what I believed. I didn’t try to hide behind the masses; I owned the answer. If we think we are convicted with our beliefs, then we need to be prepared to stand behind them, to stand with them.
I need to be willing to stand behind my beliefs if I want them to support me. If I want to be touched by the Divine — by God — I need to own that desire. That doesn’t mean that I have to get a t-shirt that says I want to be alive with the fire of the Divine. — But it does mean that I need to be able to stand strong in the relationship I’m craving. And that means, standing strong with the belief system that I’ve been convicted of.
If I can’t own up to the relationship I have with the Divine, then why would I expect to be blessed with a stronger one?
I notice that the more I talk with the Divine about developing a deeper, more active, more intimate relationship, I’m given more opportunity to grow into what is already available to me.
More opportunity to stretch.
Just as I talk about my husband and how wonderful he is because I love him so much, I’m being prompted to talk more about the Divine, because I love It so much. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my beliefs and spiritual experiences.
My life — and relationship with whatever you want to call The One — are between me and the Divine. I don’t need anyone’s approval.
That’s a good place to be.