By Rev. Andre van Zijl
When I consider the nature of the God I choose, I reflect on the fact that this God is not the God I meet when I meet what we call G-o-d.
The God I choose is made in my own cultural and aesthetic image, whereas the God I meet is pre-existing and quite beyond any ideas or concepts that I or anyone might entertain before being met, or even after being met…
Before I met God, I had different thoughts about His/Her/Its nature that expressed common identity – that the eternal divine and I were essentially no different – even though it is obvious that in form and in time the “I” that claims identity in time cannot be this God.
Now how did I get to need to meet “God” beyond the God of my own choosing?
When my personal narrative totally collapsed from within, and I could no longer support it nor depend on any part of it remaining intact to serve any useful purpose, I was forced to radically reconsider everything that I had thought to be true. The Question that now remained to be definitively answered was “was the God that I felt to be true, actually true – and exactly who or what was IT that I would meet even If I could?
To have this question unequivocally answered was vital to me because if I could not get a real response in an unquestionable encounter with Him/Her/It then I would not be able to continue living. So, I decided to die.
I made a fatal vow that “unless I touch the face of God, I will literally die to this world.”
All that I can say about what happened next is that experiencing spiritually “dying”, “I” rose again, triumphant and free, stripped of any personal self… I was filled with Life itself, an incomprehensible fullness, a divine surfeit, possessed of the invincible power of inextinguishable being and a deep abiding peace beyond any possible human understanding. Imbued with an all seeing-ness, “seeing” with my whole being and “understanding” with an all knowingness beyond the mind, dispassionately witnessing the utter inadequacy of its petty rationalism to comprehend an incomprehensible and majestic vastness.
All possibility of questions of any nature had utterly ceased.
Filled with tremulous certainty, I was seeing Life with God’s eyes.
I was in thrall to the wonder of unconditional love pouring in, out and through everything that awareness moved to.
The distinction between a self and a universe being perceived had completely dissolved. The immediate consequence of this was to experience the extended infinity of the universe being my body.
All that existed was this deathless loving joy – the eternal ground of all that is, ever was and ever will be. The aperture of my whole being was opened to its fullest possible extent. All prior knowledge became irrelevant, superseded by this universal knowing, this knowing of all things. People and things became as glass houses to my entranced gaze. I would glance at them and see deeply into their innermost being and character without any hint of judgement or commentary.
Today, I know that when I feel like a helpless child, God becomes Father, Mother, Guide and Protector, daily inspiration and living Presence – protecting me from myself, guiding me beyond the barricades of the wounded heart, providing daily solace, food for the deep soul – then, when words stumble, fumble and finding no purchase fall into the surrendering silence, this becomes a stillness where the miracle of being is perfectly mirrored, impregnating the whole of me in time. When I feel this interior stillness and fall into deepest Self, then I know us, this God and I, as one and the same; then, I move as It moves, I dance as He/She/It dances, until I disappear and it all becomes Him, Her, It, all around, within and without, without beginning or end, birthless, deathless and Joy itself.
In this state there is no other to become either lover or Beloved, there is only the universe breathing as all that is, appearing disguised as all that is. In this knowing I am become absolute being, absolute awareness and absolute bliss.
The continuing work for me then is to live my everyday life allowing this knowing to infiltrate the banality of the incremental challenges that rise up each hour, each day – and to allow this unconditional awareness to temper the conditional “creatures” response to intuition, irritation, judgement, fear, anger, extending to the apparently infinity of opportunities to remembering not to forget the divine Presence, the presence of a God I know, who knows me better than I know myself.
God came to me so that in each moment of awareness I might come to Him. My constant prayer is to remember that always, in each moment.
To allow the infinite to penetrate the finite of my experience I have to create a flexible, humorous approach to the “tennis balls” life throws at me. Life in this view is a divine tennis match with God. He throws difficult balls for me to return, because He wants me to become spiritually fit for the accurate sacred response to life’s constant prompting, life’s continual invitation to be larger rather than smaller, to be whole rather than broken, to be vulnerable and open, rather than closed and defensive, to stop pretending to be what I am not, to not defend myself from whatever life throws at me, and to stop holding onto parts of myself which no longer serve me, to finally accept that life is all about Him, not me.
My prayer is to become a fit tool in His hand, a tool wielded by Him to do His will, not mine. I learn this art of becoming in little ways, silent and undemonstrative, invisible to the brash sight of man’s regard. Then when He has no more use for this tool, to accept being tossed aside like a broken sword that has achieved its purpose.
The prison which most imprisons us, the one which most threatens our freedom to choose, is the invisible prison of self-regard. It is the prison of the unrepentant ego. It would appear that even the glow of “good” deeds does not dull the ache of the separate self – the endless burden of wants, preferences and opinions which do nothing to ease the suffering of separation from God. The simple truth is that life which is the gift of Presence appears before us as those who are needy, wanting and insufficient, in need of our ministrations, not for their sakes but to serve the ultimate recognition that those who appear in need, including ourselves, are in fact the Lord of All, the Source and destiny of all, who wholly without need appears before us disguised as all that is – so that we may serve and honor the God in all no matter how He/She/It might appear to our surface understanding; so that the twin gaze of merely human seeing might become the single Eye of divine seeing.
“…grandfather said, that each of us has a unique service to offer. Every circumstance, event and relationship in our life is a preparation for that service. That unique giving of ourselves is our real name and no one knows our real name until the day we die.” – Jamal Rahman “The Fragrance of Faith” – Third Pillar – Almsgiving