Father Everyday

The first Tweet I spotted in this morning’s time line was: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” It was a Marcel Proust quote shared by @LouKavar. It made me think: In a world where an increasing number of us are declaring ourselves “spiritual, not religious,” aren’t we really describing the eyes through which we see the eternal God, our Father?

In a thought-provoking Huffington Post blog this week, columnist Jay Michaelson reflected on “A Better Way to Believe in God.” Among other things, he looked at religionists’ insistence upon believing scriptures that clearly reflect the limited knowledge of the ancient scribes, discarding empirical evidence proving these declarations inaccurate:

“Here in America, hundreds of millions of people believe in Intelligent Design, in life beginning at conception, and in a notion of a retributive God. Why? Not because of science, truthseeking, or logical inquiry. They “believe in” these things (notice the locution) because they think religion is at the core of their lives.”

By contrast, the “new eyes” of spirituality see a God that is more accessible, more responsive, more loving, compassionate and forgiving. Our Father is someone whom we invite and delight in having as a companion and active participant in our daily lives, decisions and actions.

“New eyes” can’t envision God as a male being who lives beyond the stars, visits Earth only to destroy every living thing, and hasn’t told all of His kids how to return home. No, “new eyes” have captured Jesus’s vision of God as a Father who provides His prodigal kids a safe, reliable and embracing place to turn when we need guidance, shelter, or have made mistakes. And there’s a feast and new clothes, to boot!

This is not the God we met in church: the God whose brutally torturous and deadly punishments consistently exceed all crimes—the “smack-down God,” as the Rev. Gaylon McDowell aptly characterizes Him—a Father whose behavior is frequently more human, and sadly, more inhumane than divine.

Perhaps we are increasingly seeing God with “new eyes” because while religion has encouraged us to build a personal relationship with threatening and fearsome God who uses deadly force, spirituality has helped us to build a stronger relationship that was, is, and always will be based on unconditional love. With unconditional love comes freedom—the freedom to choose how we see each other, how we see ourselves, and how we see our Father.

For those with “new eyes,” no one is outside of the Father’s Love. Every house is Father’s House. And every day is Father’s Day.

Love as real as an avatar

Part Three of a three-part series

I apologize for the extended pause. Now, back to our other-worldly love story…

I recently stumbled upon a really cool nail salon in Chicago’s South Loop—a yummy combination of great price ($35 mani-pedi) and elegant decor. And the pièce de résistance: “Sex and the City” DVDs play non-stop. Take your time with those nails, please!

Yesterday’s encore episode was about judgment—more accurately, about being judgmental. It reminded me that practically every human being on Earth judges others, and it’s always based on superficial stuff: looks, job, bank account, race, religion, sexual orientation, whatever we decide is important.

Judging others is one of our favorite sports, and Ego is our defensive coach. No chump, Ego is as resilient and relentless as its invincible cousin, the roach, and apparently as ubiquitous. Wherever it goes, judgment tags along. The pair has been spotted as far away as the fictitious planet Pandora, a gaseous moon inhabited by the Na’vi, a peculiar looking breed of humanoids. (But who’s judging?)

Even on Pandora, eyes can be deceiving. Ask Neytiri, a young Na’vi maiden from the Omaticaya tribe, who spotted someone in the lush forest. He appeared to be a kinsmen: Between 9′ and 12′ tall? Check. Blue-striped? Check. Jaundiced-eyed? Uh huh. From the Omaticaya tribe? Not so much.

Actually, he was an American named Jake Sully, an imposter, an avatar cloned to look like a tribesman. Instantly, Neytiri drew her bow and arrow, aimed, and prepared to shoot.

How many of us can relate to that? Who hasn’t hurled verbal or visual arrows at perceived enemies, hoping to pierce their hearts, shatter their egos and knock them to their knees (ideally, at our feet)? When we’ve gone that far, it ain’t easy to back off. And something seemed to be telling Neytiri to do just that.

Woodsprite dances on Neytiri's bow

Neytiri aims

She struggled as we do when our intuition tells us that we’re making a big mistake, and our ego is screaming, “Destroy!” Neytiri aimed again.

Suddenly, a Woodsprite—a seed from the revered Tree of Souls—landed on her arrow, then another and another. Puzzled, Neytiri paused. The wispy jellyfish-like Woodsprites then floated onto her target, the American interloper. She eased her grip on the bow. What was going on? She wondered.

By dispatching the Woodsprites, the Omaticaya’s Divine Spirit, known as “Eywa,” was sending Neytiri not only a powerful signal, but clear direction: Inside the avatar beats a heart that is pure.

On Pandora, a pure heart is revered. The body in which is beats—even if it is flawed—is precious. Neytiri backed off.

Unlike the Omaticaya, we don’t always receive visible clues when the Divine communicates with us. We typically have to listen for a still small voice that’s deep inside. Complicating matters, our egos insist that we should dig in our heels rather than admit that we have misjudged.

In this case, Neytiri decided to accept direction from the Divine, a decision that not only altered her life, but all life on Pandora. It was no mistake that Jake had been sent to Pandora instead of his twin brother. The eternal soul within Jake’s manufactured avatar and physical body had a destiny: Save Pandora from the American invaders. It had been his soul’s purpose since The Beginning.

Forced to spend more time together, Neytiri’s judgment of Jake, and his of her, gradually transformed into “namaste,” a Sanskrit word that means, “The God in me sees the God in you.” When they proclaimed to each other, “I see you,” they weren’t referring to visual sight. Physical eyes judge and separate. Real sight is magical: it sees the heart, the divinity, the true beauty and perfection of another.

Only those who understand that they are spirit—made in the image of God and having a temporary physical experience—can see the beauty and divinity within themselves. These are the only souls who are fearless enough and feel worthy enough to give and receive unconditional love—and can graciously release those who can’t.

After all, anyone can say, “I love you.” Few can say, “I see you.”