I’ll throw down with Tony Jones any day and talk about God. Gladly. In fact, that’s what spiritual directors do all the time. It’s our job to draw people’s attention to how they are experiencing God (although they or we might use a thousand different names for the creator).
And while I don’t offer my own theology in spiritual direction very often (sessions are never about me) I am pretty transparent about who God is for me, especially if asked point-blank. So here goes:
God exists and desires a union of love with us. Whether you prefer the term “God” or some other term for the unseen reality that is the source of all life, I hold as foundational that this life force exists; the force is good and desires a two-way relationship of love with us. There may be many ways we understand this relationship. We may understand it differently than others. That’s OK. The only people I part company with theologically are those who do not understand this relationship (between Creator and creature) to be a loving one. Because God is love. By opening to God’s presence with us, we help others open up to this loving union and explore that love for themselves.
God created us for relationship. This incredible loving force we call God lives in intimate relationship with us and among us. God is not separate from creation but lives and breathes in all creatures, past, present, and future. Because of this, we are to be in loving relationship with each other and with creation. The teachings of Jesus make this clear.
God’s desire for us is written in our hearts. “It is not too high or too far away—the Word is in your hearts for you to observe.” (Deuteronomy 30: 10-20) God is already at work in our hearts and minds, drawing us closer to God and leading us toward a path of love. We may have to clear out a lot of debris within us to see how God is working in us, but God’s presence is assured.
Relationship with God is developed through spiritual practice. When we are in love with a person, we stay connected to that person. The same is true with God. To be in a living, loving relationship with the Source of Life, we need to cultivate that relationship through regular spiritual practice such as prayer, reflection, meditation, fasting, study or worship. Spiritual directors exist to encourage regular spiritual practice so that more people will come to an awareness of the presence of God.
God is bigger any one religious or spiritual tradition. Dogma and doctrine are ways humans within institutions have sought to understand God, and as such they have their place. But we cannot substitute them for God.
God calls us into a world in need of God’s healing presence. Once we experience God, we are drawn out of ourselves and into the world for service.
I could say so much more about God and God would still be predominantly a mystery to me in so many ways. Speaking about God humbles me. I would like to add, however, that my social location probably shapes a lot of my theology. I am a white, middle-class, female, ordained United Church of Christ (UCC) minister who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. In my life I’ve heard a lot of talk about God–from all sides of the spectrum. While I do not generally get the same impression that Tony has (that liberals don’t talk about God) I am grateful for an opportunity to offer my perspective.