Jill, our retreat guide asks if we want to meet God. I cross my arms. Why would I need an anthropomorphized version of God?
Especially a male god like Jill is describing?
I don’t trust men. How would I trust a male god?
My chest tightens, my neck grows hot. I try to ignore Jill’s voice.
Just then, as if stepping into a movie, a vista unfolds before me.
The Divine Appears
Through the ages and across the world’s wisdom traditions, people have reported divine visitations. Some of them became famous mystics like Rumi, Mother Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart.
But anyone can experience higher reality. In fact, we can be mystics and not even know it.
As a life coach, I witness a wide range of responses to meeting the mystery. Often a person may not think of their experience as mystical but as “that thing that happened” that they’ve put aside, unable to integrate it into daily life. At first, the idea of what happened as mystical surprises them. Then, it becomes an ‘aha’ moment.
A stand of shade trees unfolds before my inner eye. I hear a voice. Not audibly but like a thought entering my mind. The voice responds with immeasurable kindness to my discomfort with the idea of a male god.
I can appear to you any way you want me to.
The landscape morphs into a forest.
Like this landscape.
The flickering shape of a child emerges by the trees.
Like this child.
A woman emerges.
Like this woman.
The tableau expands to include all sorts of phenomena. I’m given to understand that, far from having to appear as a human male, this god can appear to me in any way that feels safe to me.
Then, the panorama is replaced by a face mere inches from mine.
All Encounters Are Unique
The mystical experience takes many forms: visions, voices, thoughts, automatic writing, nature. It may be as simple as a deer crossing a snowy lane, looking back at you unafraid. Suddenly, the earthly veil falls away. Love for this beautiful animal pierces your heart. And tears spring to your eyes because you’re in the sheer presence of the divine.
As I look into the face that has appeared before me, I notice that it is very beautiful, resembling to my surprise my then-husband. His eyes are wide and soft. They glisten with a love and a trust I don’t yet feel.
I shrink back. What does he want?
Knowing my thoughts, he asks without guile, Don’t you know that I am innocent?
My armor cracks. I grasp the meaning in its fullness. It isn’t a child’s innocence that gives way as you grow up. It’s the innocence of unconditional love without judgment. I know with all my heart that it is how this god loves.
The reticence and hurt of a moment ago are gone as if they never existed. I feel incredible tenderness for this god. I sink into his sweet eyes without reserve.
The soul of a god, unguarded, restores the innocence in me.
This vision came to me decades ago at a spiritual retreat. My heart was wide open to the divine but I couldn’t get comfortable with a male god because I was deeply disappointed in men. This meeting healed all that and made a future possible that may not have happened otherwise.
Letting God Get Closer
The divine is all around you. In you. It is you. A practical question is, what’s a good way to let it in? Through being creative? Music? Gardening? Yoga? Tarot or oracle cards? For each of us, there is something that is uniquely suited to soften the armor we’ve learned to put on to navigate the demands of life. From my experience, the divine speaks to us in the language we most intimately understand. Hence, my god appeared to me looking like my first husband when we first fell in love.
You may not fully understand the mystery—only that it exists.
To live close to God integrate into your daily life the presence of the divine as you, alone, experience it.
By giving credence to the small, everyday experiences of transcendence, you expand your spiritual lexicon and with it your astuteness. What you may have thought of in the past as a moment of unaccountable happiness that does seem nice but perhaps not all that important, you may now recognize as a moment of connection with higher reality.
I’ve become comfortable calling my god a “he.” Simply because in that form, I felt the sweetest connection of all.
There is a beautiful symmetry at work. Because of our first encounter that healed my disappointment, my heart opened again to the possibility of a good love. Today, my partner of seventeen years is similar to my god in his sweetness and devotion to our love.
I live closer to my god not only because I’ve made room for him but also through the devoted relationship with my partner.
The Ground of All Being
Before this life-changing experience, I was happy to think of God as higher power or the universe. But having a personalized god has been a great comfort to me that I now would never want to do without.
Many mystic texts describe a relationship with a personified god.
Some years ago, to be able to better articulate my lived experience with my god, I sought to find a corollary in the world’s religions and discovered it in the Brahma Sutras—sacred texts in Hinduism. They describe something absolutely wonderful called Brahman: the “ultimate uncreated and eternal foundation and source” from which all forms arise. According to the text, they include Brahma, the personification of Brahman. Bingo! I thought. That’s my god—a personification of the divine.
The philosopher and theologian, Paul Tillich, called Brahman “the ground of all being.”
I believe this ground of all being provides whatever form you need the divine to take so that you may live close to your god.
I write about the divineness of life in all its forms. I’m a life coach, spiritual tarot guide, Reiki master and I am nonbinary (pronouns, they/them).