For most of my life I’ve primarily THOUGHT about God, believing my thinking was the entirety of our relationship. As you might be able to guess, it was a rather studious, distant, and analytical relationship. While I still believe my thoughts matter, these days I mainly eat, see, and feel the Divine, our connection is more an experience of my entire being than a consideration of my mind. This shift has made a world of difference in my life, so I figured I’d share some thoughts on this felt experience with you here. Yes, I totally get the irony of using words/thoughts to explain a move from thinking to experiencing. 🙂
I’ll start with one of the weirdest passages in the Bible, where Jesus declares:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6.51-58, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis mine)
Isn’t that interesting? While SO much could be said about this, I’m going to do my best to keep it simple and straightforward. In many ways this was Jesus’ answer to two questions a crowd of people interested in Him asked Him in verse 30: “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?” As I read it, they’re essentially asking: “How do we relate to the Divine? How do we experience the Spirit?” I say this because right after the questions the crowd references a previous encounter the Jews had had with God, wherein the Creator miraculously fed them while they wandered in the desert, and because I see Jesus’ answer as a way of saying: God is meant to be eaten.
In saying “God is meant to be eaten”, what I’m getting at is the Source of Life, Love, and all Reality is Someone we can all tangibly experience via the material world. Jesus really drives this point home for me by giving us the practice of the Eucharist.
Knowing He was about to be killed, just beforehand Jesus gathered His closest followers to eat dinner together. At the meal Jesus began a practice named communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, which the Church has carried on ever since. In this tradition we eat “bread” and drink “wine” to remember, connect to, and become like Jesus the Christ. I put bread and wine in quotes because while some people practice this with literal bread and wine, others do so with crackers and grape juice, others as a meal, and so on. To me, the point seems to be: The more we see, touch, name, feel, and eat God, the richer our relationship with the Spirit becomes andthe more like Christ we grow.
If something as simple and ordinary as bread, is marked by the Divine, than surely the glory of our Creator can be seen anywhere and everywhere. Nature is a particularly powerful and easy place to encounter God because its calming rhythm slows us down and quiets our distracted minds, while putting us face-to-face with beauty beyond belief. Simone Weil says it like this: “The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter.”
We encounter God via the glory of a sunrise or sunset, the music of birds singing, the sweet sound of the wind on trees, the majesty of mountains, the poetry of clouds, the lullaby of the ocean tide, the playfulness of squirrels, the soothing feel of beach sand on our feet, and so on. While none of these are the Creator, they’re all ways we can regularly interact with and witness God. I have a hunch it’s a lot like the way I can gaze for lengthy periods into my wife’s eyes, write poems about them, and feel her in my heart when I remember them in my minds eye. While Lisa’s eyes aren’t the totality of her, they are OF her and a tangible way I can relate to her.
While I’m convinced we are able to have felt experiences with our Maker anywhere and everywhere, I think it’s easiest to “eat” God in nature, stillness, and community. I keep coming back to consuming God not only because it was a point of emphasis for Jesus, but also because the intimacy of chewing and ingesting food is indicative of the nearness with/in us our Creator desires, reminds us we can relate to the Spirit in and through the material, and brings to our attention that our lives thrive and flourish when we take God in.
Celtic Christianity does an especially good job of embracing and being embraced by the Divine in nature. I love this passage from The Letters of Pelagius: Celtic Soul Friend:
Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the fish in the river and sea: God’s spirit dwells within them. There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent. … When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly.
I don’t know about you, but when I see the world this way my soul sings. Stillness (meaning quieting your mind) is an equally powerful way to connect to our Creator in my experience. When I practice yoga, meditation, and the like, my heart and mind are filled with a peace that passes understanding and taps into a unending well of joy, both gifts from heaven. It’s hard to put words to it, but more and more in my yoga practice, especially during savasana, I feel the Spirit of God at a cellular level. I sense Divine energy, Light, and Love moving into me.
Meanwhile, in community I think we see the face of God in other people. We taste God’s love for us in the care, compliments, and curiosity of others. We sense God’s goodness in giving of ourselves for the benefit of others. To bring this full circle, I’m convinced one of the most Divine encounters occurs in the space of a meal with loved ones; the food fills our bellies, the laughter nourishes our spirits, and the sharing of life’s joys and sorrows sustains our souls. There’s nothing like a good meal with good people, it’s as if we literally partook of God.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and will leave you with a passage from the Bhagavad Gita 4.24:
God is the offering. God
is the offered, poured out by God;
God is attained by all those
who see God in every action.
Grace and peace,