Journey to the Promised Land Rev Dr Durrell Watkins “God has not abandoned me…I have abandoned God, and I can choose again.” Jampolsky “Is God among us or not?” Exodus 17 Meister Eckhart said “God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.” That means, as Dr Jampolsky suggested, that God […]
Journey to the Promised Land
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
“God has not abandoned me…I have abandoned God, and I can choose again.” Jampolsky
“Is God among us or not?” Exodus 17
Meister Eckhart said “God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.” That means, as Dr Jampolsky suggested, that God has never left us, never could, but we can fail to realize that wherever we are, God is.
Why would we believe that God is separate from us?
Because we were told that God was separate from us, and predisposed to being disappointed with us!
And those old doubts and fears plague us especially in times of sorrow or chaos or peril.
But we cannot be apart from God because we are forever a part OF God!
To change our perception may be a process, but we can do it, and if we learn to look for the good, to see and seize opportunities, to believe in possibilities, we can influence how we experience life.
If our default position is to believe that God is punishing, judgmental, or generally disappointed with our very existence, we can learn to see things differently. We can entertain different ideas, affirm different possibilities, and rehearse new ways of exploring meaning in life. Just as we decided to believe, at some point, that God was chronically displeased with us, that God’s job was to punish, condemn, and infrequently reward, we can choose to believe that what is divine must be omnipresent, everywhere fully present, that we must be part of that Presence, unable ever to be separate from it; we are in It and of It and filled with Its light. We can see a new concept of the divine, and find the new concept to be sublime.
There came a time when I simply decided that God must be a gracious presence within which all life exists and that we can never be apart from God. What if I’m wrong, the question more than once came to mind. I then decided that I would rather be wrong about believing God to be unconditional, all-inclusive Love than to be right about God being a cosmic tyrant who would abandon people to endless torment simply for not holding certain opinions. I would never serve a god that could abandon me for using my mind, or being honest about my love, or even for asking sincere questions or giving voice to heartfelt doubts. God had to be better in order to be god at all, and a better understanding and experience of the Holy was my reward.
Let your concept of God be truly good, and you will experience more good in the depths of your own being. And that sense of unlimited Good dwelling in your own spirit can lead you forward to your own land of promise, and it can fill you with hope when the vision takes longer to fulfill than we originally expected.
When Moses’ people were enslaved in Egypt, they wanted a better life; but perhaps they hadn’t considered that to make life better they might have to experience sacrifice and uncertainty along the way. In times of uncertainty, it is a vision of better days that will propel us forward. It was a vision that would lead them to a land of promise, and the vision would sustain them until they found their way to the better experience. The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is still a journey, with setbacks and detours, but the vision can sustain one on the journey, and the journey, difficult as it may be, is the way to get to the divine Promise.
The vision is actually life-giving in a time of travail. And the vision is something to cling to when there is nothing else. “If the vision seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place” (Habakkuk 2.3).
The vision of what can be, of what we have pledged to see to fruition, is what brings us hope and joy during the uncertain and difficult times.
On the journey to the land of promise the people forgot all they had achieved already, forgot the vision of what could be, forgot why they had taken the risks and started the journey in the first place. And when they forgot, they lost their purpose until they chose to remember again. They fell into the trap that oppressed people fall into sometimes…horizontal violence. They took their pain, frustration, disappointment, and fear and lashed out against their own movement, their own leaders, maybe even one another. And by staying divided and feeling helpless and unworthy, they remained victimized by their oppressors even though they had left the land of oppression; but leaving Egypt isn’t enough if your bring Egypt with you.
When you leave the job, the relationship, the religious environment that told you that you were worthless, leave their message of your unworthiness behind as well…what they did when we were in bondage was on them, but let us not continue to hurt ourselves by forgetting to fully reject their lies!
What is the Egypt you may have left, but still carry part of it with you, never allowing yourself to be totally free from its harsh lash? In moments of uncertainty, do you miss the land of oppression? Do you long for the good old days that weren’t that good at all? Or do you dare to say, the best is yet to be, and I deserve all the good that is possible! I won’t turn back, but will continue moving toward the possibilities!
The gods of Egypt were symbols of oppression; we may sometimes miss the past, and we can even remember and honor it, but the promises are still ahead of us. It’s worth the desert experience to get to the land of promise! And to get there, Egypt must be left far behind.
“Egypt” may have been easier in some ways (at least more predictable), but it lacked promise. It was never going to be better than it had been. Moving in the direction of the promise of a better future may take us through desert places, but the desert path leads to a future of infinite possibilities, and even in the desert places, there may be water to sustain us along the way.
In times of trial, we may wonder if God is with us. But once we choose to believe that God is an omnipresence, a universal power everywhere, fully present, then in the difficult times we will have access to hope that can sustain us and guide us to better days. And our communion with this God of infinite compassion will give us the courage to try, the wisdom to learn from mistakes, the ability to see past the current circumstances, and the hope that our efforts are worthwhile and will eventually lead to something significant.
And most importantly, contemplating a God of grace, of love that doesn’t have to be earned and that can’t be lost, will allow us to affirm our sacred value, and when we can do that, no difficulty or challenge can rob of us of our joy. When we know who we are, circumstances can’t rob us of that empowering Self Realization!
As Florence Scovel Shinn titled one of her books, Your Word is Your Wand. Wizards in ancient tales would wave wands or carry magical staffs. The wand or rod represents the power that is available to all of us; the magic is the power of new thoughts unleashed that then allows one to embrace new possibilities. The wand or staff is the intention, the choice to embrace a new thought, and the magic is the result of the new attitude or mindset. In the midst of complaining, despair, and negative speech, Moses embraces a new thought, considers new possibilities, and uses his wand to unleash a new experience of blessings. That’s the rod striking the rock and that’s when new opportunities being to flow.
Whatever we are facing, we can change our habitual thinking, and our habitual thinking will create an attitude which will determine how we see life. We can use our word, our wand, our staff to strike the rock of the current experience, and from the rock new possibilities can emerge.
Are we willing to challenge some of the old, inherited beliefs about a punishing god who excludes most and includes few, and those few only if certain conditions are met? Can we allow ourselves to know God as a loving omnipresence flowing through us and expressing as us, leaving no one out and rejecting no one for any reason?
If we can imagine ourselves as part of God and God’s light as dwelling within us, then we can imagine infinite Good and we can find ourselves experiencing more hope, joy, and peace in our lives. Those blessings are flowing water that will sustain us in the desert times, and finding refreshment in the desert will give us strength to continue the journey that leads ultimately to our own Promised Lands. And this is the good news!
© Durrell Watkins 2014
I am free to choose my beliefs.
I am free to change my thinking.
I am free to hope for better days.
I am free to move forward with courage.
Thank you, loving God!