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Embracing an Imperfect God, Embracing Responsibility
When I was young, I felt very angry about the pain in our world. I was less upset about my own pain than I was about the pervasiveness of injustice, unkindness, prejudice and neglect throughout the world. Outraged, I decided that I could not believe in any kind of a higher power, because, I reasoned, if there were a God, a Creator of all this trauma and injustice, I would have to hate the divine. So I consciously chose to believe there was none.
Without any kind of higher power, I felt very alone and responsible for all that I saw. At the age of 9, I gave myself the responsibility to fix the world and wildly tried to right every wrong. In 1978, when I was 33 years old, I had a total meltdown. After years of radical activism, I was burnt out. My burnout was due not only to the intensity of a life devoted to social and political struggle; it was also due to my fruitless attempts to fix everything, especially in light of the increasingly obvious fact that I could hardly fix anything. And what added to my burnout was the slow, continuous destructiveness of my own anger -- my anger against a global social and economic system I deemed unfair and hurtful.
One day, back in 1983, I had a major spiritual experience. I felt that I was in God's presence, and I heard a voice saying, "Remember, Beth. God is changing." Suddenly, I realized that God is not perfect.
Having burned out, I had to change. But how and in what way? In time, I discovered that I needed to believe that there was a power greater than myself and that I was not responsible for everything. I needed to learn to relax into the process of living and be more in allowance of the way humans were. I needed to learn how to love myself, God and others. I needed spirituality. But before I could surrender to spirituality, I was once more confronted with the question of "God." What the heck is he/she/it? And how could I reconcile my anger with faith, my faith with common sense?
I saw spiritual people who seemed more serene than me, and my heart wanted to just leap into faith. But faith in what? As I looked around, I observed many spiritual models, but they didn't seem to work for me. Here are some examples: I saw people praying for themselves and their wants, even at the expense of others. People looking to God as they would look to a candy machine, a dispenser of the goodies they thought they should have. This didn't feel like a way to rise to a higher consciousness.
Then there was another model: people who seemed to be constantly begging for forgiveness for their flaws, begging forgiveness from some judgmental, perfect God, even if he were framed as a kindly "father." To my view, these folks were heaping guilt and shame on themselves just for being human. I couldn't see how this approach could be healing because my experience as an intuitive counselor taught me that the more shame people feel, the less capacity they have to change; that instead, we need to understand and have compassion for ourselves and grow from there. In addition, it didn't make sense to claim that God was all-powerful and yet blame us for being flawed. Who made us that way?
And then there was yet another model: the belief we could individually use the laws of the universe to control reality for our own benefit. This model did not even feel like spirituality because, to me, spirituality involved humility and serving God and others, whereas this model felt like ego and manipulation (i.e., trying to use the divine for our own purposes). In addition, this model seemed to be a source of needless suffering because when things went "wrong," folks who embraced this belief system blamed themselves. In their world view, unwanted outcomes were due to something they did, said or even thought in this or some other lifetime. This perspective seemed to elevate individual human beings to the level of omnipotent, and that to me seemed out of reality. In addition, it conflicted with the fundamental principle of Oneness. If we are not separate individuals, how can we have individual control of the universe?
I rejected all of these paths and more. But then what was I to believe in?
One day, back in 1983, as I was still grappling with this question, I had a major spiritual experience. I felt that I was in God's presence, and I heard a voice saying, "Remember, Beth. God is changing." Now talk about having your world rocked! God changing? Wasn't God perfect? How could a perfect God change? Then the same voice said to me, "Are you part of God?" I said, "Yes." It continued, "Are you changing?" Again, I said, "Yes." And finally the voice said the obvious, "If you are changing, and you are part of me, how could I not be changing?"
The simplicity of this argument dumbfounded me. Suddenly, I realized that God is not perfect; instead, God is ever changing and evolving. And if God created the universe, then the universe -- and mankind -- is a reflection of God, an evolving God. And if I am flawed, that's a reflection of my Creator in the process of evolution. At this point, I dared to ask the question, "If I am made in God's image, what do my flaws say about God?" These blinding thoughts filled me with relief. I was tired of feeling guilty and shameful about myself and my defects, and I suddenly felt peace about myself. With these realizations, I dumped shame. I announced to God, "Physician, heal thyself!" In other words, if the world was a reflection of God's evolution, then it was only God's evolution that would heal our world.
Dumping shame was, however, only the beginning. Dumping shame led me to embrace responsibility. I am, after all, a part of God, an aspect of divine consciousness. If God, the whole, is in the process of evolution, and if I am part of that whole, then I have a part in the evolution of all of consciousness. Wow! Back in my political days, I felt responsible for everything because I perceived myself as alone. Now I realized that I am responsible for everything because I am not alone. On the contrary, I am responsible for everything because I am part of the Oneness. And simultaneously, fortunately, I am only responsible for doing my part in the collective transformational process.
From that moment in 1983, when I surrendered the perfect God, I began an incredible journey of intimacy with my higher power. There is no shame in being human. We are all flawed, and we were designed to be this way. We are part of God, and so is every rapist and every saint. The universe is evolving, and so is God, and our imperfection is all part of this plan. Life is not a continuous struggle to get the universe to fix or satisfy "me." It is the never-ending story of me as a part of God in the process of evolution. In this sense, God isn't healing me; we collectively are healing God; or more precisely, we are aspects of the God that is in the process of evolution.
Some dislike this perspective, because it can feel scary. With no perfect God, there is no sugar daddy, no candy dispenser in the sky that can fix all our problems and make everything all right. But this evolutionary perspective on God has been my liberation. If I am truly an aspect of an evolving God, then I'm not a worm or a hideous mistake. I am the way I was designed to be: flawed and weak and capable of transformation.
In relationship to myself, others and my higher power, I have no fear or shame. I am flawed, of course, and that causes pain to me and others. But this is meant to be. I am a flawed aspect of God in the process of evolution. I have weaknesses, and I am responsible to face those weaknesses and transform. As such, I have purpose and value, and my mistakes and weaknesses are part of that purpose. I can take on my small part of the responsibility for all of creation
Sure this means I have a lot of responsibility: I have a lot of work to do on myself, and I have to share whatever I learn with others. But I am not alone. In all this, God and I are partners in evolution, even if I'm the junior partner, and I ask for as much guidance as I can get. And in all this, you and I are partners in evolution, each one of us working together synergistically to heal the whole; each one of us doing our part in fulfilling our collective destiny.
Embracing an imperfect God means embracing responsibility. It's worth it.