Truth and Beauty

The Experience of God

   Newborn baby

   Truth about God is revealed to humans through personal experience, through the universe and nature, and through divine revelation that surpasses experience. This section will focus on experiencing God in life.
 In many faith traditions, including those outside of Christianity, there is a concept of a higher Spirit power. Without this concept, life has no meaning and becomes a purely temporary existence of ceaseless striving and purposeless suffering with an inevitable end in death. Humans feel by nature insecure, trying to justify and find meaning in their existence. The concept of death – being reminded that we don’t have to be and will one day cease to be – fosters a continual fear which is a chronic pain. Life by itself is futile, no matter what we accomplish or accumulate.
   Something in the human heart and psyche is yearning for more than this. Human beings with their potential for fantastic creativity, able to conceptualize amazing ideas and  bring into existence incredible things, as well as being able to display great altruism and self-sacrifice can also experience a great restlessness and descend to tremendous depths of depravity. Why this paradox? And is there anything behind all this as well as behind special moments from beyond ourselves – experiences of transcendence or what could be called “moments of grace”?

   Many of us have experienced something that has broken in upon our day-to-day existence in a mysterious way as a special and undeserved gift. Sometimes we may only realize retrospectively that something special had occured. These experiences can be positive and extraordinary or negative experiences of limitation in which our world falls apart and in our powerlessness, we become open to mystery.

   The positive experiences of transcendence and awareness that what is given cannot be attributed to ourselves include interpersonal love, childbirth, creativity, forgiveness, and the beauty of the world. They also include supernatural protection when disaster was certain, and special breakthroughs when things come together just at the right time without our effort.

   For example, the love shared by a man and a woman in marriage, or even between friends, is something profound, undeserved, wonderful, and mysterious. Likewise, experiencing or witnessing the birth of one’s own child often gives the parents an overwhelming sense of the mystery of life – sensing that they are co-creators of the new and unique human being with something that is beyond them and that the child is a special gift given to them.

   In creative endevours of any kind, we often sense inspiration – being touched from within and sensing the mystery of our own being as well as something beyond us which accounts for what we have produced. Other moments of grace occur when the heart is supernaturally softened and we are enabled to let go of anger and bitterness and forgive the person who has grievously wronged us. Also, something marvelous and overpowering in nature gives us a sense of personal smallness and an awesome mystery beyond, which often elicits thanksgiving and praise.

   Experiences of grace in limit situations include disaster, death, failure, terminal illness, loneliness, and alienation. In these we come against our limits, yet in this very confrontation are taken beyond ourselves into the mystery of grace. In our darkest hours, we may, perhaps for the first time ever, cry out for help to a higher power – having exhausted our options and hoping against hope that someone may hear and answer. And often, there is a sense of being helped, upheld, and supported. While difficult to deal with at the time, these experiences may ultimately become life-giving turning points.

   If we look around and become attuned to these moments of grace – even in small, ordinary things and events, we’ll be amazed and indeed awed at their frequency. It is all a matter of awareness.

(Some ideas adapted from Human Experience of God, Denis Edwards, p. 27-38.)

Australian readers may find good values at Fishpond which sells discounted books and delivers them postage-free.