I’ve tried to write this “what if” question in every imaginable form and nothing seems sufficient. My ramblings range from questions of existence to doubts about context, explanations and religious framings. More than anything, I want you to know that I’m not afraid of the biggies in this journey. If we are going to ask the questions, I think we need to start with the BIG question.
What happens when we begin to doubt and reframe and disagree and leave behind and embrace the things that formationaly define the Creator? This is scary territory. And for those of us that walk into these conversations with heavy baggage (which is most of us, right?) we spend equal parts our our energy defending our past or preconceived beliefs and fighting to give shape and open minded wonder to the ‘what if.’ It is from this seesaw battle of the mind that I come with a deep desire to set aside the things.
I recently attended a 12-step meeting that used a prayer that I had never heard before.
God, Please help me set aside everything I think I know about myself, my disease, the 12 steps, and especially You; So I may have an open mind and a new experience of all these things. Please let me see the truth.
This prayer is known as the Set Aside prayer. The roots of this prayer come from the chapter called “To the Agnostics” in the AA Big Book. This important section of the book is dedicated to those who come into the program without a concept or even willingness to consider a power that is bigger than themselves and more importantly their addiction. This prayer was exactly what I needed on that day and many days since. I have reached (again) a season of life where I cannot deny the presence of a wonderfully mysterious Divine power. But I am more sure than ever before that my human attempts to define, name, gender type, quantify and contain are insufficient. Often the language of humanity fails at explaining, and seems hopelessly empty in light of, the very real experiences that I have had with this unexplainable force. These unworldly experiences have propelled my heart to love in ways that are bigger than my humanity allows. Thats how I know it is not of my own making.
If there is one thing that this season of imposed down time has given each of us, it is an unplanned journey of slowing. I have had many recent experiences that remind me that we are all grasping for the things that we know. The times that I think I know God in a way that is sure, I miss the entire point. To engage and approach and interact with the Creator is to intentionally invite the unknown into our experience.
So for me, today, the question is: What if our experience of God is bigger than religion and language can articulate? And to that, I can say, “YEP!” I’m taking off the reigns of certainty, and trading them in for the deep, longing, searching, fear excluding, shame expelling gift of setting aside what I have known for the willingness to learn what the Divine still has to teach me.
To those that don’t even know where to start with this one, may I offer an invitation? I wonder if the unframed nature of mystery is one of the scariest parts of this quest. What if I do it wrong? What if this thing that I want to believe in is actually a lie? I get this. I really get this. In light of that, is there one thing that you CAN believe in? The love you have for your child? The moment that you felt loved for the first time? The deep desire to know and be known?
What if these are the very things that gift you connection to the inner gift of the holy. We over-complicate God. But you already know divine truth in your most quiet self. That moment, you know it already, when the friendship soars, the truth is finally said, the pain is admitted out loud. These are sacred moments. In those unexplainable seconds, you are experiencing the presence of something far more powerful than our human capabilities can manufacture. ‘What if’ changes nothing and everything all at the same time.