“Where does God fit into all of this?”
That was one of the questions I was asked Sunday night as we settled back into our seats after eating some mouth-watering, sticky, rich homemade Greek baklava. I was asked to share with a group of fifty church people my experiences of my Rome to Rumi pilgrimage that I completed this last fall. The questions really helped me dig into what the experience meant for me and what it might mean for others. But, this one question made me chuckle to myself.
“Where does God fit into all of this,” was the question. I chuckled because I realized that nowhere in the presentation (as far as I could remember) did I ever mention God. I really appreciated the question actually; I knew that God was written all over the presentation and that every slide was infused with some palpable aspect of God. But, the questioner had a right to know how God fit into a presentation that featured the Vatican of Rome, dozens of Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, Muslim mosques, and pictures of nuns, yet didn’t mention the glorified Divine One even once.
I loved my own answer. I immediately said that God is not something I went looking for; God is the assumption that I started with. The question for me is not where did God show up in this half-crazy pilgrimage, but in what ways was the Sacred present in each and every encounter. This is the language of the mystics.
I went on to explain how my work in hospice a decade before had changed me. Hospice work taught me that both life and death have a sacred quality to them. God is able to work with our losses as much as with our successes. Grief provides as wide of a window for the Spirit to show up as do the fulfillment of long sought after dreams. God does not distinguish between good experiences and bad experiences.
I had been living out of my shifting theological beliefs for years. But, it wasn’t until the questioner asked me point blank, “Where does God fit into all of this,” that it became clear: God is the assumption. God is the starting place. Of course, I might use different language—such as the Sacred, the Divine One, Presence, the Soul , Compassion, etc.—but I no longer question whether the unfolding of our lives is sacred or not. I simply start with the assumption that “all of life is sacred”. Sometimes that sacred quality is revealed in the actual moment. Sometimes it only reveals itself months and years down the road.
“Where does God fit into all of this,” was the question. I realized that the question exposed a simmering and unarticulated assumption. God is. God simply is. All else is just an expression of that Presence that pulses through each and every second of life. The questioner might have heard me talking about a bike ride, but I am quite convinced that I was really talking about God, but was using the ancient language of the mystics.