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  • Stephanie Gilson

What Does God Mean to You ~ Part 1

I really struggle with the actual word God. For me it conjures images of a Christian/Catholic God. The Father, Our Father, the Michelangelo image of a strong spiteful man with long white hair and a white beard creating Adam in his image. God judges us and kills all but 8 people on earth for our wickedness (The 40 days Flood). He strikes down those who do not believe or follow his word. He is the sole judge and jury. In the name of God we have judged our fellow man, we have shunned, oppressed, abused, begun holy wars, and throughout history, and still to this very day, committed mass genocides of people of faith’s that are not ours or we do not understand. I could speak of The Crusades, the Sudanese Civil Wars, Palestine and Israel, the First Nations residential schools and the Holocaust and on and on, but that would just be going in circles.

I find myself in this spiritual crises these days. Asking myself what does God mean to me? If I’m so triggered by the word God, can I even have a relationship with God? Dismissing the word God and in my mind changing it to “Universe” isn’t working anymore. Why? Can I disconnect my negative connotations of a Catholic/Christian religious God from a spiritual God? If I can, what is my relationship with that God? Who is that God? Where is that God? How am I able to create a daily practice to connect with a God? Especially when I’m asking all of these questions. Is my intuition my God? It feels like it could be. God knows (pun intended) I’ve ignored my intuition for FAR too long.

See, I do believe in a higher power. In a force larger than us. That we are reincarnated not into heaven but into a new life to learn and grow further. I do believe that everything happens as it should, for a reason, and that with everything we experience in life, there is a lesson to be learned and growth to be had. I believe in synchronicity and spirit guides. Some would call them angels. I believe in the power of the law of attraction. Some may call that praying. I believe that what we put out into the world is what we get back. Some may call that “Do to others as you would have them done to you.” Luke 3:16.

I recently outright lied to someone and said I had never been to church. I have. I’ve attended Catholic masses, Krishna sermons, Buddhist mediation and ceremonies, and Jewish and Muslim temples. In university I studied Renaissance Art. The majority of which was commissioned by the Vatican and Catholic Church. I also studied Philosophy of Religion.

Even now, my counselling diploma is transpersonal psychology, which is based on A Course In Miracles. The author says ACIM was dictated to her by Jesus himself.  If you’ve ever seen a copy, it looks and feels just like the King James version of the Christian bible.

Around the age of 9 until I was a young teenager, I attended a United Church without my family. I sometimes went with my neighbour’s and sometimes would ride my bike there by myself. The only time my parents came was when I had a play or recital for them to attend. At the height of my church attendance, I went to a friend’s house for a couple of weeks in the summer and they were strict Protestants. No TV, radio, and when we attended church, people were miraculously healed from injuries, diseases, and speaking in tongues. I became a Born-Again Christian and was given a bible with the date of my rebirth; which happened to be the date of my brother Ryan’s birthday, etched into it in gold calligraphy.

I actually have very strong religious roots. We have a family church in Ontario, I have aunts and cousins that are Nuns, and I have a grand uncle who is the most decorated Priest in Canadian military history. Father Mike Dalton, my grandpa was expected to become a Priest, and one of his sisters a Nun. When my grandpa brought my grandma home to meet his Mom, she locked herself in her room until my grandma told her that she would convert to Catholicism and ensure that any children born would be baptised. My Mom attended Catholic school until grade 3 or 4.

When I was 4, I lost my first brother. When I was 8, our family dog died. When I was 9, my second brother died, and when I was 11 my great-grandma died. I think I started attending the United Church because I was lost. I was looking for a bigger purpose to all this loss. I remember when my brother was in the hospital praying, begging God to make him better. To take away his disease and let him come home. I prayed and cried in my room a lot. I thought if I prayed and begged hard enough, it would be enough. I remember sitting on my Dad’s knee crying, asking why does God kill everything I love? Why is my love not enough? (There are more strings and stories related to this, but that’s for another blog and another time) I think it was after the age of 11 that I spent that summer in the Protestant church and became Born-Again.

As I became more of a teenager I turned away from God for the answer, and turned to anger and spitefulness against the church. Part of me studied Philosophy of Religion in university because somewhere inside me I am spiritual and want to explore these pieces, and the other part of me wanted to be educated enough to fight back against organised religion’s oppression and hatred. I even picked up the bible one time to read it cover to cover to be able to have an educated discussion about Christianity and Catholicism. I never did finish reading it.

In 2013 when I took my Mom to Rome and Florence, I watched her as she entered every church, lit a candle and approached Mary or sat for some time in a pew. She said that she prayed in each church that we were in. While I gallivanted around admiring Bernini’s Ecstasy of St Teresa, or Michelangelo’s Creation of Man, or his The Last Judgement, or his stunning sculpture La Pieta. There’s a part of me that wishes I had that connection with these churches that my Mom has. I can see how the tradition and having a sanctuary to be still, means something to her and brings her connection and peace.

I need to find my place to be still. My sanctuary. I need to figure out a daily practice that can at the very least connect me with my intuition if I can’t quite connect to what one would call God yet. Baby steps! Numerous people have shared how they connect, in their spiritual practice, to God. Nothing so far has connected with me. I will keep pushing and keep trying to find something that does resonate with me though because I so do deeply desire to connect with this side of myself that I've ignored for far too long now.

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