sifting.

There are many things that I feel I have too little understanding of. I hope that in days, weeks, months, and years to come there will be some better clarity on them.

Here is where my understanding is at this level, about faith and important spiritual realities.

I have an innate and unshakable yearning towards connecting with my Creator, towards goodness, kindness, justice, and truth.

This concept of thanking and clinging to the one who upholds, holds together, and sustains every moment, space, and thing makes the most sense to me, too. The best of my logic says that nothing comes from nothing, and that all things have a beginning; this leads to the end of every finite process and pulls my sight towards the infinite.

The infinite one isn’t less than His creation. For that reason, our feelings of personal connection and of being understood, and grateful, all make sense. And I don’t believe that He ever truly takes, because He (not being finite) has no need or urge to fill. But He does give, as we can see in that we and all things exist.  Not even a fragment of existence can be truly away from His sight and His giving.

Then again, a few things stand to obstruct that logic. The truth is that even if it is the best understanding we can come to, our logic is still limited. In this particular field, our understanding is clearly innately inadequate. There is no talking of a cause before all causes, a place outside all places, or an action preceding all time. Everything is a metaphor from the finite world and we have to say that as much as we can look at the foundation of existence for clues, really it is a true mystery that we can’t fathom or even step foot onto.

So we are left yearning and seeing clues, but not being able to know for ourselves. We rely on some kind of revelation if we’re to have any knowledge of God or creation. So, many of us have our ears wide open to hear God, if and when He reveals His heart and paths to us. I don’t give up on this just because I know that I have no place reaching into infinite mystery, because there is something undeniable in my heart about owing Him surrender and thankfulness and the heart that He has given me.

Then where will we look to find this revelation? That’s hard to know, because we can’t go about it scientifically. We can’t really say what we would expect it to look like, and as God’s hand is beyond the natural realm we can’t isolate or replicate anything as ‘evidence of existence’. Feelings of the heart, even feelings of deep resonance, can lead people to ‘just have faith’ in all kinds of different things as well. We must use what we have been given, but also be careful and humble when surrendering to feelings as truth.

But we look at things like the order and complexity of creation, or the joy of great blessings. These things seem intelligent and personal. They seem to indicate goodness, generosity, wisdom. But then we look at decay, degradation, and pain. This world is full of suffering. If I experience something beautiful, many others don’t. If I experience safety, many others don’t. The order here matches the decay over there. Many creatures experience suffering, terror, agony, grief, and seem not to experience recompense or balance. And even if they do, what consolation or sense is there in the idea that without any necessity to do so, our Source has caused good things to come out of pain and suffering?

We know we can’t understand everything, and none of this disproves God’s goodness. There are explanations and there is reasonable trust even in mystery. But that’s the point. What can we really know, and how to know it sincerely?

Nonetheless, for the sake of balance and of sanity we need to enjoy and appreciate the good things, and bring light in the darkness for any others we can bless. For the sake of justice and humility we also need to express thankfulness.

Love, kindness, justice, and wisdom shine as relational treasures. When we see or feel these things, how can we not be thankful and sense that we are heard and cared about, and deeply connected into something truly real? But then we see that injustice is possible towards the vulnerable; that selfish creatures take and hurt, and hungry creatures kill. Actually, no life can exist without ending, exploiting, and hurting many other lives. And ethics tend to be about choosing the lesser of two or more evils because there is always going to be compromise, no matter how diligent we are. Again, this makes muddy and blurry the concept of creation being generously given.

Then, we look at revelation claims. I’m not interested in the ones that would have me surrender my deepest worship and thanks for existence to any power that is as finite and dependent as I am. I also don’t want to worship my Creator in the form of any of those finite things, because the forms themselves don’t deserve it and no matter how well they reveal something or other about His ways they only obscure His very heart with us if they become the object of prayer (rather than just a vessel for revelation). I’m also unconvinced by superstitions with no basis.

Judaism doesn’t fit into any of those categories. For thousands of years, a family line of people has been faithfully holding the very concept that I’m devoted to, and when I learnt it more clearly from them I called it true wisdom. I am caught staring at he preservation of people and faith through so much persecution and in fact global scattering; the uniqueness of so many of their beliefs in their early context and of the claim of a national experience of revelation that is set in real history. All these things could be explained through natural causes, but they still hold some weight. The main thing is that they have been saying so absolutely clearly the very message that I think resonates most with creation. Believing in their God, I have to wonder if He is speaking through their nation.

Still, there is endless uncertainty about that too. The seeming contradiction between some of the commands in Torah, which would cause certain victims of the Israelites to cry out to God about injustice, and on the other hand the very definitions of justice that are so brightly spoken throughout the Jewish scriptures and culture. That has got to make you stop and wonder if certain ideas and commands are wise or good at all, and if they seem to have come from God. And the fact that this religion calls for perfect faith, but offers no clear historical evidence… there aren’t even multiple independent witnesses to the core founding events… and we know that feelings of the heart, strange historical happenings, miracles, and claims to wisdom can be offered by many contradicting religions. So how can the descendants of Israel be expected to ‘know’? It seems right to keep the laws out of reasonable caution, but there seems to be nothing close to the level of certainty that is described by the scriptures as important in both loyalty and joyful trust.

All of these questions are painful and confusing. It is really a marathon, seeking truth, or else we become very weary. It takes simplicity, humility, and trust, or else we become arrogant about doubts that we don’t even come close to having good knowledge regarding, in this particular case anyway. It draws the heart to call out and to cling at a very basic level, which is good.

God-willing next May I’m having a baby, who will be coming into this world and looking to me for a lot of answers and learning. Jason will be teaching Torah to him or her. How about me? How can I play my part in that? I hope to find the things that are simple, clear, and/or beautiful and focus on those while our child first learns to think and trust. And I hope that the one guiding me in a path of light will also be able to guide our baby as he or she grows up in this world.

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