February 19, 2021
As I contemplated moving from ashes to hope during this yearly transition between winter and spring, and giving to instead of giving up for Lent, I noticed this sign during a recent beach visit, and it struck me with its mixed message. Do not take your dog to the beach. Do not sleep on the beach. (Not even a nap?) Do not drink alcohol on the beach, particularly in forbidden glass containers, do not set off fireworks, and do not play music. But, YES! Have fun! How similar, I thought, to our various organized and institutionalized religions. Each presents us with a long list of “do not’s” and then commands, “But, YES! Love God!” It’s rather difficult to love a Being that is akin to a task masker, especially when the beach patrol is always watching to make sure we follow the rules.
My own spiritual journey and love-relation with the Divine have been varied and have taken me places I never would have dreamed of going. Currently, I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which has its own particular codes, rules, and regulations and is known for “doing things decently and in order.” Doesn’t that sound fun? But one of the tenets I most appreciate that helps me overlook the others is the belief that we are created “to glorify God and to enjoy God forever.” What? Enjoy God? That’s not what I was taught as a child. Aren’t we supposed to fear God, keep our distance from God, bow down before God, try to please God, earn at least a little of God’s respect? Avoid punishment at all costs? What is this enjoy business about? And how does a person do it?
I once had a conversation with a spiritual confidante concerning what I felt God wanted me to do with my life. His reply was, “Maybe God wants you to do what you want to do.” I still remember being stunned by that reply, which at first hearing I was sure could not be correct. No one in my life had ever come close to suggesting such a thing. But over the years, I’ve pondered his remark and have, at times, allowed it to direct me toward tasks and occupations that I did, indeed, want to do and that not only gave me life, but also gave others life. I also allowed his remark to help me close doors when I no longer wanted (or, rather, felt called to) stay in a certain position. That advice nudged me on a path toward choosing love over obligation and then mysteriously moved me closer to loving and to enjoying the Creator who desires to love and enjoy me.
In this time of Lent or seasonal transition, as daylight lasts a bit longer and a few signs suggest I may have one foot out of the ashes, I am giving to myself, to the world, and to the Divine, who created me—and you–something I want to do, which is to create with words. When we find ourselves caught up in what delights us and gives us life, when we are using the gifts the Universe has granted us, we do find one particular way to enjoy God. Theologian and spiritual author Frederick Buechner had that figured out when he wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
The beach, by the way, was very wild, beautiful, and free just beyond that sign which reminded me to release the “Do not’s” and instead embrace the “Do’s,” the “Do’s” that feed not only my heart and spirit, but hopefully the hearts and spirits of others. I invite you to do the same. The world needs whatever we have to give, and God is waiting for our enjoyment. Blessings to you. ~ Rosemary