The third key conversation that’s regular at Urban Mystic is about how to cultivate, nurture or develop a relationship with God. This conversation is tied up with people’s past experience of God and their present lack thereof. And the questions asked differ depending on whether people are spiritual but not religious, committed to spirituality and not religion, or committed Christians. Common to each is the realization that they’re not meeting with and experiencing God.
What’s common to each is that everyone has the capacity to recognize God’s Presence and hear God’s voice. Everyone has an awareness of God expressed as having recognized God’s Presence, activity and voice at some point in their life. Virtually everyone remembers a life experience where they were aware of God being there. This may be in a dream but that’s less common than being awake during the experience. Most experience God drawing near to support, assure, strengthen and encourage them during a life crisis while experience God protecting them during a life threatening situation. Also common to the experience is the tendency for others to explain their experience of God away. People don’t often tell this story because of the way others respond, but it continues to challenge the default faith position in society that God is not.
Many conversations are an opportunity to process this experience and be heard for what it meant to them without being judged for it or having someone deny the validity thereof and try to explain it away.
Equally common is that whatever their commitment to their spirituality, faith, community, and spiritual service providers in the form of individuals and churches, yet their inner yearning for a relationship with God remains unfulfilled.
Many have bought into the misbelief that a direct experience of God is reserved for those great souls who are especially called, committed, evolved, chosen, dedicated, or holy. These individuals stand as inspiration and mediators and we rely on them, or rather institutions and practices representing them, but our relational need for God remains unfulfilled.
In light of this, many who are spiritual but not religious settle for their relationship with God as mediated. Some experience this mediation through the services of the gifted, supplied by psychics and mediums, albeit for a cost. Their faith is commodified and their relationship with God unfulfilled. It’s a hard realization for many that they’re not meeting directly with God. Instead they’re meeting with someone who is meeting with a personal intermediary, a spirit being or guide of some sort. But that personal intermediary is not God.
Similarly, Christians link their relationship with God to faith and faithfulness. This is expressed as commitment to church, including small groups and service. Weekly people attend a public service to worship God and hear the word of God preached as a message. They may also serve God by volunteering their time, usually to assist in making church happen. People also give their tithes and offerings to support God’s work, again to support the business of church. Their faith is, however, equally commodified and their relationship with God unfulfilled. It’s a hard realization for many that they’re only meeting about God and that the business of church is not to meet with God. Their churches and leaders stand as their intermediaries whose primary interaction is with their scriptures. But their scriptures aren’t God.
Many have an awareness that God exists and can recognize God’s Presence and voice, but don’t continue experiencing God. And though they’re committed to pursuing God, whether as spiritual but not religious or as committed and faithful Christians, they’re not continuing a meaningful present and immediate relationship with God. The first part of this key conversation is all about arriving at this point. Only then can we begin exploring the question of how to pursue, experience, and develop an actual relationship with God.