Searching For God


In his excellent little book of parables from his native India, Anthony de Mello shared the following story that spoke to me: 

A neighbor found Naruddin on hands and knees. 
"What are you searching for, Mullah?"
"My key." 
Both men got on their knees and began to search.  After a while, the neighbor said, "Where did you lose it?"
"At home." 
"Good Lord! Then why are we searching here?"
"Because it's brighter here."  

"Mullah" is another word for "Teacher," or "Holy Man," in case you were wondering.  Don't you just love this little story?  Is it just me? 

Here's why I love it so much...  we tend to look for the things we've lost everywhere except where we lost them.  Doesn't that ring true for you?  

Think about it.  You lose your car keys and you start off looking for them all over the house.  You look everywhere.  And then... you say, "Let me retrace my steps."  It feels like this is the last thing we do, right?  

So what do you do when you lose faith?  What happens when you feel like you can't find God anymore?  For many people, they decide to search everywhere but where they lost God.  

But if they would return to the place or the situation where their faith waned, where they began to question, doubt, struggle, and maybe even walked away from their faith... that's where they will discover God once again.   

Let me explain by way of a quote from the late Madeline L'Engle:  
Many atheists deny God because they care so passionately about a caring and personal God and the world around them is inconsistent with a God of love, they feel, and so they say, “There is no God.”  
I would say that most of the conversations I've had with people who say they don't believe in God any longer have their foundations in this very idea.  

So many people tell this kind of story.   At one point in their life, they might have been open to belief in God, or perhaps even had beliefs they held dear.  

But the circumstances of life, experiences with Christians who were wrong-headed and awful, and perhaps even questions they had that couldn't be answered resulted in their letting go of all of it.  

I know this intimately because I traveled that road myself more than once.  

Interestingly, it took a moment when I went through a serious crisis of faith some years ago (I've written about that season of my life here before) to bring me back to the basics once again.  

Like the benighted mullah in de Mello's parable, I was looking for God everywhere except for where I lost God.  

But when I went back to the very foundations of my faith, I began to understand things more fully.  I began to see how things had gone astray for me.

I re-learned to embrace ways of thinking and talking about God that were childlike, open, and inclusive... a theology that was filled with wonder, unafraid of questions, devoid of certainty... and then everything began to change.  

I  discovered that I wasn't able not to see God... in the most unexpected ways.  

In the same passage where I gleaned the previous Madeline L'Engle quote, I also discovered this:  
To be truly Christian means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all.  
This is a learning that American Christians need right now.  We don't need more doctrines and dogma.  We don't need to hang on to traditions that keep us from truly seeing.  We need to return to where we lost our truest selves, because of all of the things we added.. 

And we need to relearn who God is, and to see Christ all around us, in us and through us.  

May this be true for you.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  

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