STEP FOUR CONTINUED
Accept that this Higher Power is understood in different ways and by different names in various religions and cultures, and open our lives to hearing the Divine Voice in any way it chooses to communicate to us.
Instruction: Listen to what is not said.
I have listened to hundreds of religious leaders and heard thousands of talks, sermons, and messages, but it was often the words that were not said that spoke the loudest. In my youth, I was more impressed with the passion of the speaker. At times, that passion seemed to be used to make a specific point and bring the listener to a certain undeniable conclusion. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned to enjoy quiet speakers more — those who didn’t see a need to shout their message but who laid it out with grace, love, and meaningful stories that spoke to my heart and eventually inspired me to be a writer. Often, in the midst of those quiet talks, I heard the heart of the speaker louder than I heard the words coming from her or his mouth.
I am not surprised to find that The Divine speaks in the silence and moves in the stillness. What surprises me, at times, is the things I hear religious people claim The Divine has spoken. Some of what they claim to be divinely inspired, words given specifically to them, seem far from the truth. Perhaps those individuals believe they need to speak more and say it louder to get their point across. If need be, they will bring on a fountain of tears to accomplish their agenda.
An example a member of one of my Religious Recovery groups shared with me, and I share with her permission, is that she comes from a religious tradition in which people will say God inspired them to share political “truths” about a candidate in order to persuade their listeners to vote a certain way, but with a little bit of research their “truths” were easily proven to be false. Susan B. Anthony is reported to have said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
As was mentioned on Day 6, “One mistake we don’t want to make is to go from one negative religious experience into another negative religious experience. Most people are drawn to the familiar, so it is common to repeat patterns. It is as if our ‘picker’ was broken when it comes to choosing a religion, and we end up in an environment similar to the one we left.” The person who gave me permission to share this experience also gave her permission to share that when she moved to another religion she initially repeated the familiar. She found herself with individuals who were determined to share the voice of The Divine with her in ways that would lead her to become dependent upon their beliefs and their assistance. She found herself shamed and abused in aggressive, non-spiritual ways that threatened to take her back into old habits. Fortunately, she learned to be still and listen to the voice of The Divine which helped her remove herself from the abuse and find the help she needed to be certain she could discern the path of love, forgiveness, and the power to stand on her own. For those of us who have experienced religious abuse, it is a breath of cleansing, purifying air to know that The Divine can be known in various ways, in a variety of cultures, and also in simply being with our own thoughts. One of my favorite quotes from the Christian tradition says simply this, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Today’s Assignment is to find a few moments in your schedule to be still and ask The Divine to reveal something new to you. Listen attentively throughout the day, and if nothing seems to come to mind, try again tomorrow, and tomorrow. Stillness is not natural for many people.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.