Sometimes when I talk to people about faith they seem to have great pride in their well-defined view of God. It's as if their definitive view of God it is reflective of their very high view of him, like the more precise and sure they are about who they believe God is, the more lofty their view of him must be.
In reading the contemplatives I think it could be quite the opposite. It might be that it is rather arrogant of us to believe we could grasp such a divine being. Maybe those who have the greatest faith are the ones most comfortable with the unknowable. The truth of it is, we aren’t capable of understanding God, which is why as some point in our faith we are either thinking too simply or we must find acceptance of mystery. So it's with humility we proceed.
Thomas Merton says, “We do not reason about dogmas or faith or the mysteries. We seek rather to gain a direct existential grasp, a personal experience of the deepest truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God’s truth.”
I have such a hard time with trusting experience, it’s lacking in its capacity to be tested and quantified and I don’t like that. I just told a friend the other day who is experiencing God in new ways and learning a lot from that, that I am always leery of experience leading our beliefs. I looked back on that conversation to realize I was being rather arrogant. It was as if I thought that God only exists where I can rationalize him, that he can’t exist and teach us through experience beyond logic or language, or beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone. I don’t consider myself a logic-only thinker in any area of life accept this, somehow I lose the ability to believe that I can learn anything beyond what I can think up when it comes to God and the meaning of life. I’ve seen far too many people manipulate experience to make God say what they wanted him to say and that scares me, it makes me nervous that I’m capable of creating God out of thin air and thus become a fool to placebo. My fallible thinking is of course the assumption that my mind is not so manipulated, but at least with logic it feels more clear, it can be argued and rationalized and that makes me comfortable.
Every time I pray and I feel like I’m learning something I always instinctively and rapidly toss it aside. I'm concerned that if I just learn from these prayer interactions it could just be my mind’s own propaganda and not trustworthy. Part of me still thinks this is actually true. It’s a danger to rely on our own experience, it’s flimsy and easily convinced. So, as I'm sure you can assume, I find myself arguing in my head when I’m meant to be praying and learning and thus totally missing the point because I’m refusing to learn through prayer or experience.
Also, I’m failing miserably at this practicing prayer thing. I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing so I have a hard time getting motivation. I get all anxious because slowing down feels an awful lot like wasting time and that makes me antsy. I wonder if my mind will fair better if my body is moving, it might allow me the space to slow down in my head and recognize God’s presence - whatever that means. ugh.