What we believe, particularly as it relates to religion, is not the easiest thing to share with others. One trick I’ve learned, however, is that rather than trying to explain what my religion teaches, it’s much easier to stick with what I’ve discovered and what I continue to discover as I put these teachings into practice. This tends to make the conversation more dynamic and, frankly, a lot more interesting.
Perhaps this is why I found “Belief,” the Oprah Winfrey-produced series which aired last week on OWN, so compelling. As Diana Butler Bass puts it in her Washington Post review, “‘Belief’ is not a standard world religions course that teaches the great global faiths by focusing on religious leaders, institutions, dogma or customary religious practices and rituals. Instead, the show delves into the territory of spiritual experience by telling the stories of people within various religious communities, presenting contemporary religion from the perspective of on-the-ground faith.”
Something else I’ve learned is how helpful it can be to revisit and, if need be, re-evaluate my beliefs every now and then, even the meaning of the word itself.
“Before ‘belief’ came to mean ‘opinion,’ it typically referred to devotion or trust,” writes Bass. “It was an experiential word, and not a philosophical one, that indicated what a ‘believer’ held dear or loved.”
Although what I hold dear, what I love, and perhaps most importantly what I trust, has varied somewhat over the years, there have been a few constants.
Like many others, I believe there is a God. Not a distant “bearded man in the sky” sort of God, but a God that for me is best defined by Mary Baker Eddy as an always present, all-powerful divine Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth and Love.
I believe that the better I understand God, the better I am as a person and the better things ultimately work out. For example, I’ve experienced any number of physical healings through prayer alone – healings that feel natural to attribute to this always-expanding understanding of God. But what stands out most is that they almost always involve and include some level of moral and spiritual transformation. This, to me, is the real meat and potatoes of life. Physical healing – as important and wonderful as it is – feels more like the gravy.
I believe that whatever I can do to maintain a relationship with God – especially through regular study and application of what I’m learning in the Bible, “doing unto others as I would have them do unto me” and so forth – helps to keep any feeling of uncertainty at bay. None of us is exempt from life’s challenges. Even so, I believe God has given everyone the ability to deal with these challenges with confidence and without fear.
And after watching Oprah’s program, there’s something else I believe, perhaps more strongly than ever: I believe that belief itself – what Eddy defines in a Bible context as, “Firmness and constancy; not a faltering nor a blind faith, but the perception of spiritual Truth” – is innate, drawing us all, slowly but surely, to a deeper, more practical understanding of the Divine.
There, now. I guess that wasn’t so hard after all.