She was black, with a white bib and white paws. A gentle, friendly cat, Annabelle stood in sharp contrast to the cats that had come before her.
Smokey and Dum Dum had been the brutish neighborhood strays, battle scarred and fairly indifferent to human attention. Annabelle was different. We connected. As a boy, my first real prayers were for her. She had gone missing for almost a week. In tears, I made my pleas to God. When she returned, my relief was complete.
But after that, God vanished from my life, no longer urgently needed. Such is our relationship with God.
What is our relationship to God?
If we have one, our bond with God is intensely private. We don’t relate to him in the same way we do with a cat or a friend. The connection is different. And it’s often distant.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a Lakota sweat lodge. Early in the day, the leader asked what prayers I had. His role in the ceremony was to act as an intercessor, to speak for the Grandfathers in response to my prayers.
The experience underscored the peculiarity of our relationship with God. Most of us don’t know what it means to have one. Those who have one, easily lose sight of it. So easily, that we rely on others to broker it for us. Being with God is slippery.
50,000 Foot View
When I prayed for Annabelle, I was looking for someone to bring my cat back. Is that what God is, a pet retrieval service? I don’t think so. When we talk about how God is in the world, we have to recognize that he doesn’t just walk down the street. We have to speak in metaphors. He eludes concrete definition.
I think we have to set aside the desire to understand God. But we can try to ask different questions, like; what is the role that God plays in our lives?
I suggest one way is in offering perspective.
Not to be presumptuous, but what is God’s perspective? Trying to imagine what this means is an opportunity to crack the shell of our ego. What happens when we expand our outlook to consider a wider view, one that transcends our own interest and includes our community and our environment?
If we could set aside ego, wouldn’t we be more capable of justice? If we could see our desires in the context of others, wouldn’t we be more capable of compassion? If we could see our competition for status as self-defeating, wouldn’t we be more capable of contentment?
If we were to make an effort to move in the direction of God, these virtues would only increase. Of course, we can’t possibly take on the perspective of God. But isn’t it worthwhile moving towards him?
The Buddha’s great insight was that this is the only real perspective. The perspective of me is temporary and it can lead to suffering. When we become more like the Buddha we naturally discover great virtues and great happiness.
Ironically, not long after she returned home, Annabelle was hit by a car. This time she wasn’t coming back. But I really cherished the time I had left with her. Perspective gave me the the nudge I needed to appreciate that most things in life are temporary and therefore precious.
By moving closer to God, great compassion, wisdom, and bliss become available to us. In the sense that we are all capable of this, the Buddha lies within each of us.
Namaste (literally means “greeting you while giving up false-ego”)
About the Author:
Andrew Furst is a Meditation Teacher for Buddha Heart USA, a yogi, a backup guitarist for his two teenage boys, a lucky husband, a third dan, and a self employed software consultant. He’s generally forgetful and generally interested. He’s constantly trying to remind himself that he’s in union with the great divine, and willing to send reminders to anyone needing the same.
Prepared by Braja Sorensen/Editor: Kate Bartolotta.