Guest Post: Where Do You Find God?
(DefyGravity just graduated from BYU in theatre education and history teaching. She’s a theatre addict, avid reader, anglophile and has been a raging feminist since she was in junior high, which fortunately hasn’t scared away her husband of 2 years. )
I was sitting on the floor in the religion section at Barnes and Noble with tears streaming down my face. This was a very odd experience for me; I don’t cry often, and almost never in public. And what was even stranger was what had brought me to this rather ridiculous place — the song playing over the sound system:
“All God’s creatures got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got. “ (Celtic Thunder’s album Heritage)
Some may recognize these lyrics as inspiring the title of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne’s book of essays All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir. (Fantastic book by the way.) I knew the book, but that is not why I was crying. As I listened to the lyrics, it came to me that I had a place, that my voice added something to God’s world. The feeling of validity in the eyes of God was overwhelming.
There is constant discussion among members of the Church over what the Spirit feels like, how to receive inspiration and how to tell if something is inspiration. Some argue that emotional experiences don’t count as divine guidance, others the opposite, that intellectual experiences aren’t valid, despite the fact that the basic teaching is that everyone must find the Spirit for themselves.
I’ve battled with these questions, as most people have. I tried to fit all my experiences into one category. This is God, this isn’t. When I feel this way, and only this way, it is the Spirit. But about a year ago, I realized I was cutting myself off from God by doing that. By insisting that only emotional experiences were the Spirit, I was missing inspiration that came intellectually. By focusing on what happened in “spiritual” places like church, I was missing God in everyday life. I was, in effect, binding how God could speak to me. So instead of trying to identify trends of spirituality, I find it easier to pick out individual moments of inspiration.
I’ve had emotional experiences with God, like the one described above. I’ve had intellectual ones drawn from my area of study, like sitting in a theatre analyzing a piece of theatre for social change and suddenly thinking that this was the form I should dedicate my time and talent to. This thought has taken my life to all kinds of wonderful places. I’ve felt God in temple dedications, where I felt the full power of God’s love for me as a person in a way I haven’t before or since. I’ve felt God sitting on my couch reading feminist theory, theatre textbooks, C.S. Lewis and Harry Potter (yes, I’m serious.) I work in rehearsal and feel God in the process of creating a piece of theatre, a process both emotional and intellectual.
There are many times when I don’t feel God when others do. To quote a professor, “I’m more likely to feel the Spirit in a theatre then in church.” While I have found God in church, I’ve found that is not the main place of inspiration for me. Nature is another thing that inspires many, but not me. But I try not to rule out spaces, just because they are rarely inspiring to me. Many of the places I’ve found God are very unconventional, like a play about Harvey Milk, the script of Dr. Faustus, or a young adult novel by Madeline L’Engle. But I’ve discovered that the more spaces I open up for God, the more places I find God. God knows me, and therefore speaks to me in ways that work well for me. I believe that God can speak through any means that will reach us.
So my question is, how does God speak to you?