THE COLUMN

Issue No. 60/March 23, 1996


I'LL GET BACK TO YOU

IVAN HOFFMAN

Sometimes I feel God gets overextended. Hey, it can happen. I mean, God can do anything, right? Even get overextended. Isn't there some old Buddhist-like koan that starts "Can God make a rock so large that even God can't lift it?" So surely God can get overextended. What with all those other lives to attend to. And what about taking care of past lives and lives not yet in existence? So sometimes it appears God has a full plate and then some. It happens to the best of us.

It may not be too bad for God, having help from all those angels and whatever. But it's during these times, times when it appears that God is overextended and too busy to take care of me, that I feel abandoned. And begin to doubt God's existence.

I feel then as though there is no forward movement in my life, no energy toward a particular goal. I believe that energy, that movement plays itself out in our hearts. When I don't feel that God is paying attention, it feels as if there's no such energy. It feels as though I am adrift in my own life. It feels as though all the talents and gifts that God has given me are being underutilized, wasted, like a Ph.D. serving hamburgers, an apparently increasingly frequent occurrence these days.

It's during these times that I desperately want to do everything all over again. If I could, I vow, I would pay more attention to the rational parts of myself and less to my heart. If there is no God, there is no truth to the callings of my heart. Perhaps I am just missing the point of my talents. I should be focusing upon using those talents to gain outer world things instead of teaching. At these times I fail to remember that I have previously done that and it was not satisfying. I should pay more attention to head love instead of heart love. At these times I fail to remember that I have previously done that as well and it was not satisfying as well. I believe all of this when I don't hear from God on a more or less regular basis.

But I have been through these times enough in my life to know that God is paying attention. It's sometimes just a bit harder to tell. Indeed, I have come to realize that the very lessons I need to learn about trusting, trusting in God and in my heart, in myself, can only come when I feel abandoned by God. We are given the very life experiences that we need in order that we may learn the life lessons we must learn. And so I know God is always paying attention because I have felt abandoned.

It's just that during the times when I feel abandoned, the miracles are smaller.

Instead of major league, life changing experiences as evidence of God's existence, during these times I have to look a little more carefully. Instead of the big rainbow, I have to look for the dew on the flowers. Instead of the big Ah! Ha!, I have to be content getting home just before the heavy rain begins.

When we stop worrying about doubting, we may then actually stop doubting. When we stop trying to feel God in our lives all the time, we have perhaps then reached spiritual intimacy, a place in which we are so totally connected to God that there remains no separation between us and God. But there appear to be times when the way of the universe is to let us be by ourselves. Perhaps the way of God is to appear to be abandoning us so that we can gain the inner strength to stand on our own. If we are constantly seeking direction from God, not only do we place a great deal of strain on the "system," cause God to get overextended as it were, but we allow our own strength to atrophy.

When we stop relying so much on feeling the energy in our hearts and simply allow ourselves to trust completely, then we can function without the constant attention from God. Until then, we need to have God in our lives and we need to feel that God is there lest we fall into the despair of doubt. When God knows we are ready to stand on our own, then it appears God provides us with this feeling of being abandoned. One of the strange gifts from God.

In Buddhism, there is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. But I also believe that when the student is ready, the teacher disappears.

And when the student is ready, when we are ready, perhaps then we can tell God: "I'll get back to you."

© 1996 Ivan Hoffman


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