Living in the Godstream
Throughout Lent, we’ve been talking about seeing through the darkness. We’ve been discussing the idea that we only see a piece of reality; that we’re trapped in a cocoon that causes us to see the world through a hazy, silky veil, and that by refocusing our minds and lives on God we will begin to see our existence more deeply, more profoundly, more selflessly.
The veil is created by our human need to achieve things; to control things. We’ve convinced ourselves that this Newtonian world, where every action has an opposite reaction, is the true nature of existence. We have conditioned ourselves to believe in opposition. One need only look at this week’s headlines to understand how detrimental this attitude of constant opposition is.
Lent is a season to remember to let go. Let go of our control. Let go of our worries, our anxieties. Let go of the things we think are true and make way for new ideas—more holistic ideas that help us see through the veil, into a truth beyond simply reacting to opposition. The Lenten journey invites us to clear all that stuff out, and The Book of Psalms is an excellent companion for that journey.
The Psalms are more than just the hymnal or prayer book of ancient Israelite and Judean worship. They are the preserved, poetic prayers of people of faith who struggled, just like us, to remain God-centered when responding to life’s challenges. The Psalms are soul songs to God, and they are intended to be used as more than a prayer book—they are meant to be lived.
As such, there is a common theme that weaves through the entire collection. Sometimes explicitly, more often as a gentle brushstroke, every Psalm is about the key to human happiness. And the key to human happiness is to be God-centered; to let go of our need to control; to stop reacting in opposition to things and start acting as a God-centered human being.
The foundation for this idea is established right from the first Psalm where the poet writes that the truly happy person “love’s the Lord’s instruction” and recites that instruction “day and night.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Book of Psalms was scripture to the ancient Jewish people. Yes, it is part of the Torah. But it also had a life of its own as an important, perhaps indispensable, holy book. Archaeologists have discovered references to Psalms in writings from all over the ancient Jewish world and fragments of The Psalms in digs from houses and businesses. The Psalms were an easy-to-carry reference guide for the human being who wanted real happiness and knew to seek it through a more intimate and personal relationship with God.
For the regular folk—the carpenters, stonemasons, farmers, seamstresses, nurses and tax collectors—people like you and I just looking for a little happiness—Psalms is our book. We know The Psalms because we live its contents every day. We understand the struggle to stay connected to God when all we see around us is death and devastation.
The world of the Psalmists was also filled with war and poverty, ignorance and xenophobia. So, they found power, hope, and comfort by turning to God for guidance and reassurance. And perhaps that’s what the Psalms reveal more than anything else: when all hope is lost, when we feel like we can no longer fight the powers trying to destroy us, when we’re on the brink of completely giving up, all we have to do is turn our hearts toward God and say, “I pray to you, Lord. I beg for mercy. I tell you all of my worries and my troubles, and whenever I feel low, you are there to guide me” (That’s from Psalm 142, by the way).
I think the Psalms indicate that finding happiness in God requires us to let go of control. Letting go doesn’t mean we’re helpless. It’s an admission that this human struggle is difficult, perhaps impossible, without a lot of love and patience. Personally, I run out of love and patience all the time. So did Moses, so did Jesus, so did every single one of the Prophets. Yet, we must let go of everything to make any progress as individuals, much less as a species.
We cannot control the world. This past weekend, for example, the Food Angels came in to prep for the pantry only to discover most of the breakers in the building had blown. All the freezers shut off and all our meat thawed. All the meat we had for hundreds of people was now worthless. Some massive power surge had hit the plaza and tripped nearly all the circuit breakers in our church. There’s nothing you can do about that. Do we curse God because of that? Sure, if it makes us feel better, but we know a power surge and our unfortunate loss is not God’s doing any more than our winning the lottery. God doesn’t bless some people and curse others. That’s an extremely misguided view of God, one the Psalms help us move beyond.
In the Psalms we see people begging and pleading with God for help. For example, from Psalm 119: “You are merciful, Lord! Please do the right thing and save my life.” This line comes after the poet has explained to God how faithful to the Law—God’s instructions, he has been. Still, this person is persecuted, and there is no hope in sight.
So what does the author of Psalm 119 do? Finally, the poet lets it all out to God. All the pain, all the disappointment—including disappointment in God—all the confusion about how following God’s instructions could still lead to a life of persecution, it’s all let out. And that release is the key to God’s power. It’s not the expectation that God will react to our prayers or our situation—that’s our human concept of action and reaction. It’s simply the release of all our anguish, all our suffering, all our hopelessness into the Universal Fountain of Light and Truth that sets us free.
Perhaps God doesn’t react to our suffering as much as God absorbs and dissipates it.
The Psalms reveal the power of letting go without expectation of any sort of reaction on God’s part. It’s the power of release that’s the key, not the expectation of supernatural intervention. The Psalms help us remember that even while we praise and worship what we think is the inherent goodness of God, we have no control over nature, and God is not making it rain or snow, or causing the planet to overheat.
God is not reactionary, and as beings reflecting God’s image, we shouldn’t be reactionary either.
We can pray to God for better weather or more money or a better station in life, but sometimes, shit just happens, and we either fall into despair and give up or we throw it all out into the universe and let God soothe our souls.
For me, it’s easier to let things go to God if I stop thinking of God as the bearded man on a rocket chair in the sky pulling all the strings. Instead, as modern, post-Newtonian science is implying, I think of God as the energetic, creative, loving, current of reality.
We exist because we are formed from the energy of God. God is the flow of all being, the flow that creates reality, and like a mighty river carving out canyons, God just flows along, taking us for the ride. It is the Godstream. There is no reaction there, only constant and consistent progress.
The Godstream is like a river. We can either gently ride along with the current, or try to swim against it. The Psalmists idea about “following the Lord’s instruction” gets to the heart of this matter. Today we might say something like “go with the flow.” I would say, “step into the Godstream.” Following God’s instruction is not about taking The Bible literally. It’s about going with the flow.
When I was in high school in Louisiana a bunch of us used to drive from Moss Bluff north a bit to hang out on the Ouiska Chitto river. The riverbanks were dotted with makeshift campgrounds and cabins. We’d take inner tubes, rope to tie the tubes together in a long train, and beer. We’d just sort of hang out in the river all day, lounging in the inner tubes, lazily floating downstream with the current. We didn’t need to be anywhere; we didn’t have to accomplish anything. We just let the river gently carry us at its own pace, wherever it wanted to take us. And in those blissful moments on the river, we were completely carefree.
We were in the Godstream.
This is the Psalmists view of God, too, if we read the Psalms with spiritual, rather than literal, eyes. God is the great universal river carrying us along for the ride with the current. We can relax in the current and see where the journey takes us, remaining open to surprise twists and turns, or we can steer the tube in the direction we want to go and fight upstream every step of the way until we, and our lives, are completely exhausted, and we’re still no further along the river than when we started.
Happiness comes from moving with the current. If we want to go with the flow, if we want to live God’s instructions, if we want to be living Psalms rather than just people misinterpreting the words of our ancestors, the first step is to let go of everything we think we need to control and enjoy the ride in our inner tubes down the Godstream.
To paraphrase Psalm 62: Trust God, my friends, and always tell God each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety. We humans are only a breath; none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less than a puff of air. Don’t trust in violence or depend on dishonesty or rely on great wealth. Relax in God.
Meditation: Keep me centered in the flow of love.