Be wary of a self-centered faith.

I’m wary and weary of the new trends in spirituality that I’m seeing. I’m concerned and saddened that the current trend seems to be self-centered. Yes – you are important. Yes, you need to have a good sense of yourself. Yes – you are valued and loved by your Creator.

But so is everybody else. Every other person on this Earth was created by the same Creator. Every other person on this Earth deserves love and honor. I’m concerned that this current trend of self-centered spirituality will result in self-service only. It is fine if it is a start. It is fine if it is a seed that then grows into love and service of others.

I find that the “name it and claim it” trend is part of this. Wishful thinking. Magical thinking. Whether it is cloaked as New Age or spun into Christianity by Joel Osteen, it still feels like object-worship. It is materialism gussied up into religion. Don’t have time to be spiritual? Don’t think it is for you? But you want stuff – right? Well, here’s a religion for you! This way you can want stuff and feel good about it.

But stuff only leads you away. Things, material possessions, are a quick fix. Get what you want by praying for it, wishing for it, and you have more stuff. But then I feel you will still be empty. And then you’ll need to pray for a bigger house to hold all your stuff.

I think our Creator made us to be bigger than that. We are not born alone. When we are born, we are born into a community. At a minimum our Mom is there. In some cases it seems like the entire family is there – Dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings – where there is barely room for nurses and a doctor (if necessary). Our religions have prayers for welcoming new children among us. Why should our lives be any different?

I remember telling a lady about how Jesus stripped things down for us, because the Ten Commandments were just too hard for us to figure out. Love God, and love your neighbor. Easy. Everything else falls from that – you can’t steal, covet, or murder if you are showing love. How simple is that? Yet we’ve twisted it. It is becoming solely “love yourself” – and that love isn’t spreading outward.

I believe that God created every single one of us exactly the way we are because that is exactly the way we are needed. Variety is good. Eccentricity is good. We all have different talents and gifts. A garden doesn’t look nearly as interesting if it has only roses blooming in it. Add some zinnias and hyacinth and phlox and we’ve got something really cool. The same is true with a symphony. The trumpet may be a really important instrument, but it needs a tuba to round out the bottom notes, and there needs to be a drum section to keep the pace.

I believe that the best way to know God is to seek Him in his creation – and for some, that is in the wilderness. Some find insight and growth by working with plants and animals. I find however, that the most challenge comes in seeking God in people. Mother Teresa said that it was her privilege to serve other people. She felt that each person she served was Jesus in disguise. That the leper’s wounds were Christ’s wounds. That the baby dying in her arms was Christ himself. I think this is a powerful meditation.

About three years ago I started trying this at the library. I’m not doing earth-changing things. I’m creating library cards. I’m solving problems. But I decided to try this. To try to see each person as if they are Jesus, as if they are God made flesh, in front of me. To my happiness, it resulted in profound experiences. Almost every person caught that vibe. They responded differently to me – more smiles, more open. Each transaction was easier. This doesn’t mean that everybody was happy. Sometimes you can’t make that happen in a five minute encounter. But the old, crotchety, smelly, snaggle-toothed characters that populate the library became my favorites. I now look forward to meeting with them and helping them. The weirder they are, the more I have to look for God hiding within them. The more I look – the more they see my interest in them. The more they soften up and reveal themselves to me. It is beautiful.

I invite you to look outside yourself.

I invite you to know that you are loved, and to then know that everyone else is loved in exactly that same way.

I invite you, that if you are a seeker of God – if you desire to know your Creator better, you can do no better than to serve your fellow humans. Each one is a facet into the beauty and mystery of the Eternal, the Divine, the Truth.

(I originally wrote this 4-11-12. Somehow it sat in my files, unpublished. I’ve decided to go backwards through them and see what I’ve missed. Sometimes I have so much I’ve written that it gets buried. Sometimes it gets recycled into other things)

In my face.

I was at a buffet a few months ago and saw a brother playing with his baby sister. She was in a baby carrier, sitting on a chair. The brother kept leaning in, right up in her face. He would grab the sides of the carrier with his hands and pull in, speaking loudly to his sister, getting nose to nose with her.

I felt great anxiety at this. I guess it is triggering a memory. I felt for the little girl, unable to say that she didn’t like this, unable to get away from him. Again and again he was putting his face right up into hers. Again and again I felt that I should say something. He was so forceful that he was pushing her carrier further back each time.

The parents were there. I’m sure they thought he was just playing with her. I’m sure they didn’t think of the psychological trauma this might be causing. They were chatting with their friends and ignoring their children. They didn’t notice how forceful he was.

Perhaps the daughter enjoyed this. Perhaps I was overreacting. But every time I felt breathless and anxious. Every time I felt that someone should get him to think about how this would look from her perspective. She can’t back away – she’s trapped in her carrier. She can’t tell him no – she is an infant and cannot speak. Sure, she could make a noise to show her disapproval. But my concern is that she was being “taught” that being attacked is normal, that being pushed up against a wall is how she should be treated.

I’d also be concerned if this was a sister doing this to a baby brother. But I feel I’m more sensitive to this particular situation because I feel that I was treated like this. I feel that I was treated as a thing, an object, and not a person.

My brother was not my friend. He was my tormentor. He was my enemy. I don’t understand when people say how wonderful and protective their brothers are, how they can always call them for help and always count on them. It just sounds like a fairy tale.

I’m starting to understand that it isn’t my fault that I had a terrible relationship with my brother. I was taught by my culture and my religion that it was my responsibility to try harder to have a better relationship with him. Codependency comes free with a church membership. I’m starting to understand that he is just a narcissistic jerk, and I had the misfortune of having him as a big brother. I’m grateful that I severed all ties with him.

I wonder what our childhood would have been like if I had been born first?

After a while, I did say something to the boy. I felt like I had to. I asked him to be gentle with his sister. His father whipped around and stared at me. I’m sure he was thinking how dare this stranger tell his children what to do. I just smiled sweetly back. He turned back around to his plateful of food and his ball cap wearing friends.

So much for “It takes a village.”