For the last couple of months I’ve been sick. It’s very discouraging not being able to write or even think straight. I can understand the difficulty we're having trying to heal lepers and raise the dead, but how can a being made in the image and likeness of God be victimized by a bacteria that he can’t even cast out of his own body?
Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) was a Catholic priest, philosopher and mystic credited with making the observation that, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I have loved and quoted that statement for years without realizing its full implications. All this time I’ve been wondering why our experience of God doesn’t seem to fulfill our expectations and have concluded that it’s because of the church and what we’ve been taught to believe. But might it be simpler than that? As human beings wouldn’t we naturally be limited in our understanding of ultimate reality? If so, why then are we surprised and discouraged by sickness? And why are we dismayed by our difficulty knowing God in an experiential way? How could it be otherwise?
A young preacher in a Unity Church I visited recently shed a new light on the subject for me – one that I had never considered before. Maybe our shortcomings and our lack of peace are just part of what it means to be human. He told us to imagine something. He told us to imagine that we were eternal beings who had lived 8,000 years in the presence and one-ness of God, who one day offered us an opportunity to “do something different”. In an extraordinary gesture of free will he would give us our own separate experience in a world of imagination that would be unlike anything we could ever know living with him. The only drawback was, in order for it to appear real it would be necessary for us to forget where we had come from and what ultimate reality was. And we agreed.
And it really wasn’t a bad deal. For the first time in our existence we’ve been able to experience the beauty of a sunrise on the ocean, the feel of a warm fire on a cold winter evening, and the taste of a ripe strawberry. We’ve also come to know the pain of sickness and the loss of a loved one – some things pleasant and some not so pleasant, but all part of an amazing gift that we never had in our purely spiritual realm. The problem is we’ve forgotten that our real life still exists in the spiritual realm. None of these things have taken that life away from us. They’re simply part of our human experience. We may have forgotten how it all started and where we came from, but that’s what we agreed to. It’s also why so many of us live our lives in fear and caution, afraid of doing the wrong thing and holding on to this life as if it were all we had. Why else would we spend the 75 or 80 years we’re typically given trying to get the best job so we can have money to buy the biggest house and the nicest car?