By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
It’s probably to soon too talk about this, but I think today I am going to be particularly open with you. I invite you to take what you wish from this, but it will be an important piece for me personally.
I am not a religious man, but I am very spiritual. What I mean by that is that I do not belong to a church, but I do believe in God and have what I feel is a strong relationship with Her. With that start, I have a story to tell you.
My father was always a controlling man. The first time he allowed me to take a trip without my family was when I graduated from high school. My best friend (heading to the Air Force) and I (heading to college) took our one trip together, heading to Florida to visit his family. As we headed out for the first time, every so often I would spy birds, that I assumed to be eagles, circling overhead, slowly, deliberately, gracefully. I felt that it was a sign that God was keeping an eye on me and came to think of these majestic creatures as Her “angels”.
Fast forward to my first teaching position. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I suffer from depression. When I am feeling particularly “stuck”, I will often head out and find a place to feel close with God. For me, personally, this is often in a wooded area, and it’s strongest near a softly gurgling brook. Near my workplace was a park with a gorge. Through the millennia, a river carved the gorge out of the surrounding stone, creating a wooded hiking area with various heights. Walking along, I found that area that felt right. I sat on a stone, spoke with God, and sat back.
In the peace, a group of younger people passed in a path higher than mine. They didn’t mean any harm, and I cannot deny them their fun, but for where I was at at that moment, the noise was distracting. No, I didn’t pull the old man routine (“Hey you kids…get off my lawn!”), but neither could I feel comfortable. Until, well, I did. With them still enjoying themselves, I felt the strength to ignore them, and focus on the brook. I took this as a lesson that I can choose to focus on what I want regardless of my surroundings. That’s an important lesson I carry with me to this day.
Again, I sat back, when a shadowy flash passed over me. Then another. I looked up, and saw three eagles overhead, and again, felt the presence of God.
Okay, you can choose to interpret this as you like. Maybe it was just timing, maybe it was coincidence. Personally, I choose to believe it was more than that. You can laugh if you like; I know how to shift my focus. But, isn’t this the nature of faith?
Ultimately, I refuse to deny anybody their faith. Already, I’ve referred to God in the feminine. This has irritated many people. It’s astounding just how personally people take it when I don’t refer to God in the masculine, but isn’t God omnipotent? Maybe God is a man, maybe a woman, and maybe God is beyond gender. I choose to refer to God as feminine as my poor effort to level the playing field. Gender assignment is a purely human action. After all, who am I to tell God what gender to be? Or what name to have? Or how to run the universe? I don’t have to agree with your beliefs to respect them, and to respect you.
A group of neuroscientists have recently reported that they have isolated the portion of the brain that results in feelings of spirituality. This discovery has been interpreted as proof that there is no God, that it is all biology, physiology, chemistry. I accept that as a possibility, but personally, I choose to believe that my relationship with God is greater than that. Even today, when I see those birds, I feel God watching over me. Am I wrong? If I am wrong, how does it affect anybody but me?