by Michael Maciel
It is said that when you take only one step toward Him,
He advances ten steps toward you.
But the complete truth is that God is always with you.
This idea has been said in many ways by many different teachers throughout history. It has been said so often by the popular spiritual teachers of today that it has become a meme, an idea that can be gulped down all at once without having to think about it.
What does it mean that “God is always with you”?
This question deserves a closer look, because if your life is in the toilet, believing that God is always with you might tend to make you think that “in the toilet” is where God wants you to be.
You must have done something really, really terrible for God to want you to be in the toilet! It might make you believe that God is someone you should never, ever piss off! You might become fearful of breaking God’s rules, which (thank God!) are always interpreted for you by more knowledgeable people (usually men in funny hats) than yourself.
The other thing you might start believing, if you accept the teaching that “God is always with you” without contemplating what that actually means, is that wherever you happen to find yourself (in the toilet included) is somehow EXACTLY where you are SUPPOSED to be.
Now, this little pill is particularly slippery. Because on the one hand, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, because that’s the way the universe works. The universe is perfectly intelligent and knows where everything is supposed to be at all times. But to use this as a way to justify being where you are (in the toilet included) robs you of understanding your agency in the process. In other words, who put you there?
This is where the pill gets stuck in most people’s throats. It’s just too much to swallow. Why? Because it brings up that nasty little subject of responsibility, which, of course, no one wants to claim. It suggests that you might be in the toilet because that’s where YOU either jumped or fell in. No one pushed you.
WAIT A MINUTE!!! Are you telling me that it’s MY fault that I’m sick or poor or lonely or ________ (fill in the blank)? Well, let me ask you this: is it God’s fault? Did God somehow decide that that’s where you should be? What kind of God is that? If that’s the kind of God we’re dealing with, then count me an atheist! I want no part of that kind of belief system.
You know what this reminds me of? Apocalypse. Are you one of those people that think the world is going to end soon and that all the good people are going to be whisked away into heaven, leaving the rest of us poor slobs to burn in hell? Thinking that your life is in the toilet because God put you there is the same kind of apocalyptic thinking. Someone’s gonna get punished, and this time, it turns out to be you. What kind of God is that?
It’s this kind of belief system that perpetuates the craziest ideas that plague the world today. Why shift to a sustainable energy program if the world is going to end anyway? Why help poor people improve their quality of life if God wants them to be poor? Why do anything if things are “perfect” just the way they are?
Saying that “God is always with you” does have meaning, and it’s a meaning that can actually empower you instead of leaving you resigned and depressed. I mean, it’s all well and good to know that God is there with you in your lousiest moments, comforting you, loving you, etc., but do NOT think for a moment that that’s where God wants you to be. The real meaning of “God is always with you” is one that can HELP you get to a better place, not just hold your hand while you’re miserable.
Here’s an analogy, one that’s eerily close to not being an analogy at all, but the way this thing actually works. Saying that “God is always with you” is the same as saying that a radio station is always broadcasting, that every cubic centimeter surrounding you is filled with the radio waves being broadcast from the radio station’s transmitting tower. If your radio is tuned-in to the right frequency, and you have it turned on, AND if you’re listening, you WILL get the program. But, if your radio is not turned on, or you don’t have it tuned-in to the right station, the information you need to lead a successful life will be unavailable to you.
Everyone these days likes to say that the word “sin” means “missing the mark,” that there are no “sins,” only mistakes. This is a great teaching, one that is easy to swallow in one gulp. But in light of what we’re talking about, if there is no such thing as sin, then how on Earth is it possible for us to be “in the toilet” because of God’s will? That’s like saying that it’s God’s fault we missed the news because we forgot to turn on the radio!
Sometimes (no, always) a mistake is just a mistake. We aimed for the stars and landed in the toilet. We missed the mark. But mistakes are the result of not being tuned-in. They are what happens when we are out of touch with reality—or, if you like memes, the “present moment.” It’s not like you’re going to be rich, famous, loved, _______ (fill in the blank) a la The Secret if you tune-in (water cannot rise above its own level). This is not magic. What it means is that it will be far less likely that your life will go down the drain. You will make fewer mistakes.
Living a spiritual life is the most important thing you can do (oh, oh, is that another meme???) What does it mean to live a spiritual life? It means, simply, TUNE-IN. Get quiet. Go into the silent part of you. Meditate. Pray. But don’t just pray—listen for the answer. The news is always being broadcast. And it’s really good, I promise you!