a few days ago family and friends gathered to bury my father. he had requested that we hold only a graveside service before his cremated remains were interred with my mother's in the cemetery where several other family members are buried. at the same time, we held a committal service for my aunt, the wife of my mother's brother, who had died two years ago at her daughter's home about an eight-hour-drive away. her daughter brought the urn containing my aunt's remains with her. relatives came from near and far to what was a surprisingly joyous occasion--joyous because we see each other so seldom, and we were able to recall so much happiness from our years growing up near each other and to catch up on what was happening in each of our lives.
as i reflect back on this wonderful, yet tiring, reunion, my mind is drawn to where i am on my journey through life. it seems a good time to take stock of what i believe and why and to think about some of the unanswered questions that still await resolution.
first, i remain convinced that there is a God whose Intelligence is the first cause of all that is. my understanding of the Creator-of-Everything is very different than what it was a few years ago, but the existence of God is not dependent on my perception. i believe that God is the very essence of love, a love that is unconditional, a love that flows through and permeates every thing that exists, a love that is so complete that it is beyond full understanding. this Divine Love is present in every sentient being, though it is only complete in God. the Love that is God is with us every moment, suffering with us, rejoicing with us, comforting us, seeking to bring out whatever is good and positive within us, calling us away from whatever is evil or negative.
second, i believe that God has no plan for our individual lives, except to desire us to give and receive love. this is why we were created, and it is our calling as human beings. since we have been given the free will to choose how we live our lives, we have the ability to live lives that make the world a better or a worse place for others and for ourselves. this is the price we pay for living beyond the control of God, and only a God who truly loves what God creates would give such freedom, a freedom that brings to the creatures with consciousness a profound responsibility.
third, i believe that evil and the suffering caused by evil exist because of our choices, not because God stands by, indifferent to the suffering that abounds in this world. God allows suffering because to intervene in order to prevent suffering would remove our ability to choose. to order the world so that suffering did not exist would make humans puppets with no choice about how life is lived. God/Love calls us to live so that suffering is alleviated, but it we who must respond to that call; we can answer the call or ignore it, but the choice is ours.
beyond these three basic beliefs, i have only questions: what happens when we breathe our last? are we reborn to another chance to live lives more lovingly, do we simply surrender to the ultimate darkness, or do we live on in some eternity that rewards or punishes us for the choices we've made? is any religion the "right" one, or is religion a delusion? what is the best way to confront evil and to lessen suffering in ourselves and others?
perhaps the next time i take stock of where i am in my journey of faith and disbelief, some of those questions will have answers. until then, may each of us choose good rather than evil, choose positive states of being over negative ones. may we develop wisdom to know which choices to make. may we develop lovingkindness that guides the choices we make. shalom.