I've been participating in an online chat about a television show, "Joan of Arcadia," which stars a girl who talks to God. Every week we post a message on a website about how that week's episode struck us. Some viewers are interested in the romantic lives of the show's characters, others enjoy the music, but a large part of the discussions involve God's messages to the lead character.
One episode had a very moving funeral service, and a poem was read that was later posted on the website. Clearly, there are areas of our lives that this series embraces, and its message gives us as viewers solace. We don't know one another's names, but our lives connect through our love for the message of this show.
Why does this topic of spirituality resonate so deeply? I believe it's summed up in one word: hope. Something about the idea of being able to talk to God, even argue with God, as the lead character in the show does, touches us. Obeying the direction God gives her isn't always easy, and the outcome isn't a clean and tidy "God loves you" message to solve everything.
The characters wrestle with problems and solutions that don't always come out the way they hoped. But each week, people, including my new friends, hope that they, too, will be able to find solutions to problems through a higher Source - that God understands our struggle to "make our way home," as the show's theme song says.
The message of needing, wanting, yearning to go home is a theme many artists use. It's a way of saying you are going somewhere where you are welcome just the way you are. Home provides a loving atmosphere where your flaws and fumbles can be placed in perspective.
In this loving home, what you or I need to correct or work on isn't so bad or overwhelming. We sense the encouragement and support of a family who isn't judging us or accepting our problems as permanent. I cry at some points in the show because God never punishes or blames anyone. This gives me hope that my own faults will be fixed by a God who will see past any imperfections.
Not knowing the religion or religious background of my new friends, I'm not certain why this show means so much to them. My own search to find a way to feel close to God (another way of saying "going home") led me to explore different forms of religion and prayer.
For many years I've found inspiration in reading the Bible along with a book written by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy. The book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," describes God as not needing to be humanized or "reduced to corporeality," but both the Bible and this book have led me to see God as infinitely approachable, capable of communicating to us all in ways we understand.
Many people picture God as a loving Father and Mother. It makes perfect sense to me that each one of us can find a way to speak to Him every day, in lots of different settings. Having an awareness of God's presence, even in everyday situations, gives me comfort and hope. I feel like a spiritual detective looking for familiar threads to guide me home in any situation or problem. I listen for ways to connect my concerns and fears directly with God, to allow Him to take charge, take away any fear that somehow our lives are controlled by happenstance.
Last week I read a passage from the Bible that helped me overcome my tendency to take personal responsibility for problems that come up during the course of my day. Instead of trusting God, I try to play God, and I wind up feeling frustrated, burdened, and overwhelmed. The translation I was reading ("The Message" by Eugene Peterson) told about a time when Christ Jesus had to remind someone who was concerned for him, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how" (Matt. 16:24).
It felt wonderful to count on a spiritual source being "in the driver's seat" and that through prayer I could feel this calm assurance that not only me, but everyone, was going to find his or her way home.