Sitting at dinner with two of my clients, both about thirty years old, I realized neither one believed in the concept of God or faith. One of them has been business client of mine for several years and I have spent numerous hours also working with him as a personal coach. The other I have known less than a year as a business client, but even when we had entered into deep talks after business hours the subject of faith simply never came up.
During our dinner one of them referenced that he didn’t believe in God, and then they both asked me about what I think. My response was the same as it has always been; I am a man of quiet faith but very intense belief, but I never discuss my belief with anyone unless asked, and then only reluctantly. I am not an evangelical and keep what I believe to myself.
We continued the discussion and immediately it became clear they had no concept of God, no experience with faith anywhere in their lives and little exposure to people who did believe.
Most of what they did believe came only through skeptical conversations with others their age who ranted and raged about the negativity of organized religion
The startling thing to me was that they wanted faith in their lives; both questioned the concept of believing in a higher power, hated the dogma clinging to organized religion, but still were quiet seekers who were hoping someone might opened that closed part of their brains that denied the concept that there might be something more in this life and beyond.
Years before this discussion I attempted to write about how one should go about seeking faith. Sitting in the late afternoon sun on a cold fall day on Cape Cod my granddaughter, who was six at the time and dressed in rubber boots, worn in and out of the house for several years as her personal fashion statement, dress and raincoat, dashed around the yard kicking leaves, chasing a bunny and enjoying the last remnants of a beautiful fall day.
As the day faded, she tired and came and snuggled in my arms, watching the last of the sun set on the water. Her snuggle, those five minutes of sunshine, made me happy but also left me incredibly sad.
I realized there was so much I wanted to share with her, so many lessons of life I routinely addressed with my clients over dinner and drinks, but there was a good chance I wouldn’t be around when she was of the right age to understand.
After that epiphany moment, I wrote her a book titled, “Five Minutes of Sunshine.” This book was a series of twenty letters written to her to be read as she got older, but to be understood when she became a young woman.
I imagined her at twenty-one and wrote about some of the big lessons in life that I wished she would think about, such as being a reader, respect, money, who her Nana and I were as people of a younger age, and other major life themes I felt strongly about acquired through my life experience and through my work with several thousand people that age through my consulting and coaching.
One of the letters was about seeking God. I wanted her to be open to be a seeker who challenged organized religion but who found her way to faith through personal exploration.
Looking back, I felt this letter was written to my two friends that night at dinner. Their question was why even look, what was the point?
Organized religion, with it exclusivity, extreme guilt trips forcing you to stay part of the group, and self-righteous self-serving behavior to promote their political agendas, just doesn’t work for many under thirty. Organized religions are losing committed church members because they have replaced the need to seek and find God with a dogma to protect the church where you belong.
Here is the letter I wrote my granddaughter, which I also sent to my friends hoping they too might be seekers someday open to possibilities not yet considered.
My perfect child,
This in many ways is the hardest letter to write to you, since my thoughts on God and religion differ so much from so many others.
I have been a seeker my entire life, although I didn’t realize it at the time. There is an old saying that God doesn’t leave you, you leave God, and this has been true for me during the course of my life. In my younger days, we visited many churches and were part of many religions, which are just different ways to find and approach God. My mother tried many churches and was eventually disappointed in each one and we were part of this pilgrimage. The value in this was that I was exposed to many different ways to find God in your life.
While this quest proved to be important in my never-ending search for questions that hadn’t even revealed themselves to me yet, there was never a final moment when I knew that this person, or this approach, was the answer for me. Everyone preached that their way was the only way, yet how could a God capable of creating this world of billions of people hand out so few keys to his door? Preaching absolutes always drove me away from any church, but I never lost the need to find the answers for myself.
Perhaps the major enlightenment that will come to you someday will be the same that eventually appeared to me: there is no one way to seek God and that most of what man says about God was said to benefit man and the selfish course the writer or speaker wanted you to take. This has little to do about recognizing that a higher power exists and should be part of your life and more about man’s ego and need to control others through inciting a fear of God that only this person knows and if you simply follow him, and send some money too, all will be revealed.
The personal enlightenment for me was when I used most of what was written by man as merely guides to help me along the journey and rise above the often pettiness in those books that create a life lived in someone else’s mold. There hasn’t ever been a day in my life without a conversation with God, but I had to seek Him on my own, and learn about what the universe has to offer someone willing to spend the time needed to dedicate his life to the quest.
During the course of this search, I have read the Bible, the Koran, a number of Buddhists books, many writings on the teachings and interpretations of Jesus and a varied other litany of works on most of the major religions in the world. This search gave me confidence that the quest was valid and that to find God you have to rise above man and seek him personally.
My life has been blessed and when I have failed there was always another solution or way to move forward that presented itself when most needed. My business success has been based upon a weird eclectic variety of talents that have kept me fed and financially able to live life on my own terms for most of my adult life.
All this, and more including you and our family, has come to me as part of this search. There is a higher power my dear, but the journey to find Him will, and should, take the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to believe, but also don’t be afraid to question everything. Your life has to be your own journey and make sure that part of that exploration is seeking a higher truth not ruined by any single man or religion.
Faith is seeking and looking for answers. No single person has the answers we need to find our faith but many of us will find comfort seeking God in all the numerous versions of faith and in all aspects of life.