If you meet God on the road, kill him.

The title of this post was yesterday’s daily teaching, and is derived from a Buddhist teaching that says the same thing about the Buddha.

As I mentioned on yesterday’s Blog Talk Radio show, there is a time in our lives and our spiritual development – and in world history, as well – when God has to be understood as embodied. Especially when we are in a stage of our development characterized primarily by concrete thought, we need a physical, corporeal God to have any hope of conceptualizing Divinity. It’s that God who has been the inspiration of most art depicting God as an old, white-haired man with a long white beard. Like every analogy or metaphor, however, the embodied God is only a partial truth. If we hold onto it too long, that image of God will actually inhibit our spiritual growth. In truth, if we hold onto any image or concept of God it will inhibit our spiritual growth.

The biggest problem with the embodied God, aside from the fact that Jesus himself said that God was Spirit and so it’s not an accurate perception, is that stuffing God into a body limits what God can do. That point hit home for me when listening to an interview of a spiritual writer who said that every night before he goes to sleep he kneels at the side of his bed and God kneels there with him. Now, he may have been speaking metaphorically, but I am willing to bet that more than a few listeners to the interview understood what he said quite literally – and that’s a big problem.

If God dwells within each of us, and I believe God does, then God can’t very well have knees unless the knees in question belong to us.  As St. Theresa of Avila famously said of Christ,

Christ has no body on earth but yours;
no hands but yours;
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he is to look out-
Christ’s compassion to the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.

The reason that, should we come across God on the road, we need to kill him is that we are not, of course, encountering God but rather an image of God – and those images can trap us. Ideas can trap us, images can trap us, and understandings and concepts can trap us because they aren’t God, they merely point toward God. We have a tendency to become attached to those fingers and so miss the direct experience of God that is available to us each and every moment because God dwells in each of us.

So, if you meet God on the road, kill him. It’s not really God anyway.

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