God was never mentioned when I was growing up; not because my parents were anti-God, it’s just that they weren’t ‘believers.’ They were fairly unusual in that they got married in a registry office, again not because they could categorically say that there wasn’t a God but because they couldn’t categorically say that there was. I love the absolute integrity of my parents.
My experience with organised religion boiled down to one very boring couple of hours at Sunday school and joining in enthusiastically with the choruses of hymns at Christmas time. I remember Dad trying to ‘find God’ at one stage in his life, which constituted his going to bible classes and then promptly being asked to leave because he was asking too many probing questions. (God, I love my Dad).
But here’s the startling thing; even though I didn’t have any organised religion in my life, I can now see, looking back, that as a kid the way that I lived was truly religious. It didn’t matter that I never said His name, God was very known to me – very, very known indeed.
My intimacy with God continued until about the age of nine, at which time Dad got a promotion at work and so my family moved from our idyllic village in rural Yorkshire to what I felt was a monstrosity of a town just north of London. The move had a massive effect on me, the extent of which has only come to light in recent years. I never doubted that the move devastated me, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I have fully realised that the most significant effect that the move had on me was that I seemingly lost my connection to God.
I always knew that I missed the countryside and that the bullying at school was traumatic, but I never consciously realised that the greatest hurt by far was choosing to step away from my beloved God. But you see, because no one had ever spoken to me about what true connection to God was, I never consciously knew that God and I were one and the same and so consequently I didn’t realise that when I chose to step away from myself, I was also choosing to step away from God.
We’ve constructed so many false and misleading notions around what it is to be religious that I never considered that as a child I was deeply religious: in fact, I assumed that because my family never went to church and because I never prayed – that’s not strictly true, I do remember praying once, that if I was going to be murdered could God arrange it to happen after my cross country competition, because I really wanted to run in the race – that I wasn’t religious. How poisonous are our beliefs when they can get us to believe the exact opposite to the truth? And is that, in fact, the purpose of a belief – to deliberately steer us away from the truth?
It has taken my reunification with God to realise that as a child I knew Him intimately. If you asked me to explain who God is or how He feels, then I couldn’t, other than to say He feels like the deepest part of me.
What I can answer however, is how I have been able to get back to God, and that very simply has been to restore my body to the pristine condition that it was in as a child. Before the age of nine I lived life from my body and then when trauma hit, it changed the relationship that I had with my body. Rather than my body being the beautiful, sensitive, surrendered, interactive home that it was, my body became a means with which to protect myself from the potential attacks that I perceived were coming my way. I put up a physical barrier by hardening my body, never realising that I was also putting up a barrier to God.
God never ever walks away from any of us; it’s always us that choose to walk away from Him. Not that we can ever, in truth, walk away from Him, because God is threaded all the way through who we are, but the way that we choose to conduct ourselves ensures that we’re not able to feel His living breath deep within us.
And so my re-unification with God has been a gradual process but one that has been very physical – there has been nothing intellectual about it – it has very much taken place in my body. I have had to turf out everything that does not belong in my body: ideals about how things should be, beliefs (all of them because there is not one belief that is true), notions, ideas, images, imaginings, every thing that does not come from truth.
I have had to re-visit things that have hurt me in order to release the hold that they have had over my body. By restoring my body back to its original condition, it has enabled me to be able to feel God again and to realise that God is within us all of the time, He is never not there; it’s simply that life is set up in such a way so as to interfere with the medium through which we feel Him, and that is through our bodies.
By Alexis Stewart, a woman who at last feels that she is doing what it is that she is here to do, Sydney, Australia