"She's an 'all roads lead' person."
The phrase caught my attention because I'd never heard it before. I mean, I'd obviously heard of the dangers of believing that God could be found in any religion other than Christianity. God is one God, I'd heard it often enough to know that God would never diminish himself (and obviously I was taught that God was a man) by existing in the words, and rituals, and beliefs of something other than the Judeo Christian scriptures. God was fixed, certain, unchanging, unwavering, firm in his decision about what it took to encounter him. And no one truly encountered God on a road that didn't run straight through Christianity. So, that one line stuck in my head and I nodded in agreement even though I didn't know what I was agreeing to. It was obvious that being an 'all roads lead' person meant you had missed the mark and needed Jesus to set you straight. It clearly invalidated whatever it was that the other person had said that sparked this conversation in the first place.
I decided right then that I wanted to know if God COULD be found on every other road.... but that isn't a question you ask out loud in Christian circles. Not unless you want to be the subject of conversation around the snacks in the foyer, or at bible studies, or on facebook threads, or prayers prayed out loud in groups of concerned people.
I had other questions I wanted answers to, or at least I wanted to be allowed to ask them. I wanted to know what God really thought about being gay or transgendered. I wanted to know how women could really be considered a lesser species. I wanted to know what God wanted us to do when corrupt leaders were flourishing. I wanted to know if everything held a basic holiness or if we had to live our lives cut off from sacred, ordinary experiences. I wanted to know if sex and sexuality was really the worst thing you could nurture. I wanted to know if God saw the systematic oppression of POC and had a plan in place to fix it. I had questions that needed to be released from my throat. There were way too many threads in Christianity that seemed counter to the Jesus path and I was getting increasingly tired of trying to fit inside of a bubble that seemed colorless and empty.
I have evolving thoughts on all of the questions that sat in me for decades, new perspectives and a willingness to not need answers. I've learned to speak them, chew on them, process them, and let new ideas present themselves to my spirituality as I go. And here's what I wish I could do now: I wish I could step back in time with what I have now. I wish I could make eye contact with the woman who condescendingly wrote off another person for being an 'all roads lead' kind of person. I wish I could hold compassion in my hands and press it to her chest, let it sink into her own wounds and fears. I wish I could speak gently to the smallness of that spirituality - and maybe not even use words. Because all roads lead, friends. I know it now. I know it like I know my next breath. And knowing it has sparked the exact response from well meaning, fear fueled christians. Their conversations about me bleed over until I hear them, their offense over my path inspires them to leave comments on old social media posts to try to shame-correct me, their reaction to disruption causes them to end our friendships and that's okay. We're all traveling a path in an attempt to find wholeness and freedom. I'm okay with our paths looking wildly different.
In that vein of non dualism, of the expanding universe sized broadness of how uniquely we brush up against Divine Love in our own lives....
All roads lead to the God of the Universe, the Mother Creatress, the origin of Divine Love.
All stories lead to the kind of peace that defies apathy and turns over tables. The kind we fight for, dig for, and wake up for.
All healing leads to the ethereal hands of a mystical God, one who holds us within themselves like we are their DNA.
All of human existence leads to the manifestation of The Voice itself, the one who spoke life into existence, gutturally delivered breath into our lungs, and brought comfort and mercy to the abandoned, forgotten corners of humanity.
There are stories with similar veins almost everywhere we go. There are encounters with The Divine that defy reason or understanding - and they have nothing to do with the white, American Jesus.
Why would God be offended by the names we give them? I'm going to go ahead and suggest that God's name is not "God". Jesus' name isn't even 'Jesus'. He was Yeshua... and we've created yet another version of his story to fit our own cultural norms. Isn't that what we all do? We encounter something Divine, mysterious, powerful, and transforming - and then we name it. We define it. We contain it. We strip it of its mystical nature. And, unfortunately, then we trademark it. THIS road leads. ONLY this road leads.... it's so small, friends. The way we have done this is so so small.
God is one God. YES. God - the source, the universe, the divine, the creator, the goddess, Allah - whatever name works for you (there are countless) - is ONE GOD. There's something interesting wrapped up in the Shema (a prayer prayed both morning and night in the Jewish tradition) that we wouldn't know at first glance. The expression "One God" in ancient Hebrew is a picture and that very specific picture is of a cluster of grapes. The identity of God is seen as ONE CLUSTER on a vine with many different grapes attached. One with many.
The Lord our God is one God.
The Lord our God is one cluster with many names, visuals, experiences, and expressions all at once.
And you know what? It's okay if you think this is all bullshit. It's okay if you are frantically looking up overly interpreted bible verses or commentary to throw out into the great, big internet and prove me wrong. It's okay because I don't care about the old way we were all taught to defend. I didn't start asking questions in order to come to a final conclusion that I could then use to convince other people to believe exactly what I believe. I have less than zero interest in starting another religion. But I'll do this with immense joy: I'll always ask questions out loud, I'll speak new thoughts out loud, I'll put my 'all roads lead' energy out into the world. And I'll do it out loud. Because that's what Love does, it invites us all into better conversations, ones where we all get to have different perspectives on the same sentence - kind of like a cluster of grapes on the same vine, no?
Love makes room for some of us to see God in the ocean, some of us to see God in books, some of us to see God in the desert, some of us to see God in songs, some of us to see God in one another, some of us to see God in ancient rituals, some of us to see God in sex, some of us to see God in solitude, some of us to see God in science, some of us to see God in art - ALL of us to see God in teachings we would LEAST expect to see God.
So go looking.
Start asking, 'what if?'
Wherever you think God could not possibly exist, go looking. See if God is really big enough to be in Buddha's teachings, in the Koran, in mythology, in the spirituality of yoga. If you see peace and love and advocacy for humanity being taught, go looking for your God there. If God is everywhere, in everything, holding us all together - maybe God is even pouring out their presence in places you were taught to despise. Maybe God is lovingly walking every road with every person, meeting them exactly where they are without an inch of condemnation.
If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. You've lost nothing by searching. But if I'm right... you have everything to gain.
I remember Richard Rohr once saying that the problem is that we've made Jesus the exclusive savior of the world when he is really the inclusive savior of the world.
Honestly, does God "so love the world"? I think so. And I think that Love is more expansive, inclusive, wild, sacred, and far reaching than we can even begin to fathom. I think that Love doesn't give a shit what you call Them, or how you envision them, or how you creatively worship them. I think that Love has always been meeting people exactly where they are, even when they are royally fucking up. Because the road - the messy, untethered, broken, genuinely searching road - is LEADING SOMEWHERE.
If all roads lead to God, then YOUR road leads to God. Your failures, your shame, your fear, your pain, your rising, your hope, your starting over, your creative expressions... you are a road that The Divine has been traveling all along. And here we are, just asking better, broader, wilder questions together.