Sometimes I hear the idiom “the proof is in the pudding” and I think of the Jello snacks my Mom used to pack in my lunches. Today I heard it and it made me think, “I have no idea what that means.”
Upon thinking about it for a moment, “the proof is in the pudding” seems to mean that the truth of something can only be tested by putting it into action. Like a new policy, or law. It’s a, “let’s use it and see if it works” kind of deal. (Word-detective.com does a great job explaining this phrase in detail here.)
So when I left the cage door open, and my sister’s hampster “Bear” escaped into his relative freedom, my father whipped up a make-shift “Bear trap”. Gazing upon this trap, composed mostly of duct tape and a dab of peanut butter as bait, I could have quite rightly said, “Well, Dad, the proof is in the pudding.” In other words, we could sit here and conjecture all day on weather it will work, how to improve its design, or what bait to use. In the meantime, poor Bear is exposed to the elements, and to the hunger of wild animals, namely our cat, “Scribble”. So let’s use it and see if it works. To everyone’s surprise, it did!
It seems to me, however, that many, if not most, of the religious people I know don’t think there is any proof in the religious pudding. When it comes to religious ideas, religion is an intellectual exercise of Philosophy, Theology, Scripture, or all of the above. They would much rather talk about God than give themselves to Him. For many, a relationship with God is in the mind. It is as if to say, “God will love me when I have the right idea of Him”.
But there is a real problem with this approach to God. Imagine you are looking for a girl/boyfriend on Match.com. You scroll though hundreds of candidates and fall in love with “the one”. You read their profile, follow them on all the social media and print out pictures of them to place around your house and cubical at work. Your heart bursts when you see their picture, and you are stirred to anger if anyone says something negative or wrong about your beloved. You would defend your idea about this person shamelessly, even to the point of blacklisting many of your friends and family for not seeing this person as you do. An idea about a person is a poor substitute for the real thing.
So, when it comes to God, He refuses to be known intellectually, and for good reason. Our idea of God will never be God, but only serve as a godforsaken counterfeit decoy.
All my life religion has told me to trust in those special few who have had experience with God. I’m done with that. I’d much rather follow the stirrings of my own heart that scream out to me to have my own experience of God. Jesus doesn’t so much want to be worshipped as much as he wants us to imitate Him, helping us to realize that yes, He is God, but not more than we are!
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
2 Peter 1:3
God became man so that I may become God. This Union with God is what every spiritual tradition is talking about!
“As we turn toward participation we now can see that most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas, about which you could be wrong or right. When faith is all about ideas, you do not have to be part of it; you just need to talk correctly about it. You never have to dive in and illustrate that spiritual proof is only in the pudding.
The spiritual question is this: Does one’s life give any evidence of an encounter with God? Does this encounter bring about in you any of the things that Paul describes as the “fruits” of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22)? Are you different from your surroundings, or do you reflect the predictable cultural values and biases of your group?
The “participatory turn” is learning from concrete practices, personal disciplines, and interactive dialogues that change the seer and allow and encourage the encounter itself. Many Christians today are rediscovering prayer beads, prayer of quiet, icons, contemplative sits, Taizé chants, charismatic prayer, walking meditation, Zen chores, extended silence, solitude, and disciplined spiritual direction. Up to now, you could have a doctorate in theology as a Catholic or Protestant and not really know how to pray or even enjoy prayer (experienced union), although you could recommend it officially to others and maybe even define it. Now we know that we must personally live our faith.
I hope you will dive into your faith and experiment with ways of opening yourself to transformation, to encounter, to conscious participation in God.”
-Fr. Richard Rohr