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Can You Tell Me The Way?

Part One

Setting Out With an Awareness of God

What does the word 'God' mean to you? Try to think back to your early years, when the word first became part of your vocabulary. Was it a word used when people were angry or startled? Was it used mockingly or contemptuously? Was it used to instil fear? Or was it used to bring comfort and reassurance? During the course of your life has your understanding of God developed and changed? Have you, at any time, had a picture of God in your mind? Has this always been the same, or has it been different at different times?

Can you remember from whom you learned about God? Was it from your parents, or other members of your family? What did you learn at school? Have you ever been to church or Sunday-school? Have you ever asked questions about God, and if so have the answers always satisfied you? Have you not found that you have been given many contradictory views; some stressing his reality and sovereign power, others that he does not exist at all; so that you have become utterly confused? Have you read books to help you answer the questions? Have you, as a child, or at any other time, been encouraged to pray, that is to speak to God? If so, did this help to make God more real to you? Are you able to look around at the natural world; mountains, seas, rivers, trees, flowers, birds, and see in nature and creation the hand of the Creator? As you observe the orderliness and regularity of times and seasons, day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, do you not discern the mind of One who designs and oversees? Do you ever experience an inner voice telling you to do something, or to refrain from doing something, which in the first case would be against your self-interest, and in the second case would further your self-interest? This we call the voice of conscience, and it reminds us of the needs and feelings of others. Because, when we obey the voice of conscience, we are acting against our own self- interest, some see this as an external influence, seeking not to command our actions, but to guide them.

Most people, because of the above, when asked, would say that they believe in someone or something they call God. However, the word God can mean many different things. If you say that you believe in God, what does God mean to you? Is God a "he" or an "it"? Do you see God as a person, with a nature and character, or as an impersonal force? If you regard him as a person, what is he like? Is he kind, or is he stern? Is he concerned and involved, or is he indifferent? Is he changeable, or is he always the same? Is he powerful? Is he just? Is he good?

It is important now to spend a little time in thought. How real is God to you? Try to build up a mental image, either in pictures or, if possible, in words, of what God is like. Does God have any effect on your life? Is God in any way important to you?

In trying to answer these questions, you have been using your memory. What you now believe is an accumulation of what you have learned over the years. Some things you know because of your own experience, the things that have happened to you; some things you know by sharing the experiences of others. Much that we believe we have been told by parents and teachers, or we have read about in books. Occasionally, when we have a question or problem, we work things out for ourselves, by using our common sense or by "trial and error". The present understanding and awareness of God that each of us has will have come from many different sources, and some ideas and suggestions will contradict others.