When I reflect on my life map so far, I realize that spiritual hunger, the enablement to love and long for a relationship with our Creator, is not just God’s greatest command — it is also his greatest gift. It’s the kind of desire that compelled the psalmist not only to ask, “Whom have I in heaven but you?” but to answer, “Earth has nothing I desire besides you.”
That’s why I began praying for spiritual hunger and haven’t stopped. As my prayers funnel toward heaven, I can’t help but reflect on my own spiritual journey and wonder how much of God I really know and how much of God I simply take other people’s word for or dismiss altogether. If God is bighearted, then why am I tempted to live with a closed hand? If God is surprisingly talkative, then why don’t I take more time to listen? If God is deeply mysterious, then why do I sometimes lose the intrigue? In the quietness of my own soul, I cannot help but wonder, How much of God do I really know?
If we met on the street, would I even recognize him?
In the humility of honesty and a soul laid bare: I do not know.
Such realizations shake the core of who I am. I’m pointedly reminded of the day an older woman I barely knew asked if my mother was Jewish when she heard my last name.
“No, just my father,” I explained.
“Well, then you’re not Jewish,” she replied. “To be Jewish, your mom must be Jewish.”
I was taken aback. I had a Jewish father, a Jewish grandmother who escaped Poland at the onset of World War II, and I knew how to make a mean bowl of matza ball soup. Even my best friend was Jewish. What more did you have to do to be a half-Jew?
It turned out that the nosy woman was right. Orthodox Judaism embraces matrilineal descent, or the belief that a child’s Jewish identity is passed down through the mother. Only recently has the reformed movement within Judaism embraced patrilineal descent. Regardless, they still require that the child be raised Jewish — which I was not.
The incident left me feeling like a spiritual bastard child. Once the paralyzing effect of the conversation wore off and my mom assured me that I was my father’s daughter, I grew an even deeper desire to understand how these two worlds — that of Jewish descent and Christian upbringing — intersect. It also left me hungrier for God. What does it mean to be his child? How does that affect my identity, my behavior, the very core of who I am? I knew he was the only one who could offer any resolve.
Deep down inside I still hunger for a true, pure relationship with the Organic God — the One True God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In him is found the mysterious wonder of the Trinity. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — one luminous essence in whom there is no shadow of change, stirred by the eternal and dynamic relationship of the three persons who live and love completely free of any need or self-interest.
Why describe God as organic? More and more I realize that my own understanding of God is largely polluted. I have preconceived notions, thoughts, and biases when it comes to God. I have a tendency to favor certain portions of Scripture over others. I have a bad habit of reading some stories with a been-there-done-that attitude, knowing the end of the story before it begins, and in the process denying God’s ability to speak to me through it once again.
If that weren’t enough, more often than not, I find myself compartmentalizing God. He is more welcome in some areas of my life than others. Prayer, Bible study, Scripture memorization, journaling, and other spiritual disciplines become like items to be checked off a to-do list that is eventually crumpled up and thrown away rather than savored and reflected upon. The result is that my understanding and perception of God is clouded, much like the dingy haze of pollution that hangs over most major cities. The person in the middle of a city looking up at the sky doesn’t always realize just how much their view and perceptions are altered by the smog. Without symptoms such as burning eyes or an official warning of scientists or media, no one may even notice just how bad the pollution has become.
That’s why I describe God as organic. While it’s a word usually associated with food grown without chemical-based fertilizers or pesticides, organic is also used to describe a lifestyle: simple, healthful, and close to nature. Those are all things I desire in my relationship with God. I hunger for the simplicity. I want to approach God in childlike faith, wonder, and awe. I long for more than just spiritual life but spiritual health — whereby my soul is not just renewed and restored but becomes a source of refreshment for others. And I want to be close to nature, not mountain ridges and shorelines as much as God’s nature working in and through me. Such a God-infused lifestyle requires me to step away from any insta-grow shortcuts and dig deep into the soil of spiritual formation found only in God.
Natural. Pure. Essential.
I want to discover God again, anew, in a fresh way. I want my love for him to come alive again so that my heart dances at the very thought of him. I want a real relationship with him — a relationship that isn’t altered by perfumes, additives, chemicals, or artificial flavors that promise to make it sweeter, sourer, or tastier than it really is. I want to know a God who in all his fullness would allow me to know him. I want a relationship that is real, authentic, and life-giving even when it hurts. I want to know God stripped of as many false perceptions as possible. Such a journey risks exposure, honesty, and even pain, but I’m hungry and desperate enough to go there. I want to know the Organic God.
Adapted from The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg
Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Feinberg, published by Zondervan, used with permission.