There are many answers to this question. I think how we answer it has major consequences for our lives.
There are two major answers in Christianity, depending on what group is your group.
- A being beyond the universe, in addition to the universe, supreme, almighty, related to the universe rather like an artist is to his/her creation, separate as creator and created, somewhere else, often thought to be a person that is male who is authoritarian and who intervenes at times suspending his own laws, a person who gets violently angry and judgemental but is somehow said to be love. Or...
- A sacred presence permeating, participating, not somewhere else, right here and at the same time more than here, mystical, encompassing, as Paul said, in whom we live and move and have our being, as Psalm 139 says, where can I go from your presence for your presence is everywhere, wondrous, glorious, inviting us into sacred relationship.
You probably have guessed that my understanding of God is the second one. What a different life it is, depending on which way you see and come to know or think you know God.
The first is a fearful mindset. Afraid God is not pleased; afraid God does not hear your prayers; afraid of the afterlife, for heaven/ hell and violent retribution are part of the theology; there is an in group and an out group, and you desperately want to be in the in group.
In the second understanding there is a personal, intimate, safe, constant relationship with God. Spirit offers guidance and counsel. Creation is an ongoing event, re-creation going on every moment. The laws of nature are not malleable to our whims, but we are guided through the maze of this life.
I could go on with these differences for many pages, but I will stop with this small set of lists.
What I hope is that you focus your life on knowing the Divine Presence that is as near as the breath of your life, so that the yearning can cease and exuberant life is yours.
Oh Divine Presence, Infinite Spirit, God, open my eyes and my ears and my heart fully to you. Lead me out of the path of fear into The Way that leads to You. Lift the cloud and lead me to Your Light. I come to this day ready.