Scott and Jerry engage in an insightful conversation, revisiting with Wayne, and responding to Joe and Ray's fascinating questions and comments about God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Why is God so elusive? Our listeners asked this question and more for this episode of the series What's On Your Mind. Listen to exciting stories and spiritual experiences exploring God's communication throughout different traditions- all filled with an earnest desire to know more about God and how to live in a way guided by love.
This episode includes discussions of returning to tradition, Karma, Stoic philosophy, understanding the psychological and neurological differences between desire and want, loving others and yourself, mindfulness, and breath-work teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn. Learn from these three listeners' stories and join us for a mindful moment connected to God.
Would You Like To Share Your Experience With God? We Want To Hear About Your Spiritual Journey!
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher
Related Episodes: [What's On Your Mind] Trusting God; Is God Hiding?; Seeing With Divine Eyes; Mindful Moments; God's Frequency; Spiritual Living; A Relationship With God; Spiritual Judgment
Related Episodes: [Video] Why is God Hiding?
Scott Langdon [00:00:17] This is GOD: An Autobiography, the podcast. A dramatic adaptation and continuing discussion of the book God: An Autobiography As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin. He was a lifelong agnostic, but one day he had an occasion to pray. To his vast surprise, God answered- in words. Being a philosopher, he had a lot of questions, and God had a lot to tell him. Episode 76.
Scott Langdon [00:01:04] Hello and welcome to Episode 76 of GOD: An Autobiography, the podcast, and another edition of What's On Your Mind. I'm your host, Scott Langdon. In this episode of our podcast, Jerry and I go into the email bag and respond to the questions and comments that have come to us from listeners of this podcast and readers of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. This week, Wayne, Joe, and Ray are three seekers of God who have shared stories with us about their experience of God. We share their three emails today because they are beautiful and filled with an earnest desire to know more about God and how to live in a way that is guided by love. If you'd like to share your experience with God, or if you'd like to ask a question or leave a comment, please feel invited to email us with your questions and comments to email@example.com. Thanks for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Welcome back, everybody. This is episode 76, another edition of What's On Your Mind. Jerry, welcome back. It's great to talk to you.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:19] Hi, Scott.
Scott Langdon [00:02:20] Last week we, or the last time we did this What's On Your Mind, we spent the entire episode talking about Wayne's email. A gentleman wrote in and wrote a rather lengthy email about his experience with God, and he was feeling that he wanted to be led by God and was feeling that God was leading him. He was finding himself in a situation where he was being led, he thought, toward a ministry and there was a ministry there, and then it seemed to not have support. And he was wondering if God was leading him somewhere else and felt like He was testing him. God, if you if you want me to go here, then can you find me a job and can you take care? And God was doing that. And so when he felt a connection with God, but a real disappointment, it seemed in the method.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:14] Well, it would seem to Wayne that he was guided to do certain things and things would go well for a time and then something would knock the props out from under the effort. And then he would make another move and then there would be some other back and then he would-- but constantly trying to stay in sync with God, God connected, and follow guidance, and yet the world was offering him an awful lot of shocks and disappointments and he stays in the journey. And I just thought it was fascinating that he was so attuned to the effort to do what God wanted of him and yet to figure out what's going wrong here because often that's just of great puzzlement. What is going wrong?
Scott Langdon [00:04:05] And he seemed to always be looking for the next direction.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:09] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:04:10] You know, whether it be you know, we talked about it in terms of (and we talked about this a few different ways) testing God. He felt, you know, I'm going to put you to the test and what does that mean? But however that looks and however you want to articulate that- what he was doing is searching for some kind of guidance.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:26] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:04:26] What kind of sign will I see? Not in the way that the Pharisees and Sadducees seemed to be searching for a sign that Jesus, you know, admonished them for. But more in terms of when I take this step, I believe that it'll work out, but how will I know? Can you show me that I will know? And one of the ways we seem to do that is, you know, things that we feel we can- we feel like we can grab on to like a job would be a tangible thing we would think, you know, or a house you lead me to a place where you want me to live, right? So God set up those things. But his--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:03] Were other people responding well to his efforts so that he knows he's reaching someone?
Scott Langdon [00:05:09] Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:10] That it's not futile, in that sense, that he's actually reaching people with a loving message and they're responding in kind.
Scott Langdon [00:05:18] Yeah. Yeah. And the interesting way to sort of discern the kind of feedback that you're getting and what that says about the direction that God wants you to go into. And what I mean by that is, like with Wayne, he was helping folks build furniture, you know, showing them how to work with their hands in this one industry.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:40] Inner-city people with no skills.
Scott Langdon [00:05:41] Yes, no skills. Giving them the skills.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:42] First thing like this that they'd ever learned to do.
Scott Langdon [00:05:44] Right. And the one gentleman had some real self-worth, you know, attached to this. You know, I've done this and now I have some self-worth. And that feedback was very powerful for Wayne.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:56] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:05:57] At the same powerful, but in perhaps the other direction was the feedback he was getting from the folks who were sponsoring that effort. The thought is this, you know, is it saving souls? Is it economically viable? So there's the feedback from both directions, and which feedback is God's, or is it both? You know, it's interesting to discern that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:20] Yeah, and that is the spiritual life. So it's a wonderful case study of someone pursuing it, staying steadfast, staying in the trenches, even though everything is full of uncertainty, including what it is God wants you to do. You're just doing the best you can to follow it. And Wayne is a wonderful sort of testament to that and gives us his personal testimony about the nature of that journey and what its hazards are and what its triumphs are. You know, it's not all setbacks. It steps forward as well.
Scott Langdon [00:06:53] Right. Right. And in the way that we, especially, I think in the American, at least Christian tradition, seem to see this journey, is sometimes it can seem like we are still on the journey but God kind of stopped with the end of the Bible. Whenever the Bible was finished.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:11] Right. Right.
Scott Langdon [00:07:12] So now here we are still, but where are you, God? Well, it's in this book. And it seems very impersonal. It seems very distant and separate. And this week I want to start with a follow up email that Wayne wrote to you.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:30] Oh good!
Scott Langdon [00:07:31] After his whole lengthy email and then you responded to him, which we talked about the last time, he responded again with an email and says this in the response. He says, "I feel as though we're friends, not for years or miles, but simply because we choose to share stories. I started following your story because I was going through a time of questioning the Bible. I'm not sure that it's this perfect little owner's manual that I've been told it is. I do value it as scripture, even scripture of great value, but calling it, quote, the word of God, end quote, seems to imply that's all He had to say. It also implies that He's dead, relationally anyway. So I asked the question, has God stopped breathing? And someone directed me to your writing. I read Chapter 45 last night, and it took my breath away." That was from Wayne there.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:29] Isn't that fascinating? And I think, probably for many listeners, not entirely unfamiliar as an experience because you're raised in this or that tradition and you're told this is the whole word, the final word. In a way, it's all over, you know. Anyway, here's what I wrote to Wayne. "Wayne, the idea that the Bible is, as you so aptly put it, an owner's manual, leads to a faith so brittle that it can snap and leave the believer in spiritual despair. God surely speaks to us through the Bible as he spoke to those in the Bible. But it is not God's only word, and it is not God's last word. God breathes and speaks to us still, not only in words, but also in conscience and love, and in clues and hints that you have to watch for, or you miss them. Thanks, my friend, for continuing to share your personal journey with us." Now, isn't that wonderful of Wayne to come back with this? And so, yeah, there are so many people who feel that you come to the end of the Book of Revelations, then that's over. You know, it's as though you've got ancient letters or something that you find and they're all over with. They're all over with, and that communication has ended. But the spiritual life is the life of ongoing relationship with the divine. And that's important to acknowledge and to revere of the scriptures of the various whatever traditions are meaningful to you, and to try to make the most of those, to be guided by them and led by them. But they're not the final word. Don't close your mind or your heart to further words.
Scott Langdon [00:10:38] I thought it was really interesting that he mentioned that he read Chapter 45 as one of the first (evidently one of the first chapters) that he read and was blown away by it- and as he mentions in the email.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:52] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:10:52] And I thought it would be interesting to take a look at that for just a second--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:55] Oh good.
Scott Langdon [00:10:56] Because I thought, you know, as having gone through the whole book to adapt it for the podcast, for the audio adaptation version, and you and I going back and forth and in the adaptation, of course, we didn't do every single word and every single letter we, you know, shaped it for the medium of audio and so forth. So you leave a few things out here and there. And so it's important, I think, to go back to the source, and what he's talking about in the book is chapter 45. It's on page 226. And the title of your chapter here is Life Is For A Purpose And The Purpose Is Not Just Entertainment.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:32] Right.
Scott Langdon [00:11:33] That's the title of the chapter, right? And the very first words, in the very first sentence, God is speaking, and He says three words. He just says, "Ask about karma."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:43] Oh, wow.
Scott Langdon [00:11:44] And so you say, "Now I understand karma as less a matter of making up for past wrongs and more a matter of which challenges a person needs next." And God says in response to that, he says, "No, that's not right! Karma is a matter of 'righting the balance' after the imbalances of your previous life. Remember how I have told you: Don't feel guilt, just note the consequences." And it goes on in the chapter. But just to start out there, I can imagine when Wayne and if these were the first words that he just happened to turn to.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:22] Right.
Scott Langdon [00:12:23] To hear that, to see that, I know that when I read those letters- that chapter and was preparing for the episode that we adapted it from, or to, this was a very significant piece for me as well. The idea of righting the balance, that the challenges that you have next. This is very prevalent not only in, well, it's very prevalent in the Stoic tradition when they talk about, you know, balances and talk about, you know, looking deeply into the things that you've done, not for guilt purposes, but to see, you know, next time I get to a situation like this, I went left, this time I'm going to go right. You know, that situation of having that space to go errt, stop, "What did I do last time? Okay, and I'm going to do this time--" That space in which you make those kinds of decisions is, in my experience, God-filled.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:20] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:13:21] That's a God, that's a God gift right there. And God talks about when He says: ask about karma, He says, it's not right. It's balance. Restore balance.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:31] Yes, yes, yes. Almost done, when God talks about sin and don't make it a matter of going around feeling guilty. It's almost analytical, and that probably with your Stoics also that. What did it- Well, (a) I don't want to do that again, the mistake I made; but, (b) why did I make that mistake? You know, figure out. You know, was I hanging out with the wrong crowd? Therefore, I got into a life that wasn't a good life or made bad decisions because of that. Was it something not recognized in myself or from my childhood or something like that, that I need to solve or figure out, or integrate into my overall personality, rather than it being the kind of loose element that sometimes takes over and I make bad decisions anyway. Whatever it is, you really need to think that through and then look for, okay, I want to live a more balanced life. You know, I veered off in one direction, and now I need to balance that out, mainly not to make the same mistakes, but also, it might be not to just keep doing the same thing. Maybe I'm supposed to broaden out in some way and I need to pay close attention and then let God kind of guide my insight on that.
Scott Langdon [00:14:59] I think about it sometimes, lately as I've been reflecting on this type of thing. I think about it in terms of, you know, if you talk about it in business terms or sort of worldly terms, quote-unquote, if you want to say it that way. The idea of a win-win situation.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:14] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:15:14] You know, oh so it's a win-win situation. What I have found upon reflection is that almost every time I can think, if I make a decision that causes suffering to someone else or to me or I think when I reflect on it, I can, I do realize that there was a point in the decision-making process when there was a pull to not do that or to, you know, are you sure you want to do that? And I just either barreled through it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:46] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:15:46] Or I willfully said, you know, so it had to do with- we can talk about it is ego, or separate self, or however you want to say, but that my separate self sort of just said- yeah I'm going to do this. And sometimes it works out okay or it's not so bad or whatever. But I always feel upon reflection that it's not a win-win, that this isn't- I'm going to cause suffering somehow. And you can't always, you know, there's suffering that's going to be caused, you can't help it. But in a decision where, you know, if I go this way, that's going to cause suffering. If I go this way, it's really not. And I choose to do that anyway.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:21] Yeah.
Scott Langdon [00:16:21] I can find that often upon reflection.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:25] That's a very familiar human phenomenon. It's almost basic to human life that we have sometimes. I was just reading some psychologists make a distinction between desires and wants because they've noticed even different parts of the brain are active. A desire is something that kind of like brings you pleasure and happiness and so forth. But there are some things you want somehow, even though they don't. And often people will find cigarettes aren't really giving me much pleasure, but I got to have them. Well, that's in part of physical addiction, but we got a lot of psychological addictions as well, where somehow we want them, even though we notice this gambling all the time, is actually making me miserable.
Scott Langdon [00:17:07] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:08] I can't stop. You know, these are these wants that are their own autonomous unintegrated function that is very hard for us to control or to know how to integrate into the totality of our personality and there may be a constructive way to do that, and we need to explore those things. But these are the basics to living a life as a human being. You know, we're finite creatures with whole organic systems, very complex, and psychological needs, and an awful lot of the challenge is to figure out. Like with ego, there's a positive side to ego on the negative side. Well, let's figure out how to use the positive side, integrate that into our personality, and not need the negative side.
Scott Langdon [00:18:03] Well, we really are thankful for Wayne. And Wayne, if you're listening to this episode of the podcast, thank you for writing in, and thank you for giving us so many things to reflect on. And we wish you all kinds of blessings.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:15] Yes, indeed.
Scott Langdon [00:18:31] Going back into the mailbag, we have a wonderful email from Jo. Jo- she says this. She says, "Jerry, I think you are an amazing person. For years I have understood and acknowledged that we are not separate from God and that we or our souls are somehow one with God. However, to know and to be what you know are two different things. How do I take the leap from just understanding to actually being right here, right now? What I have come to understand."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:08] Isn't that an interesting communication from Jo? And I wrote back to her. But now that you read it again, Scott, and I hear it again, I think I answered it not quite the best possible way, but maybe not a totally wrong way. Here's what I wrote back when we received that. I said, "Jo, speaking only for myself, I am not a fan of spiritual striving." I think I was struck by her saying she needs a leap. How is she going to manage that leap from knowing to being? And I go on. "When the guy told me that he had set out to be a saint, I thought that is someone who will never be one. My personal advice is not to worry about being this or that, ut simply to live each day open to the divine presence in whatever ways and however faintly it is available to you. If anything seems like a divine hint, pay careful attention. Try to get in sync with it. If you do that, you will be in proper attunement with the divine." Well, that's good advice, I think, but it slightly misses what I think joe is driving at. And what she is aware of, that's a major theme in God: An Autobiography is God is everything. You know, God is me, you, the furniture, the world, the nature, the trees, outside, God is everything even though God differentiates into you and me and the trees and the flowers and to God as a presence to us, not quite identical with us. So both of those things are true and the deep satisfaction in realizing God is everything and we're right there in the middle of God. You and me, we're right there in the middle of God, and God is never absent. And what I take and Joe is actually emphasizing here is one can understand that- you read any of the great mystics, they will tell you that. And there are other, kind of, metaphysical arguments, philosophical arguments for that understanding, and so you can read those and be persuaded and say, well, that sounds right. But that's not quite the same as feeling part of God and feeling that God is entirely pervasive in yourself and in the life, the world around you. To feel that is a challenge. And I have experienced this in, I guess what you might call contemplative prayer. You really need to still yourself and just sort of take it in, just sort of take it in, but not just process it intellectually, but take a deep breath, take it in your whole system. Take it into your heart, into your body. And in my experience, that does not require a leap. It requires something closer to a relaxation, almost the opposite of a leap. Just be still. Just be still, and let God be around you. But I know, Scott, you've done meditation, and so that would certainly be people who actually do know how to do, they've studied for centuries how to take in this actualization of being part of the divine.
Scott Langdon [00:23:07] Yeah. Yeah. As we've talked about before, you know, my earliest experiences with God as a child in single digits, you know, seven, eight years old, nine years old, just intuitively in a relationship with God. Intuitively knowing that when I am in these situations of loving surroundings, it just there's a knowing, but not an ability at that age to articulate this.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:38] Right.
Scott Langdon [00:23:38] And after I felt a sense of separation, which I hadn't felt as a young one. And I guess you don't feel it until you feel it. You know, you don't know there's separation till you suddenly feel one. And for me, it was brought on by folks and a tradition saying that I thought I had a relationship, God, but I hadn't. And so that blew my circuits because of well know--. And so then it became for me a search outward to find where is God now outward. And not until really I did some deep work with this book, with your book in the adaptation process, specifically looking at the ecumenical nature of God's revelation to you.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:24] Yes, yes.
Scott Langdon [00:24:25] And being able to take the time to study some other religious traditions, not just sort of- not as a scholar and not as somebody who's looking for another religion to fill a vacancy, but as someone who is looking for God in these religions. You know, as the book, as God is saying: I want you to see what I was up to. And so I was taken with that invitation and I was like, Oh yeah. And so reading your book allowed me to explore some of those things. And in doing that, specifically, I never understood a very similar thing that Joe talks about, which is how do I, I know that God and I are connected, but God seems to be absent. What do I have to do to get connected to God? And then the preaching is, Oh, well, no, you don't have to do anything. It's God's free gift, it's grace and-- All right, well, where is it? How do I- do I go somewhere? Does it come to me? Do I put a flag? I mean, how do I? But in following these and studying some of these other traditions, specifically the Buddhist tradition through the Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn, he is very-- If someone were to ask him this question, he would say, it's very easy. Breathe in and know you're breathing in. And breathe out and know you're breathing out. Our minds are separated from our bodies. Our thinking minds are off here and off there. And when we breathe in and know we're breathing in, that's mindful breathing. We are bringing the mind and body together and that the breath, focusing in on the breath, has turned me inward, focuses me. It's a version I think, of what you were just talking about, contemplative type of prayer. Because my prayers were always, Dear God can I-- and it was talking to someone out there. And so I never felt like anyone was listening. Other people could do that very fine. I just couldn't. But focusing with this other tradition on my breath it doesn't mean I want to be a Buddhist, it just means that employing that- Oh, I see that now, that's interesting. And now when I do that, if I start to get crazy or lost or where is God, all I have to do is remember, Thich Nhat Hahn say to me, breathe in, and breathe out. And when I do that, I just feel like, oh, God, here you are, there you are, and then God and I start talking again, working again, however you want to say it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:51] Well, I have the feeling, Scott, that you might have had an experience in some ways similar to what Wayne went through. You know, there was an owner's manual, and then at a certain point, they start telling you that if you don't do X, Y and Z exactly like this owner's manual, then God will not be present for you.
Scott Langdon [00:27:13] Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:14] You know, you'll fall into the damned or some horrible category, and God will turn his back on you. Or just disappear from your life and that introduces a false problem, but a natural one. It's understandable. People feel they find the right path. They think the right path for them must be the right path for everyone, must be the only path, and so forth. And so they become- they start drawing these lines and you're the saved, and you're the unsaved and that sort of thing. But as Wayne discovered, there are limitations to that owner's manual concept. And here is Joe, somehow already knows. Joe is beyond that isn't having that problem. Joe knows that there's- God is pervasive and we are at one with God, and just needs that experiential aspect of feeling at one with God. So that it's more organic and full and your whole life is experienced as at one with God. And that is a- that is a struggle, but as I say, I love the way you put it, Scott. Breathe in, breathe out. Pay attention to the fact you're breathing in. I guess that's an important part of it, mindfulness. Breathe out. Pay attention to that. But all you need to do is just be. And that's just what Joe wants, is just to be.
Scott Langdon [00:28:53] And what we do is we are being and telling stories. So we are being, and we tell stories about what we think might happen in the future, and tell stories about what happened in the past. All of those things are happening as we are being in the present moment. So what this technique does for me is it takes me from speculation and story out into the future and speculation about the past and with other people and brings me back to what I'm doing right now, which is breathing. That's the only consistent thing about my life, is that I have breath. And then it brings me back to who is the breath? You know, and then then I realized that without the breath, there is no me, and then that brings it right back to God and I are in it together. You know the separate and same aspect comes from that understanding.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:47] Of course, in the Western tradition of breath, the concept of breath is part of the concept of spirit.
Scott Langdon [00:29:55] Sure.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:56] And so the spirit in you is the breath in you is the spirit in you. And that's sort of your soul. But there's a lot in the God book elsewhere about your soul and what that means. But the crucial thing that you're pointing out, Scott, is, you know, being is a present tense concept.
Scott Langdon [00:30:17] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:18] It's a present tense. So all you have to do is just stop the distractions and be.
Scott Langdon [00:30:26] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:27] You know? And then you're home free. God is already there. Then you're home free.
Scott Langdon [00:30:31] Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I've known many people in the tradition of the Evangelical community that I grew up in that understood and got that concept within the framework of that tradition. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:46] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:30:46] So not everybody hears the tradition the way I had heard it. Some do. Some have struggled with it because of that, but some don't. And so it's not in the religion or non-religion or any that there is the fault or that there is the salvation. It's not in the method itself, but like I said, one of the great blessings of this book for me was just the, first of all, permission sort of that God seemed to give me to look around. Because growing up it would be like, well, here's where God is. And if you look around out there, you're looking at places that are not of God, away from God. And I sort of got this permission- No, wherever anyone at any time has searched for me, I'm there, that's where I am. And so I showed up this way to the Chinese, I showed that this way to the Buddhists, I showed up this way to the Egyptians, this way to the Jews, this way to the Christians, and to the Native Americans, and there's value in all of that for the one who seeks me always.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:53] Yes. And there's probably- you can probably take it down to the individual level. Because you just, you encounter different people with their different lifestyles, different ideas about things. And you can learn from them because God is also in them. And so that doesn't mean they're infallible or anything like that. But there's some truth there. Like the gold mine. You might have to dig for it to find the nuggets or to realize what is (you might say) their truth. And I'm not a relativist. There's a truth and falsity. But they may have part of the truth that you have not noticed or haven't been able to take into yourself. And that's one of the great things about conversations like the one we're having here today and about the implicit conversation we're having with people who write to us and that we have that dialog with. We're learning from each other.
Scott Langdon [00:33:51] Well, I'd like to end today with a third email we got from a gentleman named Ray, and he wrote a couple of emails in succession, short ones, but I think they are quite wonderful. The first one he wrote. He says, "I don't see God, but I know God is in every corner of every room." And he spelled God in all capital letters both times.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:15] Yes, Yes, so God is all around him.
Scott Langdon [00:34:15] God, God, is here. You know?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:17] Yes. God is all around him and he knows that. And my brief comment about that was "Ray well put. It is as if God gave us some kind of sixth sense to help us to know He is there even when we can't see him. The challenge is to trust that sixth sense." And Ray is doing that, so good for Ray.
Scott Langdon [00:34:48] Yeah. Yeah, he sure is. Well, Ray followed up his initial email and your response with this second email. He writes this. "I am sorry to say that I have no idea what love is. I don't love anyone, I'm sorry to say, and I don't think anyone loves me. There are a few people I like our children, my wife, and a few others, but that's it. I am sure some people like me. I have always said that I don't envy anyone. But I do envy your ability to love.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:21] Yeah. That's a different note and a sad and difficult thing for him to have to report. That I take to be quite honest, as you might say, the plight of his life. And so I write back a little more at length. "Ray, thank you for sharing this cry from the heart. You are not the only person for whom love is a challenge. We all know that feeling. The heart of the problem is, I don't think anyone loves me. The problem yields its own answer, but it is not an easy answer. You, anybody, can't love unless you are loved and know and feel loved. The real sin is not loving yourself. That prevents you from loving others. Loving yourself is easier said than done. If you do not feel loved, you think you're unlovable. God's love, even more concretely, a wife's love, to the extent you can take those in, can be helpful here. Even then, you, anybody may still not feel lovable because of something far back and perhaps subterranean in childhood. In the book, I report my own challenge, my own challenge stemming from my mother's emotional unavailability for many years after my baby brother died. Let me say one other thing. It is sometimes good not to aspire to love everybody with a capital L, or for them to love you in some ultimate way. There are others you like and respect and feel kindness toward. And they like and respect and feel kindness toward you. Isn't that enough to ask of a human being?" So this is a difficult, this is one of life's most difficult challenges. And Ray is wrestling with it, and I tried to say something that might be helpful. Whether it is helpful, who knows? You know, that's another question. It's something each person has to wrestle with- are they loving themselves in the right way, and are they unable to share their own love with the love by loving people around them? And I kind of suggest that might help, be helpful to him to ratchet down the goal a little bit. Not worry, oh, I've got to go love somebody. Where that is a kind of awesome state. Oh, my gosh, you'd have to be a love-genius to achieve it. But, well, if you're nice to people, if you like them, you're nice to people, you're amiable, you're kind, you're helpful, you're appreciative of their you know, you see, you understand them. A lot of what human beings need isn't just love, it's understanding. Somebody understands you, that goes a very long way in life. And so anyway, I kind of made that comment thinking that might be helpful to Ray to just kind of make the most of what you do have is sometimes the best strategy in life.
Scott Langdon [00:38:55] You know, and we've talked about this before how my profession as an actor, and you know what I brought to this project as a writer and as an actor, when I think about relationships to others and my relationship with God and when I think about it in terms of a role I might play, especially, I think we talked about this a little bit before, the idea that, you know, I played some villains. In fact, I'm preparing for an audition right now in my work. And this guy is a bad guy. He's a bad guy. And, you know, he's the one he's the obstacle for the, you know, the hero. And so, you know, you dig into that and you try to figure out you can't just play this terrible guy. I mean, because nobody is just terrible. There's- what is in there? And if it's not in the script that he has some kind of good quality, you have to find it. You have to dig into it and discover why might he have made this turn? It's like we were talking about early on in this conversation, which is not only, you know, what was the mistake, you know, why did I make this mistake? So you look at a character and you think of it that way, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:40:10] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:40:10] So when I parallel that into how I think about my life, I think about other people. Who is that? If this is the character that God is playing? You know.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:40:24] Right.
Scott Langdon [00:40:25] When if I'm in rehearsal with somebody or in a show and the other person and I, the other character and my character hate each other and we do, but then when the play is over, the actors, we go out for a drink and we have fun.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:40:38] Right
Scott Langdon [00:40:39] You know, so I can't get caught up in the act, in the character, my character, in that character. I need to look behind that character to who the actor is. So in a similar way, when I see somebody else who's having a difficult time, I try to think that's the character. Like, what's behind that might be driving that? And I don't have to find it out, I just need to know that- I just need to think in my mind that there is something. And just knowing that there's something behind that is enough to just allow God's grace to wash over that situation. I don't take things as personally anymore. I do for maybe for a second, initially, that initial response, you know. But then if I can allow myself to think about it that way. Who is the actor behind this character that's here right now, and we're having conflict. There's something behind that. And just the moment that it takes to think that, God's grace just comes streaming, and you just, you just drop all of the tension.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:41:45] Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's a wonderful example, Scott. That's a wonderful example.
Scott Langdon [00:41:51] And when you think about you don't-- when I think about I don't love myself. Like when in the Christian tradition, Jesus talks about this, when the Pharisees are asking him, they're testing him and they say, what is the greatest commandment? Now they're coming at him from the Jewish tradition, and he is answering them in the Jewish tradition by saying, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. And the second is this Love your neighbor as yourself." And we're taught that, but then the more I don't like myself, have depression, or do things terribly, I think I can't love myself. That doesn't make sense. Jesus surely must be talking about something else. He must know that we all have difficult times with our self-image and self-worth. So there must be a self with a capital S, if you will, behind the character that's suffering. And I'd like to invite Ray, if he's listening to take a moment to who is playing you. You know what I mean? Like, who is, who is behind that? Rest in there for a second.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:54] Yeah. Yeah. Well, there are things elsewhere that in the God podcast from the God book that go into that rather deeply. That the self behind the self is one way of thinking of it. But, but yours is a very practical approach. We don't need a metaphysical theory, but there's more to this person who's being very irritating than just the irritating presence. You know? there's more to them, and there's something behind that. And your job, even in the most ordinary sense, is to relate to the whole person, not just to the part that's irritating you.
Scott Langdon [00:43:37] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, Ray wrote in a third time, and it's very short, but I think it's very important. So let me read what he says and you can comment on it. He says, "These excerpts are terrific. Great job. I've started to reread the Torah. Thank you, Ray."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:43:57] Yeah. I just thought that was a wonderful thing because he was just struggling so much and looked like in despair. Over doesn't love anybody, nobody loves him, he doesn't know what love even is, but somehow, through this process of sharing and going some back and forth and so forth and reading the book, listening to the podcast, he's come to the point where he's going back and reading the Torah again. I take it he's Jewish, that's at least the term Jews usually use for the first five books of the Old Testament, what people in my tradition call the Old Testament. And so that's a return and a genesis in particular. The first book of the Bible is full of great love stories, and it's almost as if each of the patriarchs has to find the right wife, you know, to do his job as patriarch, and then in the God book, and I don't know what episode this is in the podcast, but when I prayed about the prophets who are just full of condemnation and everything, I was dreading reading them again. But under divine guidance, reading it, I saw. Oh. This is a love letter from God to the people of Israel. He says that you cheated on me, I married you as my bride, and then you were whoring after strange gods. How can you expect me to take you back in after that? But, I still love you. I'll take you back in.
Scott Langdon [00:45:35] Take you back.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:37] And so that's a kind of love letter to the people of Israel. The people are following God. And so it's full of love stories, and I don't know exactly Ray's motivation, but sometimes in anger over disappointments in our lives, we turn against our tradition. Not because we're enriching beyond it, but because we're angry at it. Profoundly disappointed, perhaps disillusioned. And I think it's just a wonderful sign that Ray has said, I've got to go back and read the Torah again, maybe it has something to tell me that I need to know. And that's just a wonderful attitude.
Scott Langdon [00:46:23] It is. It is a wonderful attitude, and all three emails this week were terrific. I was so glad to read them and talk about them with you. Jerry, this has been another wonderful session. Thank you for being with us.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:34] No, thank you. Thank you.
Scott Langdon [00:46:44] Thank you for listening. To GOD: An Autobiography, the podcast. Subscribe for free today wherever you listen to your podcasts and hear a new episode every week. You can hear the complete dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin, by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through its conclusion with Episode 44. You can read the original true story in the book from which this podcast is adapted God: An Autobiography As Told To A Philosopher available now at Amazon.com and always at godanautobiography.com. Pick up your own copy today. If you have any questions about this or any other episode, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and experience the world from God's perspective as it was told to a philosopher. This is Scott Langdon. I'll see you next time.