Verse 24: (Jesus said), “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
This scripture comes from Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. The Jew Jesus asks a Samaritan for a drink of water. He was not boxed in by the custom of the day where Jews and Samaritans did not drink from the same cup.
Jesus acted in the spirit and truth of the unity of all. His request to the woman invited a dialogue that led to her recognition of the truth of Jesus’ presence. She connected to the spirit of God that is inherent in every human exchange as we are each created in the image of God.
We give lip service to everyone being a child of God. We have greetings like “Namaste,” a shorthand way to say, “God in me greets God in you.” The challenge is acting in the spirit of the truth when our personal experience, views, and attitudes are in conflict with another’s.
How attached we get to our version of the truth! We limit ourselves with our need to have the only truth. Truth becomes concrete beliefs, ideas, and feeling states that exclude any spirit or experience different from ours. In the process of needing to know or to have the absolute and only truth, we exclude any evidence of spirit that exists outside our view.
We may go a step further and label the other truth as an “evil” spirit or “bad” or “wrong” idea. These responses thwart our relationship to God as they put spirit into the “box” we have. Our idea, view, belief, or individual experience becomes a box when it does not allow for any truth beyond our own.
We often have difficulty experiencing spirit or truth different from our own. A primitive, non-rational, body-based annihilation fear gets activated. We act defensively because on some level we feel threatened by what is different from us. We may not be consciously aware of these feelings. However, they drive our actions.
We separate ourselves from unconscious annihilation fears with thoughts that we are superior to the other, we are right and they are wrong, or we have God’s truth (or the gospel truth) and they do not. As we distance from our inner feelings, we may retreat from the outer person(s) who has expressed a different spirit or truth. We end up separated from inner states of consciousness (our unconscious annihilation fears) and other people. The unity of our psyche/soul is ruptured alongside the divisive splitting with other people.
When we feel wronged by someone else, we can quickly move to judging the other’s experience as outside of God’s spirit. In doing so, we foreclose the opportunity to dialogue. When we have a superior attitude or we retreat from interaction, we box ourselves into a closed reality. We miss a moment of seeing and knowing the larger spirit and truth of God manifesting in a shared exchange between self and other.
We may act the same way with parts of ourselves that differ from our conscious attitudes, beliefs, self-image, etc. We dismiss or deny urges, impulses, fleeting images, emotions, feeling states, etc. that are outside our conscious sense of self. We may talk ourselves out of the truth of what we’re experiencing. We may distract or numb ourselves with non-life giving behaviors. With these responses, we foreclose the opportunity to experience God in spirit and truth in the current moment.
Jesus invited the Samaritan woman to know God in spirit and in truth in the moment of their encounter. She didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything special. The shared presence and dialogue between them led to her knowing.
Our presence and dialogue with what we experience in the moment, inner and outer worlds, brings the experience of knowing God in spirit and truth. When we are present with our conscious spirit of truth and open to a different manifestation of God’s spirit and truth, we can encounter God in emerging aspects of ourselves and in other people. We follow Jesus’ example of living outside the customs and habits that limit our knowing God in the moment.
What are the boxes that limit your experience of God in the moment? Consider your beliefs, attitudes, views, automatic responses to differences, and ‘go to’ behaviors when you feel threatened. Note how they have separated you from your inner and outer experiences.
Practice dialoguing with whatever arises in you with an eye towards seeing the larger spirit and truth of God Within. Ask for inner guidance in developing attitudes and behaviors that will help you feel safe in encountering differences in yourself and with others.
Public Domain Image: The Water of Life Discourse between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well by Angelika Kauffmann, 17–18th century.