I believe there is an ultimate reality that makes existence possible and continuously sustains creation. At the human level, we sense this reality as sacred and we experience it as love.

I believe the ultimate reality is a cosmic cherishing of our existence, which is to the love we know as the ocean is to a drop of water.

I believe that although this Cosmic Love is so vast it is unknowable and incomprehensible to us, yet it is accessible to all creation, to each part according to its nature.

Human beings experience their understanding of the ultimate reality in many forms, each of which is genuinely sacred, yet each of which is only a partial representation or metaphor for the unknowable Whole to which people have given names such as Allah, Yahweh, God, Vishnu, or Tao.

I believe that this Cosmic Love can be experienced as a Presence, which I call God.

I believe there are individuals who are especially attuned to the Divine Presence, and that Jesus was one of them. I believe that many other people have a direct and personal experience of God’s presence. But I also believe this experience is not required for joining God in creation. There are no strings attached to being a co-creator with God.

I believe what we sense as the sacred is embedded in all aspects of creation, and we can join in the great flow of creative love by seeking out the sacred and responding to it.

I believe there is an indissoluble bond between love and freedom. Therefore, we are free either to join God in the vast flow of love throughout existence or to go against the flow—to join God in the harmony of creation, to hinder it, or to stand aside with indifference. As there are no requirements for commitment, I believe that we are continually offered opportunities to join in the flow, to take part in the great harmony.

In this great harmony I am connected to all creation, so when I rejoice, creation resonates with joy, and when I grieve, creation echoes with grief. No matter how small my part, it behooves me to add to the joy in the universe and to try to ease the sorrow.

I believe that the Divine shares my life insofar as I invite the Divine to do so. I have sensed a profound respect for me as a unique part of creation—a respect that the 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich also recognized when she called Jesus her "Courteous Lord." "I am here," Jesus said. "I stand at the door and knock. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will enter and eat with them and they with me" (Rev. 3:20).

But I have not felt called to commit myself to God. Rather, I am persuaded that God is committed to me, and I find myself tremendously grateful for that reality and for the vast love, respect, intelligence, and understanding that I sense sustains me and all that is. As it was with the Apostle Paul when he spoke to the Athenians, I believe the love of God is not far from each of us, for it is that love in which we live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 27-28).

Betty Jean Rugh Elder

Betty Jean Rugh Elder is a member of Germantown Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa. This personal statement was written during an eight-day silent retreat.