I’ve gone to church most of my life, but never really considered myself a very religious person.

Aaron and Carey Austin with their daughter, VivianAaron and Carey Austin with their daughter, Vivian

I thank my beautiful wife for getting me back to regular church attendance and Bethel College for putting two great spiritual mentors in my life to help me with my questions: former campus pastor Dale Schrag ’69 and our current campus pastor Peter Goerzen ’07.

I mention this brief backstory because as I have tried to reconcile my previous belief of religion/church and my current belief, I keep coming back to the same thing. Love. I John 4:8 (King James Bible), says: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

This might get a little weird for some of you, but I have changed my mental picture of God. I no longer think of God as a big white dude with flowing white hair and beard in snow-white robes (aka Zeus). My God is more like “the Force.”

Those of you unfamiliar with Star Wars may not get it, but the Force flows through everything. It is everything. So it is with my God. My God is everywhere and is manifest most truly in love.

My God exists in a handshake with a student, a kiss from my wife and a hug from my daughter. My God is in an e-mail I send to say thank you or in a Facebook post that makes me chuckle. My God wraps me up when I am sad or lost and fills my heart when I am happy.

Even when we don’t like each other, love exists. In the aftermath of any tragedy, the images that stick with me are the images of love. Hugs between family or strangers: God’s presence.

My God is love… Love that is without end. Love in all colors, in all orientations, with all religions, between all people. I keep this in mind as I process the messages that tell us what Jesus would want us to do, or how God feels about our decisions. I always come down on the side of love.

My hope is you feel God every day. But if you don’t, take comfort in knowing that love… that God… is there. Connecting us all. Here in this place—this Beth-El. May it be so.