I have written more than once about my problems with the more mystical aspects of Christianity. Some of those issues spring from a mind that may be too analytical for my own good (questioning the virgin birth, miracles, speaking in tongues, etc.), but most of them are related to the absence of a “God” experience in my life. It’s caused me more than a little grief, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been looking in the wrong places for the wrong experience.
How about a little background before I explain that last sentence? I was raised in the Christian faith, was baptized and confirmed and a member of the United Methodist Churchuntil we parted ways due to their intransigence on LGBTQ issues. At the age of 10, with both my parents sitting beside me, I got “saved”; for the first time, anyway. You see, in the years that followed, I heard many people talk about their salvation as a mystical experience. They said a peace they’d never known came over them, that God/Jesus touched them. Hell, some even said the power of the Holy Spirit laid them out on the floor, unable to speak or move. In other words, they felt something big in that moment when they dedicated their life to Jesus and I…, didn’t. Other than a little relief that I wouldn’t go to Hell if I died in my sleepan actual concern, I didn’t feel any different than I did before I said the “Sinner’s Prayer”. That was worrisome because if everyone else had some big “God” moment when they got saved and I didn’t, the only logical assumption I could come to was that I wasn’t saved. Which meant that every altar call was filled with angst and worry about whether or not I should “rededicate” my life to Christ. It wasn’t long before I began to dread those fabulous little guilt trips. One of the best things about those years I spent away from church? No fucking altar calls.
About 10 years ago, when I came back to Christianity, it was to a more progressive version which, thankfully, doesn’t feature altar calls. But, that didn’t mean my problems with mysticism were over. Because, even in progressive circles, the “God” moment still has a place and after all these years, I still haven’t had one. Or, have I? Here’s where I finally get around to explaining that statement at the end of the first paragraph: as I’ve begun to embrace Christian humanism“God has a plan, that plan is us”, Hugh Hollowell, I’m beginning to think my “God” moments involved people.
Maybe I experienced the presence of God in the doctors, nurses, family and friends that have helped me through all my health problems. Maybe God was present when my marriage imploded and my loved ones sat with me and helped me through that awful time. Maybe I experience the presence of God at Wild Goose, reconnecting with friends I only get to see a few times a year. Or, on Sunday mornings during the greeting moment in worship when someone I see every week pulls me into a warm embrace and asks how I’ve been.
Is this possible? I don’t know. Since I’m not sure if I’ve experienced the presence of God in the first place, how do I know what that feels like? And, if i don’t know what it feels like, how could I know how if it happened? But, if I did, it certainly wasn’t the way I expected. I was looking for the deep spiritual moment, alone and surrounded by God’s presence. I’m beginning to think maybe I did have that deep spiritual experience, surrounded by God’s presence. Only, I wasn’t alone. And, that’s kinda cool.