I had one of those dreams this morning where if you could only have stayed in it a little longer you’d remember the whole thing. I remember only the end fragment of it – but my dream books say that sometimes the part you can remember is an important snapshot of the whole.
In this dream I was visiting some sort of theme park with members of my extended family – it was all people that I knew except for one – an older gentleman. He was evidently a retired doctor and was at the park to help those who needed a physician’s care. I got the idea that he was qualified to help folks with all sorts of problems – physical, mental, emotional – and I knew that he was very wise, for he radiated that sense you get of someone just being utterly kind and full of years’ worth of knowledge and experience.
It was the last night of our vacation, and the end of a big celebration. I was sitting at the top of a tall set of stairs looking down at the festivities in the room below, feeling pensive. The doctor came and sat down beside me and asked me what was wrong. At which point I tried to speak and choked up, unable to say anything. The doctor patted me knee reassuringly and said “I know just what you need” – and he started to sing. I sat there a moment, puzzled and stubborn. Then the song he sang just reached down inside me and I began to sing without even quite realizing I was doing it. As I picked up the song, the doctor dropped down and started singing a lovely and haunting harmony that stirred my blood. As we sang together the music soared and as I hit the final high note it was as though my soul burst free to dance among the stars, up so high that I could look down on the fireworks below me.
Recently I’ve been going through a very deep, dark night of the soul. It is different from depression (though I’ve sometimes been depressed because of it). A spiritual midlife crisis, if you will. I extricated myself from the all the strings of the last church we were going to, and though I knew that God was calling me to do that – I expected only a season of rest and re-grouping.
What I got instead was as though God took an enormous sledgehammer to the foundation beams of my faith and smashed them to smithereens – leaving me sitting on the pile of rubble wondering what on earth happened. For months I feared I was an apostate, agnostic, atheist. I read the Bible and simply felt numb, unmoved. Church annoyed me, sermons angered me, even my favorite Christian music bothered me so I switched to the classical station (and tried to not fall asleep while driving since instrumental music relaxes me.)
After many months of soul searching I’ve come to the conclusion that, unlike what many people told me that my ideas of God were too small – I think that my idea of God is too big. Too big to fit in the box that Christianity has become. I’ve spent the last 8 or 9 months researching the history of religion, the history of pre-religions, and the various world religions. What I learned is that I think we are all like children standing in a dark room with an elephant, each of us with a hand on the trunk or the leg or the tail – trying to describe the whole elephant by expounding on the tiny part we can touch.
I still believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – but, not in the way that most Christians do. I still believe that the Bible is God’s Word – but I believe that God is bigger and wilder and more creative in His way of speaking to people throughout the ages than anyone can begin to imagine. For what I found, as I read through the sacred texts, and the histories, is that there is a striking similarity in the stories and in the reactions of different peoples and cultures to their encounter with the Holy.
I think that God speaks through His Word – but I believe that He is bigger than His words – for what words can describe the majesty of the Holy?
As I drifted through the despair of fearing I’d lost my faith, I became puzzled that though I was not really reading the Bible or going to church – I felt as though God was still with me. I examined this, and began the painful process of digging into the rubble to separate what I truly *believe* from all the things I’ve been *told* throughout the years. I saw that I’d unconsciously absorbed other Christians’ ideas of God for some 20-odd years without ever sorting through the information to see what my beliefs were. I’d drifted unknowingly into the Evangelical Christian camp, following after my friends, without stopping to examine the path.
When the dust had settled and I could finally See again, I realized that I destroyed my own Faith by striving for faith. I can’t explain it, and many would find it heretical, but from the time I was a tiny girl I have always felt the Presence of God. And then religion came along and plopped itself on top of it. Somehow, when I got “saved” I got lost. I lost myself, I lost my way, I lost the Light.
And now I stand in unknown territory. For, I am a Believer, and yet not a “believer”. I do not believe that all paths lead to God. There’s a lot of superstition and nonsense out there, some of it dangerous. But, I believe that those who seek Him will find Him, and that those who follow the way of Truth are all brothers and sisters on the journey – and it has been so since the dawn of time.