I have never been particularly religious. My family was not particularly religious, except perhaps for short periods at various times in various individual lives. I did not grow up with a particular religious slant.
My father was a professional educator and held his profession in high esteem. I grew up in the 60's, an era when science was given great weight in education. I valued science as a model of how we should think, and desired knowledge in a way that was probably religious in nature. However, God was not a common subject in the course of my growing up, and not often on my mind.
Even so, in some early day of my life I one night felt the vastness of the universe and the smallness of my place in that vastness, and cried out for God to love me. I experienced a warmth of love in that moment. It was a childhood epiphany.
It did not send me off on some grand quest, or cause me to commit my life to some great cause. It was just a moment in my life. A profound experience, and one that remains clear after a great many years. However, it is still only one of many experiences that made up my early days.
My second epiphany occurred years later. I had abandoned finding meaning and purpose for myself through endless acquisition of knowledge. I was on a spiritual quest, seeking some idea or experience that would define my life and give it purpose.
The path I was following was a self-made path. I had learned that elements of the Hindu faith were among the oldest know religious beliefs, and so I was trying to acquire knowledge of these beliefs through reading Hindu literature and practicing what I could learn of Yoga through books. I was opening myself up to mystical experiences that were not defined by reason alone.
During this time I was exposed to the witness of a fervent Christian. He had a depth to his belief that was greater than I had seen in other Christians. After months of talking and listening, he took me to a church.
Foreshadowing my epiphany and subsequent conversion to the Christian faith was a period I refer to as a pursuit by the Hound of Heaven. It was like God Himself was herding me toward the Christian fold. I tried to evade through argument and periods of drug and alcohol use, but it proved to be not enough to escape the Hound of Heaven.
Thus I found myself in a Christian church, surrounded by Christians and their doings. In that place a great golden light just beyond actual seeing flooded the church, and bathed me in a warm glow. It was like my childhood epiphany, but many times greater. I sensed a vastness and agelessness and a depth of love greater than I could grasp or express. It was something I simply had to accept, or reject.
I accepted. Not being particularly religious nor particularly fond of religious motions I continued my spiritual quest as a personal journey. At times I have shared in fellowship with other Christians, but I never fully accepted the culture. It did not seem necessary.
I still value reason, and think it should be applied to all learning and experience. However, neither my reason nor the reason of others is sufficient to judge all things. I continue to embrace mystery as a valuable part of all that is, as well as such knowledge as I have acquired and such knowledge as others will share with me.
Over time I have studied several systems of theology, and had fellowship with many different Christian groups. Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that our reason is an aspect of our faith, it is not the whole of our faith. Our relationship with God is dynamic and experiential. It is informed by customs, traditions, doctrines and most importantly the Bible. However, what is most real at any moment for any believer is the experience.
Epiphany is not the normal mode of experiencing God. Though I have had two such experiences, it is a tiny part of my overall Christian experience. It is a tiny part of my human experience. Important, defining, but still just a part.
These experiences have informed my approach to evangelism (sharing the faith with those who do not yet believe) and interacting generally with other people. I cannot expect, much less demand, that others follow the same path I have followed. No, I can share my experiences, share what I know, and even offer advice and encouragement.
In the end I can simply be part of their experience, found on their own path. I can afford to be genuine, rather than a "fake" Christian. That means that they will see that Christians are not always nice or pleasant. I certainly am not. By being myself just as I am in my place along my path I can be available as an element in the experiences of others.
It is quite possible that I shall be some other person's epiphany.
Not likely, but with God who can say?
2 days ago