…walk a mile in my shoes…but bring them back when you’re done…I have a few more miles to go…
On my post here titled “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. it ain’t just a song”, I have been conversing with a gentleman regarding the state of my soul, and the validity of my experiences.
Now, I get where he is coming from, having once been in his shoes, at least metaphorically speaking. I once believed as he did. I once set out to save the souls of those around me from their wicked ways, even if, at the time, I didn’t really have any concept of what evil is.
For the most part, I have enjoyed the conversation and John, for his part held up his end of the “courteous discourse” agreement, so all in all I count the entire experience as a win in some regard. Neither of us has managed to change the other’s mind, but I never really set out to change John in the first place.
However, one thing keeps coming up in the conversation that sits uncomfortably for me. Time and again, John has taken what little he knows of me, based solely on the words he can read on the screen, and judged my intimate, personal experiences and dismissed them as though they meant nothing simply because they do not jive with his own.
Now, I am of the opinion that personal experience is really the only thing we have to go on when it comes to religion and faith. And, due to the nature of personal experience, it is personal. Intensely private, unsharable, and ultimately between you and whatever is out there that you connect to.
Of course, a huge part of this is tied to my understanding of Divinity, of the Divine and deity, of mankind and religion, of the whole crazy mess that is our existence…I would NEVER dream of telling someone that their religious experience was not real, or was a deception, or wrong.
I will say this about my experience as a Christian: it was real. I received healing, I felt the touch of the Divine. I saw into the ether and came back a changed individual. At the time, I called that feeling God and Jesus and Holy Spirit.
It wasn’t that that I walked away from. It was the teaching, the trappings, the things that contradicted with what I felt inside me.
Now, John would have me believe that none of that was real, that the whole thing, was in fact, the devil in disguise. But if that is true, then wouldn’t that make the devil more powerful than God? Also, really patient, after all I was a born again Christian for many, many years before I walked away…he would have had to endure more than ten years of me praying against him and casting him out and the like before he finally sprung the trap.
Not that there was a trap to be sprung. There wasn’t a moment where I just said “Okay, I’m done with this Christian stuff, what’s next?” It wasn’t like a worn out coat that I shrugged off and walked away from. There are still bits that cling to me, that pop up at odd moments…and I’ll always have the curiosity for the workings of the religion, for its history, and its development, for the ways it affect those who follow it and the myriad different ways those followers express their faith.
Ultimately, I don’t need John, or anyone else for that matter, to validate my experience. I was there. I know the truth. I know what I believed then, I know what changed inside me. I know how hard I fought to keep my faith. I know when I couldn’t ignore the doubt and disbelief anymore. In the end, it’s between me and the Divine, no matter what name you use for him/her/it.
You simply can not judge something that you did not experience. Even if you’re standing in my shoes, you’re not in my head, in my heart. You can not weigh my soul. At most, you can relay your experience and hope we find some common ground.
But bring my shoes back before you go, I have a few more miles ahead of me…
ETA: Apparently we have reached the end of the “courteous discourse” and John has signed off with name calling and vague “seek if you dare” type language. I’m sorry to see it end this way.