Brief Background: After 40 years as mostly an agnostic (don't know, so will concentrate on things I do know), I'm trying to get back to the faith I had as a child, or maybe some new adult version. At first it was just a pleasant exploration, but it's become very important to me, mostly due to some experiences that may have been from God, described in detail in earlier blog entries.
Well. For a while I was trying to get pastors to talk to me (three of them), but it was hard to find one with the time for all the things I wanted to talk about. There really *are* a lot of things. And today, I just realized that the things they said, I wouldn't pay much attention to if they contradicted those experiences of mine. So basically I shouldn't be talking to pastors much.
So. What do I go by? Those experiences that may have been from God? The Bible? The Christian tradition? Aarrrrghhh!
When I started this exploration-become-serious, I chose the Christian faith because so many people worldwide have that faith, and I think that since God wouldn't want to deceive us, that was the most likely one. So I wanted to follow their traditions too. Only problem is that some Christians would follow the Bible, some would follow their personal experiences--so that's no answer to my question. They don't agree on whether there's a Satan or a Hell, but those are pretty much the traditional views.
The ten commandments--easy to follow and the kind of things I want to do anyway. That sense of right and wrong that usually is so obvious--great. But some of the traditions are different too--Infant baptism or adult, that kind of thing. The leap of faith, or waiting for God to give you faith?
Since I apparently don't know how to make that leap (I tried), I think I have to do the latter. I keep trying to listen, to have an open mind, to detach from the part of my mind that looks for proof and tries to "figure out" such things that probably have more to do with another kind of thinking and feeling, like intuition.
Those personal experiences--they have meant a lot to me. Was I deluding myself because I want to believe? Maybe, but I would have to be one really clever person, since so many of them involved an answer or experience that I wasn't expecting and had not thought about, or wasn't just the way I hoped it would be. I would have to make things up that I hadn't thought about before, and deceive myself, and not know I was doing it. Hmm, not likely.
So I think, and I hope, that I should follow those experiences first of all. But about Satan and Hell, there was no guidance. It was just God, calm, caring, forgiving. He didn't seem to be worried at all. He seemed to have everything under control. Well, one time, he seemed a little sad, but this is the time I have the least faith in--I might have done that one. But I've never thought of God as sad, so maybe that's a real one too. (I like to think that He made the answers so not-me to show me that it *was* Him and not me.)
Why was He sad? It was just a little sad, more like regret. He was looking at Earth and regretting--how we were treating each other? How we were trashing up the planet? That we had to suffer, which was all right because there was a good reason for it, but He was still sad that we were suffering? All of the above? I don't really know.
So anyway. There was no mention about Satan or the Bible in these experiences. God was too calm for there to be any trouble with Satan, if such a being exists. About Hell, I'm not as sure. I like to think that I was able to experience God and His calm and His forgiving because I don't have to personally worry about Hell, and because there *was* a Heaven, and these times of feeling Him there was just a preview of what Heaven would be like (it was magnificent just to be with God--imagine that for eternity!) I also like to think that nobody goes to Hell--I can't imagine the God I think I was in contact with, wanting to give anyone that much punishment, but I know it's in the Bible, so I'm stuck on this one.
The Bible, though... sometimes it too contradicts my experiences. But it's part of the Christian experience, probably the most important thing.
One idea I have: that other state of mind. I try to use it when the Bible seems to contradict itself. In God's whole world, that we may not totally undertand, it may be that two things that contradict each other can both be true. I try to read the Bible in that light--experience it without criticizing it. without being so hung up on what's "correct" or consistent in our understanding. This actually works. I didn't think it would; I thought my agnostic, science-loving mind would refuse to. But no--I can just read the Bible and take it in and let it be what it is.
So... some months ago, during my best experience of being with God, I asked Him to take charge of my life and show me where to go with it. I think that the thing about free will is that He waits for you to ask, so if you don't want to, you don't have to.
But I did ask, and have asked again since then. I have faithfully followed that path, even when not sure He's really there. If He is there, if that was Him--just on the chance, I'll never stray. And I'll do things that I think would make Him less sad--treating other people better, treating the beautiful environment of earth better, and anything else I can think of. Believe me, if that was God, He is so wonderful that you want to make Him happy because you love Him that much.
Anyway, since I asked for His help, if that was Him, I think He is leading me where I should go. Since I still feel the Bible is important, even though I wasn't told it was specifically, I should keep reading it. If it contradicts my experiences that may have been from God--I'll remember that God's world may be more complex and open than we can understand, and again, both can be true.
Maybe that's also the answer to the problem that God is kind and wouldn't want anyone to suffer, but Christian tradtion and the Bible says some people are going to Hell (although some people disagree). Maybe both are somehow true. Maybe somehow it works out for the best.
Since I want to make God happy, and I enjoy church and the Bible and prayer so much, having asked for God's guidance, I think I should keep doing them. And I hope He is watching my efforts, seeing me listening for Him, seeing how much I want Him to be happy--and smiling, however God does that.
I don't know if anyone will read all this, but if you do I hope you find something good in it. My main purpose is to save these journals so I can look back on them and see my progress. I know there has been some, maybe a lot. When I feel discouraged, like I'm getting nowhere, maybe that's when I'll go back and read.
Keep your eyes on Him, Anne, and He will lead you. He will honor your faithfulness and will show you the things He wants you to understand. They change along the way: that's okay. He reveals more and more of Himself to us as we grow and lifts our confusion from us. Blessings, Peggy
Just re-discovered your blog (haven't read it since that first initial post) and I still think it's awesome. Reading this last one, I'm so glad you are continuing to post. And if you ever figure out how to make that 'leap' of faith let me know because mine's more of an awkward hop (and a not so graceful one at that sometimes). If a mustard seed amount of faith could make a mountain fall into the sea, mine's probably no larger than a speck of dust. I'd sign up for more faith if there was a sheet being passed around somewhere and I definitely still have questions at times. Especially when attempting to reconcile the trademark Catholic concepts of my husband with the ideas of the Jehovah's Witnesses that show up at my door (I think they keep coming back because I chat with them when they show up) and meanwhile I keep up with my favorite non-denominational church via their podcasts.