Seeing the Light

This is a copy of a post I made elsewhere (I couldn’t help tidying up the grammar here and there). It is the story of my conversion to Christianity.

I freely recognise that my recollections of the events I describe are probably coloured by the interpretations I have placed on them since. Nevertheless, I will do my best to tell things as they happened.

So:

There was a time when I believed in God because people around me told me He was there. As I grew up, I became very sceptical, almost to the point of atheism. At 19 years old I came to a point where I decided I needed to what my life was really all about. I started to reassess everything in my life: my tastes, my dreams, my sexuality, my beliefs about God, my skills, my friendships… God was just something else on the list.

Eventually, I got around to the God question. At that time, I was more concerned with living in reality rather than favouring any particular interpretation of reality. On a friend’s suggestion, I went along to my University Christian Union.

In all the arguments that the Xians put forward, two things stood out to me. Someone had suggested that the whole Xian thing worked for her. That impressed me. Someone else said I should ask God to show himself to me. That sounded daft, as I did not believe God was real, but it still niggled at me.

After a couple of weeks I was persuaded that the people I met there were nice, honest but completely deluded. I decided that enough was enough. As I walked home from a dinner engagement with some of the Xians I had met, I decided that I would let them know I was not interested anymore and to move on to something else.

That night I was in bed, thinking over the day + the God question. It occurred to me that, in the unlikely event that God was real, he might be interested in revealing Himself. I realised that such a revelation was unlikely to be in the physical world. But I had recently started writing poetry. It came from somewhere within. My “spirit”, if you like. I wondered if that part of me might not contain a clue, some kind of maker’s mark. So as I lay there, I looked within, and asked God to show himself if he was really there.

I was absolutely astounded when suddenly KNEW, without any doubt, that God is real. I know it is a cliche, but it really is as if I had been blind, but now I could see.

Before I did anything about anything, I slept on things. Perhaps the Xians had got to me.

In the morning, I was curious to discover that I still KNEW.

Since that day, nearly 20 years ago, I have never stopped being able to SEE that God is still real. Sometimes, he seems very very dim, and I doubt that he was ever there at all. At other times he is vividly real.

I must make it clear that, at this point, I was FAR from being persuaded by any of the claims of Xianity, other than the claim that God is real. My conversion to Xianity itself to a lot longer.

I did not “experience” or “encounter” the Christian god. When I pressed my colleagues about those things which we do not speak, not one person at vespers had actually had an experience that could not be explained by scientific means.

I am constantly surprised by how many people put faith in a God that they have not experienced. It is not my place to question validity another person’s faith, but I simply cannot understand people’s accepting Xianity without having encountered God for themselves.

Amongst my Xian friends, such experiences seem quite the norm. Perhaps, as a group, we are the exception.

If you are not a Christian and you experience something divine, the experience is labeled something from the devil.

For what it is worth, I try to avoid any such labeling. I am nobody’s judge.

And even if you do actually “experience” something within Christianity, you are classified as a charismatic, or sometimes, more archaically, as a mystic and brushed aside as odd.

Or insane. Something I cannot absolutely rule out in my own case. But if I am stark-raving, then I am pretty high-functioning. I am intelligent, I hold down a job, have a family, a modest house, a car…

All in all, I don’t think the labels really help. If you must label me, then “odd” (or “weird”) sums me up rather well. But, I was both of those things before I “saw the light”.

Yet the majority of Christians do not have such mystical encounters, do they? But they still believe.

I find this very strange, too.

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5 Responses to Seeing the Light

  1. rogerjohnson says:

    You have it exactly right.
    This is how I have come to know that that is behind all being, behind all that I am,. This is not magic nor supernatural, this is rational, of experience.
    Every time I look at something Jesus was supposed to have said or done, especially at the end I realize that this is how he experienced the Spirit, and how he struggled to be even more than he was, and that is the message for all of us, has been since the time of Abraham.

    Paul Tillich is the most eloquent on this matter, far better than I am at describing this “ultimate concern”.

  2. kramii says:

    rogerjohnson:

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Roger Johnson says:

    Re-reading your post I come up with a question, one that I have spent some time considering:

    The undoubtable experiences your have, why do you come out as Christian?

    Could you not come out as a gnostic?
    Isn’t what you experience just that, ‘you know’?

    I think that the answer requires going through a second understanding or experience,
    one that I sometimes glimpse, but not completely yet.

  4. kramii says:

    Roger:

    Many thanks for your comments. Of course, you are absolutely right.

    I realise now that the problem with the post, as it stands, is that I wrote “It is the story of my conversion to Christianity” in the first paragraph. The truth is, I quite wrong to introduce the post with such a bold statement. In fact, the experiences that I describe were just a step along the journey – a significant step, admittedly – but just a step, nonetheless. And, of course, the journey continues.

    So, to be more accurate, the experiences that I recounted in my post were the reason I first became convinced that God was real, and that He wanted to reveal something of himself to me directly (rather than through nature, religion, other people or whatever). It actually took much more for me to embrace Christianity rather than Gnosticism or any of the other paths open to me.

    At first, I simply went along with the whole Christianity thing as a (quite conscious) matter of convenience. I had encountered God in a Christian context, so it made some sense to assume that the Christians I met had something worthwhile to say. On the other hand, at that stage, I was far from convinced that Christianity was *the* answer.

    For quite a while, I understood when Christains talked about the Holy Spirit, as the God that I had experienced sounded rathe like the Spirit that was being talked about. On the other hand, God the Father was more difficult to fathom. As for this Jesus fellow – I simply had no idea where He fitted in to anything.

    Again, you are absolutely right – there have been other experiences and understandings since (I will post one today, as a new article).

    To summarise about 20 years of ‘glimpses’ (and, therefore, to do little justice to the story) I have become convnced that the Biblical sorty of Jesus is central to a proper understanding of the God who continues to reveal himself to me.

    With reference to your question about gnosticism, I can only say that I don’t think that the gnostics were entirely wrong, but that they missed the real meaning of the things that their gnosis.

    Unfortunately, this cannot – indeed should not – persuade anyone of the validity of my conclusions. All I can say is that I have made some meagre efforts to explore the meaning of the glimpses that I have been allowed, and that I have been rewarded in these efforts by little insights into the ultimate meaning of our lives.

  5. Roger Johnson says:

    Dear Kramii:

    Thank you very much for your response, and my apology for not knowing that you had responded, blogging is new to me.

    Here is how I come to value Jesus Christ in a way that doesn’t fit the catholic creed as put together somewhat after the fact and for a variety of reasons.

    When Jesus was near his end point, when all hope of continuing to live was shriven he called upon God to help him, it was at this point, this pure point of being and non-being that he absolutely knew that God was not about this, about the mundane in any sense.

    It took that particular experience for Jesus to then realize what God was about, and it was at that point that he transcended. This is why it was necessary for him to go through the experience, and he knew it intuitively beforehand, had assistance from Judas to get to that point; this is how Jesus differs from prophets before and after him.

    I should put in a sparse description of how I came to where I am:
    About ten years ago I faced death, I truly believed that in about a quarter of an hour or so I would be dead; nothing that I had important prior to that time was of any help, nothing nor no one.

    I am going to leave out the circumstances that brought me to this point, because their dramatic nature might detract from what I am attempting to share.

    To see, to feel, to know that an abyss of pure blackness was right there, and that I was about to be into it is unlike anything I had experienced; it was as if I was naked, standing on a bare rock during a great storm, being scraped clean of anything that I thought was important.

    Obviously I didn’t die, but I was left with something that took months to face, that at that edge of non-being there was a presence, or a Presence; it was not a thing, not a noun as much as a verb, something that was through me, around me, was more me than I am myself. An experience I could not have had if I was not at that edge, ready to tip over. A Presence that had always been there, will always be, but I had had cloudy vision.

    I have spent this last decade reliving that experience, reading possible descriptions by others, talking to pastors of various flavors; and as I said it took me a long time to admit what I now knew.

    The above is disjointed, very much a work in progress, as you yourself well know.
    I think that it is that this will continue as ‘a work in progress’ that keeps me fresh and in the present with hope.

    Again, thanks for your thoughtful and open response, I trust that this discussion will continue.

    Roger

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