Sunday, May 1, 2011

Faith and Reason: A Crucial Balance (Part 3)

Reasons for my beliefs, and why I continue to have faith in spite of my doubts.

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            In light of my plethora of doubts concerning Biblical inerrancy, you probably wonder how I can still call myself a Christian. After reading this, you may not consider me to be one. Please understand that I used to be more skeptical than this. Coming to believe any part of the Bible at all was a seismic shift for me. I consider myself Christian for these reasons: I believe that Jesus is the messiah. I believe He is divine, and He is our savior. I strive to follow His laws, and I answer to Him. As Jesus is both human and divine, I think the Bible is both divine and human. We are creations of God, but we pale in comparison to Him. In the same way, how could the Bible be equal to God? How can a book translated by human scribes hold a candle up to our creator?
            I’ve had a lot of experiences that revealed the supernatural to me. I shared some of them in “Reasons to Believe,” but there are more. A certain one was particularly jarring and unpleasant. When I was fifteen years old, I experimented with a Ouija board. A member of my family also became deeply involved with it, and we used it together. We were obsessed for about a week. We spent hours asking it questions. She carried it around with her. At one point I asked a spirit to “give us a sign” of its presence. Immediately, the light switched off. There was a tray of Snapple in the room, and the Snapple started sloshing around inside the bottles. No one was moving the Snapple, and no one was near the light switch. There was no wind, and none of the other lights in the house had turned off. We should have heeded the warning and stopped right away, but it wasn’t enough for us. We were curious and excited about the encounter, and wanted to see more. Later that week, the apparition of a face surfaced on my relative’s fingertip. It appeared suddenly and wouldn’t wash off no matter how hard she scrubbed it. The face was tiny, with a menacing sneer. It was the most disturbing thing I had ever seen. She showed it to my mom, who thought it had been drawn on her finger. However, the image was far too small and intricate for her to have drawn. We both saw it appear out of nowhere. She and I burned the Ouija board and I prayed for God to drive the demon away. Afterwards, the face finally vanished from her skin. It left us both very shaken, and neither of us ever touched a Ouija board again.
            I know that sounds quite far-fetched, and many of you will write it off. In fact, some of you might decide I’m completely insane and disregard anything I say from now on. It’s okay; you’re not obligated to believe me. I won’t expect you to believe it if you’ve never had a similar experience. I can only affirm that I witnessed this event, and that the other girl involved will verify it if you ask her. I don’t have a history of seeing or hearing unusual things. This was pretty much an isolated incident, and a few other people in my family saw the face as well. They tried to assign a natural explanation, as did I. I researched shared hallucinations and learned that if two people are psychotic or under the influence of certain drugs, they can influence each others' hallucinations by discussing them. The hallucinations are never identical, though. People can share delusions, but these differ from hallucinations. Delusions don't actually cause you to see things. She and I didn't discuss the apparition, though. We saw it, and neither of us have a history of psychosis. We both know what really happened. I learned not to meddle with occult games. There is a certain thrill to them, because they feel as if you are sneaking into the spiritual realm instead of knocking on the door and asking to be invited in. Regardless, the consequences are not worth the excitement.
         Aside from that episode, I’ve read and heard many stories that further confirmed my belief in the supernatural. I learned of a phenomenon in which identical twins feel pain when the other is injured or in danger, even if their twin is far away. I spoke to a woman who told me about a time in which she felt a sudden urge to take a new route home, and it turned out that she narrowly escaped a car accident that could have killed her. Numerous people report sightings of spectral figures. One of my teachers at the Fairfield Brio told me that her mother had passed away in the bathroom, and my teacher’s son was unaware of it. When he was four years old, he visited his late grandma’s house and his grandfather mentioned her. The child asked, “You mean the lady in the bathroom?”
        Upon reading these accounts, some may acknowledge that these sound supernatural but wonder why I identify with Christianity specifically. A large extent of my faith is rooted in the saga of Aunt Mary.
        After she died, I found a huge collection of her old diaries. I buried myself in them for weeks, hoping to find answers to the mysteries of her life. Soon, I noticed a distinct pattern. Whenever I was reading one of her journals and had a question about her life, I would find the answer on the next page. This happened so many times in a row that there was no way I could call it a coincidence, especially since the questions and answers were so specific. I wondered what she’d wanted to do once she graduated from college, and immediately found an essay she wrote about her wish to become an art teacher. I wondered if she’d written anything about my mother, and then found an entry about her on the next page. I wondered if she’d ever written about me, and found a poem on the following page which was addressed directly to me. She wrote it for me a week after I was born. It was a beautiful heartfelt message about how she was so thrilled to meet me and hoped I would have a wonderful life. At one point I was feeling sad as I read her journal, because she sounded depressed and lonely in so many entries. I wondered if she’d had enough joy in her life, and if I’d helped to make her any happier. I thought I had read all the entries. There was a long series of blank pages. I flipped through the book, and felt as if my fingers were magnetically drawn to a certain page. I didn’t know why, since I assumed it was blank. Amidst the bare sheets there was a page with a single sentence jotted on it. It read, “If I die soon, then everyone will know I had a good life. If I live longer, then everyone will know they helped make it that way.” When I read it, the hair stood up on the back of my neck and my skin prickled. I cried in complete relief and gratitude. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
       There is a lot more to Mary’s story, but the most poignant part came a month later. On September 10th, a month after she died, her friend called my grandmother’s house. A poem had popped up in his head and he didn’t know where it came from, but he knew it was addressed to Mary and felt suddenly compelled to share it with my grandma. This is the poem:

A Shepherd's Voice
For Mary

It is I who heals the memories of yesterday’s pain
Remember, I go where no man can go—in pure light
Yes, I, Lord of it all.
You will not travel through this darkness alone.
You’re my creation
Wherever you go, I will follow.
My lovelight, bear it bright!
Night and day, day and night.
We are partners in rhythm, partners in grace
Lock into Me, moving, a fiery embrace
We will each take turns whispering,
“Let me lead,” “Follow me,” “Love Me,”
“Walk on.”

            When Mary’s friend wrote this down, he didn’t know she had died.
            I didn’t realize how many Biblical layers are in this poem, but they run deep. First, there’s the reference to the Lord as a shepherd. Then it mentions the realm of pure light (the Father), where only the Son can approach. This tells me that Jesus is addressing her in the poem. I was initially confused by the line “You’re my creation,” but then I learned that Jesus did create the universe along with God. The Bible lists Jesus as a creator, and says that He always existed. God didn’t “make” Him. He did not always exist in human form, but He always existed in spirit.

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