Life has a funny way of getting crazy. For us, these last couple of years have been crazy, filled with both the good and the bad, lots of stress, and an abundance of God’s grace. As a result, I’ve really had very little time to sit down and write, though the thoughts are constantly going through my head.
As a kid who was raised around Protestants, one thing that was constantly emphasized was having an “experience” of God or of Jesus. This, of course, makes sense, because without any sort of Liturgical consistency, without believing that what we partake of in Communion is the true body and blood of Christ, basically the best one can hope for is some sort of religious experience.
For me, this didn’t sit right, though I didn’t understand why. I think part of it comes from the fact that when one “accepts Christ into your heart”, there is supposed to be some sort of feeling of certainty that one does, in fact, “belong to Jesus”. Even from the time I was very little I tried to do the thing that God instructs in the Bible, and I wanted to go to Heaven and be with God when this life ends. But I don’t know when I “accepted Jesus”, because I think I asked for it each time we were invited to in school, and I daresay a good number of other times as well. I don’t want to say it was meaningless, because, of course, it’s not, but I never had the kind of religious experience I figured would accompany the certainty of the enormity of such an action.
Many years later, I became an Orthodox Christian. It was comforting, on many levels, that the idea of religious experience is really downplayed. One doesn’t need a miracle to worship, to pray, to integrate ones’ self into the fabric of the Church. Things ‘otherworldly’ are met with some skepticism, with the realization that we, as mere mortals, can be tricked and confused by many things disguised as ‘religious experience’, and that we ought to be wary of it.
The down side to this is that it seems like many believe that the only people who have genuine ‘religious experiences’ ought to be monks, nuns, and clergy. Therefore, now being an Orthodox Christian, when I do feel like there has been something in my life that one could call ‘religious experience”, it’s hard sometimes even to discuss it. I’m sure that this is the case for some Protestants as well, but I grew up around people who regularly told stories of the inexplicable that they chalked up to God’s working in their lives; God called them to do this, God made something happen, etc. Surely it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge that when we endeavor to follow God, He works wonders in our lives. However, when this is the only thing that people have to try to ascertain whether one is on the right path, it can be a dangerous thing as well.