We must be sure to obey the truth we have learned already. -- Philippians 3:16
Sometimes I feel quite strange. I'm sure everyone feels this way at some point, or at many points, in their life. But the reason I feel this way at this point is because I believe God is directly guiding my life. Since I have not always believed this, and since I know that other people do not believe this to even be possible, every once in a while, I mentally take a step back and wonder, "Is this really happening? Or am I completely delusional?"
Such was the case last Friday when I read the words of Paul above. I was feeling like an oddball. I was feeling quite different from other people, but resigned. I wrote in my journal, "Many people may not understand me, but I am on a different path, and I must follow the guide in front of me, or I will be lost."
Primarily my feeling of oddness rests on the fact that there is such a coincidence between what I am thinking and what then comes up in my readings, or in the day's experiences. It's as if someone is listening to my thoughts, my questions, my concerns, and helping me sort them out, or giving me answers, or providing much needed support. When this first started happening, I both wanted and didn't want to talk about it. It was so different from anything I had experienced before, or ever heard of, that I thought everyone would think I was insane. I remember thinking that if I was insane, it was an insanity that I didn't want to lose.
Saturday morning, wanting to understand something about the different ways people experience God, I remembered a book I had read in college: William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience." I still had a copy of it on my shelves, so I pulled it down and started reading. It is an extraordinary book. Written in 1902, many of James' insights still ring true today. Unfortunately, I read that James believed that very religious people are neurotic, even psychopathic. Uh oh, that is not good. He goes on, however, to qualify that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Combined with superior intelligence, religious fervor can create "religious geniuses", the kind of people who make a change in the world for the better. Now that is more hopeful.
I read James' wonderful description of religion: "...it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto." (pg. 57) Regarding this unseen order, James writes, "It is as if there were in the human consciousness a sense of reality, a feeling of objective presence, a perception of what we may call 'something there,' more deep and more general than" any of our senses can reveal. "So far as religious conceptions were able to touch this reality-feeling, they would be believed in in spite of criticism, even though they might be so vague and remote as to be almost unimaginable...." (pg. 61). And then I read anecdote after anecdote describing ways specific people experienced God.
What a comfort these real-life experiences were to read, especially in light of my own sense of 'unreality.' To the degree these readings mirrored my own experience was the degree to which I felt God comforting me. One person explained: "God is more real to me than any thought or thing or person. I feel his presence positively, and the more as I live in closer harmony with his laws as written in my body and mind. ...He answers me again and again, often in words so clearly spoken that it seems my outer ear must have carried the tone, but generally in strong mental impressions. Usually a text of Scripture, unfolding some new view of him and his love for me, and instances, in school matters, social problems, financial difficulties, etc. That he is mine and I am his never leaves me, it is an abiding joy. Without it life would be bleak, a desert, a shoreless, trackless waste." (pg. 72). What can I say?
Thank you, dear God. I am so grateful that you have given me such examples of other ordinary people who experienced you working in their lives. I needed this. As you well knew. Love always, Pam