The ask: give a testimony.
The challenge: to give it in five minutes or less......
My spiritual journey began over 40 years ago, when, I had a very vivid spiritual experience that I think is expressed very well in a phrase of one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs:
"When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye, I turned to look but it was gone...."That experience left me knowing deep in my being that there was more going on in life than what I was perceiving - there was a love; a reality that transcended time and personality. At that time I was pretty "unchurched" as they say. I had no context in which to comprehend this reality.
I went on a religious quest.....what I had sensed in my spiritual experience was a "re-connection" with something beyond time and space - a greater reality.
When I found out that the meaning of the word "religion" was to "re-connect" (from the Latin "re-ligare") I sought the "religion" that would enable me to do that.
So I began a long, sometimes desperate search for the source of this experience. As someone who was decidedly anti-church at the time, I headed far eastward - Meditation, Hinduism, Sufism, Buddhism - you name it.
I even signed on with a few gurus and spiritual teachers along the way; (I'd love to tell you all the gory details - but you'll have to talk to me later if you're interested.) I really left no stone unturned in trying to grasp whatever or whoever was at the source of this transcendental and unconditional love.
I went around in circles many times - and although I never settled down at any of these stops on the journey - I found something valuable in each of the paths I followed. One valuable insight that I've gained - and it is precious to those of you who have friends of other faiths or traditions; each and everyone of the spiritual paths I followed claimed Jesus as a supreme example of one of their own.
To the hindu, Jesus is a great Avatar - an incarnation of God. To the Mahayana Buddhist, Jesus is a great Bodhisattva; one who lives a sacrificial life and forsakes himself for the benefit of others. To the Muslim, Jesus is a great Prophet, a Rasool; the very Spirit of God. So, despite my personal resistance to investigating Christianity; which I had thought was out of touch with reality - I began to investigate it.
My first encounter with Christianity was through a Mega Church that was seeker-friendly - and I got swept up in the emotional fervor and became a "born again, evangelical." Something that I'd never thought I'd hear come across my lips.....
I became disenchanted with the Mega Church format after awhile (another long story) - so I went back to Buddhism - where it was claimed that there was no God or Theology. But a good friend, a fellow Buddhist as a matter of fact - introduced me to the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity - in particular, some of the writings of Russian Orthodox Theologians and Teachers.
I came across the works of Fr. Alexander Schmemann - and to this day I will be grateful for a book called "For the Life of the World," for opening my eyes to the source of "the fleeting glimpse."
In this book, Fr. Schmemann steps outside of all the various so-called denominations of the church (small "c") and speaks of the Church (Capital "C") - and helped me realize that what made Christianity different and deeper than any other spiritual truth, was that it was the only religion where God had assumed full responsibility for the re-connecting. In fact, in one of my favorite passages in the book - Fr. Schmemann makes this amazing statement:
"Christianity, however, is in a profound sense the end of all religion. In the Gospel story of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus made this clear. ‘Sir,’ the woman said to him, ‘I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus saith unto her, ‘Woman, believeth me, the hour cometh, when ye shall, neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. . . . But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such a worship to Him.’ (Jn 4:19-21, 23). She asked him a question about cult, and in reply Jesus changed the whole perspective of the matter. Nowhere in the New Testament, in fact, is Christianity presented as a cult or as a religion. Religion is needed where there is a wall of separation between God and man. But Christ who is both God and man has broken down the wall between God and man. He has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion.'"NOW
So I came back to Christianity - not as a religion among many - but as the underlying healing that has resolved all need for religion as a means to access God. God is here, now - we no longer need a means to re-connect. I also began to see that all other religions contain truth - but Christianity is the FULNESS of that truth.
There are so many things I could share about the liberating power of this message. The truth is no longer a set of suppositions to believe - it is a reality that exists beyond my understanding of it. And because Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection occurred in physically reality - the physical reality of birth, life, and death has been transformed - God is no longer distant - no longer outside of us. We are indeed living in a new creation.
Now I continue the journey of salvation - which is not an event - but a process that has been going on since the beginning of time because of the timeless love of an incredible God.
Glory to God.