[Note: This piece was originally written in August of 2018 in response to a minister’s invitation to write a one page account of our faith in Christ and the impact that knowing Christ has had on our life. It has been slightly revised just prior to being posted here in November, 2018.]
As a child— terrified of going to hell — I was “saved” when I was 11 years old. At least I asked Jesus to save me–but did I really place my trust in him? Maybe not. In any case, although I was baptized that same year and continued to attend church and read the Bible, I lived in constant fear of taking communion unworthily and remained terrified that Jesus would return and I would be left behind. Alas, my Christian life was further complicated by my father’s unconventional beliefs. He had made a profession of faith as a young man— and continued to study the bible on his own —but he no longer went to church and was also rather critical of conventional Christian beliefs and practices. So while I attended church with my mother, I heard many of her beliefs called into question, at home, by my father.
In my mid-twenties— immediately after my father died —I began studying the Bible and praying with renewed intensity. But later on, I also began studying philosophy and biblical criticism and decided that I must abandon Christianity in any form since, 1) the doctrine of hell seemed inconsistent with the putative goodness and sovereignty of God; 2) the conflict between the flesh and the spirit seemed practically insurmountable; 3) historical biblical criticism seemed to undermine the veracity and authority of scripture; and 4) Nietzsche’s claims— that Christianity is false, life-denying, and morally hazardous —seemed disturbingly plausible. But over time, I realized that I was not really at peace with that decision. As a result, when I went to graduate school, I chose a Catholic university and decided, at some point, to put my critical questions on the back burner as I resumed my pursuit of God (without insisting on knowing the end from the beginning). I concluded that whether or not the biblical narratives are really historical— and whether or not the doctrines associated with them are entirely coherent —they may still point (in some symbolic or mystical way) to an eternal, living reality that is both accessible and salvific, here and now. Moreover, my study of The Perennial Philosophy suggested significant similarities between “the inner truth” of Christianity and that of other religions–lending support to the idea that whosoever will may come…
But while those considerations allowed me to circumvent the questions upon which my initial Christian hope had foundered, my new approach was still rather abstract—i.e. it still consisted more of intellectual beliefs and working hypotheses than it did of authentic, living faith. While I had been blessed with a number of significant insights over the years that had reinforced my pursuit of God and encouraged me along the way, something was still missing. I found out what that something was early in 2008 (during an excruciating time of personal and family trauma) as I listened to a series of recorded “webcasts” by Eckhart Tolle entitled: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Listening to those recordings, I clearly saw (and for the first time sincerely appreciated) the light of the world. I say “clearly saw” and “sincerely appreciated” because, although I had caught many glimpses of that light over the years, the scope and duration of those glimpses was very limited. Now I truly recognized and honored the living Christ. Looking beyond my very painful circumstances, I tasted perfect peace and rest in the “aware presence” or “alert stillness” in which any and all circumstances unfold. I realized that NOW is, in fact, the accepted time and that TODAY really is the day of salvation… Those webcasts helped me to distinguish between “the egoic mind” (with its running mental commentary
—dominated by fear and desire) and “the light of awareness” (aka unconditioned consciousness) which is always the same—yesterday, today, and forever… I immediately recognized the former as “the carnal mind” (the mind of the flesh) and the latter as “the Spiritual mind” (the mind of Christ). At that point, the stone which the builder rejected became, for me, the head of the corner as I truly gave my heart to Christ.
Make no mistake—my intention is not to promote any particular path or teacher, but to share the good news that we are not merely that which we think ourselves to be. We are not merely the products of natural history and biology; not merely the personal stories (from which we suffer so); and not just the bodies that we see when we look in the mirror. Rather, we are the light of the world—chosen/created in Christ! By virtue of our existence as human beings— created in image of God —we have a very intimate point of contact with our heavenly Father. That point of contact is the pristine light of awareness— our eternal life; the Divine presence, “I Am” —Christ-in-you, the hope of glory...
It should go without saying that the “I Am” presence has nothing to do with self-promotion or a “me first” attitude. Rather, it is about transcending the ego— through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit —as we become increasingly selfless in contemplation of the Divine presence that is with us always. The joy of our salvation is realized as our carnal mind is crucified with Christ and we become obedient from the heart. As such, we exchange our will for God’s will—we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God. By recognizing and honoring Christ in this way— by practicing the presence of God, here and now —nagging questions about the meaning of life (like those I inherited from my father) are finally resolved. And by realizing that Biblical narratives can be true on the inside— whether or not they are true on the outside —we can enjoy and relate to them in a more authentic way when participating in more traditional modes of religious expression (like those I learned in church with my mother).