...someone assumes if you JUST got to know Jesus as he really is, you'd be a Christian (again.)
I have two off-the-proverbial-cuff responses when I get this from a (usually well-meaning) person after they've learned I'm going a different direction with my spirituality.
1. Try to defend and explain, knowing it won't do a bit of good because we are simply speaking from two different brain ruts, although I condescend to at least have experience in their brain rut so I get where they're coming from. 'Course they don't believe that because surely, SURELY, if I had REALLY REALLY met Jesus I would NEVER leave the flock. What makes this frustrating is that the convo is over at that point. It won't be discussed again. Polite 'thanks for sharing' comments ensue, and they'll go on their merry way shaking their head. It's rather infuriating, but all I can do is share in honesty where I'm at and how I got there.
Unfortunately, I don't have a weekly meeting with other like-minded folks to reassure me of the validity of my brand of spirituality...I gotta go this alone, bravely, as the Buddha teaches. I don't have the luxury of having a single 'Book' that teaches all there is to know about the divine. Instead I forage around in the non-descript arena of facebook feeds and dusty shelves labelled 'spirituality' in which everyone simply shares their own journey. Don't get me wrong, it's fabulous knowing others are seekers like me, but to interact face-to-face as I did in the church, with others of similar persuasion, is something I certainly miss. Yoga classes come close, but then I have to sweat.
This response to engage the other person in a dialogue when you already know the outcome is well, dumb. But I do it anyway because it helps me continue to refine and define my experience (which is great because I don't get to do that every week in a church, see above). I suppose I hope it will also plant a seed of doubt, as devious as that seems. Yes, I see the irony. We all would love everyone.in.the.world. to think and believe as we do. It's such a warm, reassuring feeling when others believe as we do, like we're all 'right' or something, because how could it be wrong when so many believe it to be 'right'? But there's another reason to risk the vulnerability and rejection (and hearing "I hope you'll meet the real Jesus sometime" is a brush-off form of rejection not only of my beliefs, but of ME...as they assume I just haven't experienced God in the RIGHT way, THEIR way. If I had, I would be a christian....or a vegetarian, or a crossfitter, or whatev. We like to be validated, and bringing people to our way of thinking is the surest form of validation there is beyond a burning bush.) I choose to be vulnerable because I'm lonely, and the only way to find other pilgrims on the journey is to put yourself out there and see who responds.
I was vulnerable like that yesterday when I posted the link to this blog on a facebook thread. Someone commented on a picture and quote I shared from the Buddha....asking if I'd forgotten Jesus? That he is our hope? And so, because I want to keep relationship with this person, I offered to post a link to here, if they were interested in understanding where I was coming from. They were, and so I posted. I shared this link as well as this one.
The response was why I wrote this post. But not before sticking my head WAAAY out there again and responding on the thread one last time. Their comment was per usual "thanks for sharing, hope you'll meet the real jesus, and not let the idiots scare you away" (my paraphrase) Here's what I wrote (and it's darn good if you ask me):
Thanks for reading the posts....although I left the church because of the people, I left my beliefs about Jesus
thru my own study and experience. The 'story' just doesn't hold up for me anymore, and I've found other
avenues to satisfy my spiritual hunger. I enjoy knowing I can meet the divine in any individual if I take the
time to connect with their Being....a hard thing to do sometimes! I guess I don't think people are good or
bad: your comment that we're all 'quite the mess' is a belief I don't share...I think we're all just spirits having
a human experience with choices, and sometimes the choices of others affect us negatively. I felt I had a
'personal relationship' with God thru Jesus for many years, but now I don't believe in a personal god, just the
divine as it expresses itself thru the created world, including humans. I know you believe I just haven't
REALLY met Jesus, and if I did, then I'd be a christian again. (I've had others say this to me as well when
they hear of my new spiritual life, and honestly, it feels kinda patronizing, although I know their heart is in the
right place.) What I experienced as 'having a personal relationship with Jesus' was simply one avenue of
connecting with myself, others and the divine....in hindsight I don't necessarily believe there was a Person
outside myself who was speaking to me. I think it was my own divine nature (my Consciousness), and
because of my conditioning/surroundings, I assumed it was a personal God outside myself. Getting really
esoteric here. When I stepped back from my faith in the bible as the only way to know Truth, that unraveling
opened new ideas and hence, my heart. My journey has been to discover the spiritual without the specific
trappings of a christian understanding. I ask too many dangerous questions for most christian theology to
answer And while I still get pretty riled up about how some christians portray their faith in such narrow
terms, I mostly just don't pay attention anymore as it's so outside my experience now. Spiritually speaking,
I'm very content and secure in my not knowing some ultimate 'Truth'. Sorry for the length....
This person is intimately involved with their church family, works for the school at the church where their kids attend, lives in a neighborhood just down the street from their church where many fellow attenders also live. I don't have any illusions that my words will do anything other than help them understand I'm no longer a christian. The end.
And yet, still I responded. The last remaining reason for doing so is purely selfish.
I don't want to pretend around them anymore. I don't want them assuming I am how I've always been when I've changed. I totally relate to my gay friends when they 'come out'. It's hard to play a role you shed long before and really keep your integrity. If being real means some will reject any honest relationship with you, so be it. I'd rather not wait til my eulogy, as my mom did, to tell the world who I really am. Not that those who really loved her and kept relationship with her didn't know her or understand and accept her beliefs....but the many christians from her past who came to the service got themselves an eloquent, gracious earful....and Susie came gloriously exploding out of their tidy christian boxes. Talk about getting the last word ;)
And the 2nd off-the-cuff-proberbial response. Just walk away. Perhaps I need to exercise this response more often?