"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
"If then your whole body is flooded with light, and no corner of it is darkness, it will be completely illuminated as when a lamp's rays engulf you."
-Luke/Sayings Gospel Q, 11:36
So I always resist writing about this event because I cannot fully explain it.
It has been the defining moment of my short life, and I know, no matter how long I live, that it will always be the most defining moment. You see, you have to understand that I was raised an atheist. There was no religious dogma or ideology in my house. My feeble grasps at God began as ventures into fantasy writing, palm readings, tarot, and a fascination with the arcane. I wanted the unexplainable to be true. But logically, I knew it couldn't be. I knew that ghosts, magic, and psychic powers were all just things of fancy. But I wanted it. Because I was so young, I couldn't identify my longings. I just knew that something was out there, something was missing, my family's explanations of life were logical and yet not fulfilling. I needed to find an answer that was substantial and satisfying.
When I was 10, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. That year, I moved 2000 miles away from her to be raised by my father, who had previously been absent in my life. My parents were not divorced, but because of financial circumstances, my father had to work in Los Angeles, CA while my mother lived in Washington state. The move was a hard one. I had never been separated from my mother before and I missed her sorely. At the same time, I was rejected by the children at my new school because I was shy, androgynous, and didn't know anything about the LA lifestyle.
I was isolated. My mother's cancer ate away at her until she died two years later, when I was 12. By this time, I still identified as atheist, but I had been frantically searching for a meaning in all of the emotional hardship and life changes around me. I knew there had to be an answer, and countless times I had prayed and cried out to God, but never had there been a reply, and I was angry and unconvinced. I sought out religious friends and argued with them until they couldn't stand me anymore. Some still don't speak to me.
When my mother finally died, although it happened 2000 miles away from me, I was awash with guilt. I blamed myself for wasting the time I had had left with her. I also blamed myself for her death, because I hadn't prayed or asked God to save her life (this is a child's logic... but it was also a very real emotion that arose from my heart.) I knew it made no real sense, and yet the guilt ate away at me like a wild thing. I couldn't help but feel like if I had done something different, anything different, I could have saved her.
About three weeks after her death, the guilt and misery reached a breaking point. I was sitting on my bedroom floor attempting to read a fantasy novel that centered around Celtic mythology, and I remember that I couldn't focus. I put the book down. I fell to my knees as a crashing wave of guilt and sorrow swelled through me, and I cried out -- God, I am sorry. God, please forgive me, I am so sorry.
At that moment, a force rushed through me that I could only describe as lightning. I cried out, and a wave of purity blasted through me, so powerful that I couldn't breathe. I opened my eyes, and I could feel love everywhere, the most divine, perfect love that I could ever perceive, so perfect that it was beyond comprehension, beyond name. The force of that love was so strong that it made me feel like I was exploding, like if it was any stronger then I would die from it. Then suddenly I was aware of an overwhelming consciousness, a presence in everything around me, as though I had been swallowed by the most beautiful music.
I looked down at the book, and threw it away from me, for the very thought of fantasy and polytheism suddenly disgusted me. The thought of atheism and man's lonely existence disgusted me. The disgust I felt was beyond physical; it was the knowledge of suddenly seeing God, of feeling God all around me and inside of me, and realizing how very wrong everything was. I stood up and went into my living room, awed by my new eyes, and looked out of my living room window. I was struck a second time by the intense presence of God, because as I looked outside and saw the trees, the grass, the sky, the cement -- I felt an intense connection in everything. God was everywhere. He was in the air, in the water, in the couch beneath me and the lungs I breathed with. Everything was connected. It was connected by perfect, divine love, and it was all in front of me.
That love changed something inside of me. It became me. I was, in every meaning of the word, reborn. My eyes were new, my thoughts were new, the world was new. I sat and breathed God and knew my source, and knew that this love was my most divine purpose; that somehow, I was seeing beyond the physical, and that everything was united and created through love. An overwhelming compassion filled me. I wanted to give this love to others. I wanted to do anything to stop people from suffering. I wanted to serve. I knew that my richest, most rewarding purpose was to serve others, and I no longer had a choice. God's love was so powerful inside of me that to act against it made me feel physically ill.
You have to understand that I was only 12. I couldn't put it into words... and who would believe me? It was a strange sensation; I felt like God wanted me to speak, but every time I would try, people's rejection would hurt too much. I was still very sensitive. I told my father that I believed in God, but he brushed it off as a symptom of grief. It would be three years before I told anyone again about my experience. I felt like I had been given a secret, and it was easier to keep it to myself than to suffer through the misunderstandings of others.
At first I thought that everyone who believed in God must have had the same intense awakening as I did (because what else did they believe in, exactly?). It took a long time, but I slowly came to realize that the people around me, even the kinder ones, even the heavily religious ones, were in many ways oblivious to what I continued to see. I grew up in an uncomfortable in-between; knowing God in everything around me and my own heart, yet unable to fold myself into a religious ideology, because I couldn't stand the hypocrisy of most believers. I prayed nightly for God to be my teacher, and show me the truth of the world. I prayed nightly to show the world God's truth.
I am Christian now, but I can't accept that there is only one way to understand faith. I read the teachings of Christ when I was 16 and I have been baptized since, but I still feel that the purity of my experience with God far surpasses anything else, and I understand that this experience has been written about in all religions. I see the effects of God's presence constantly in my life. In fact, He has made my life. He has created the person I am.
So when I speak of God, please listen, because my faith is genuine. God made me the way I am for a reason. This journal is not meant to be read as a permanent ultimatum or new doctrine; this journal, rather, is a journey of faith, a documentation of my spiritual growth and understanding of God. I mean this journal to inspire you, whether you are Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, or any of the other countless doctrines that exist in the world. This journal is, in fact, my heart, and is written with sincerity and love. I will never hide anything from you; not my doubts, my conflicts, my mistakes or my hiccups of faith. Here I am, I am not perfect, but I am happy to share God with you, because He has given me the gift of writing and the grace of knowing Him, and I would like to share my faith with the world.
I am simply, humbly, reverently defined by God's love, and my only desire is to love you the same way.
"He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye." ~Buddha
"God is LOVE. Whoever lives in LOVE lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:16
“Unity is divinity; purity is enlightenment." ~Sri Sathya Sai
"The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through." ~Edna St. Vincent Millay
"When I saw others straining toward God, I did not understand it, for though I may have had him less than they did, there was no one blocking the way between him and me, and I could reach his heart easily. It is up to him, after all, to have us, our part consists of almost solely in letting him grasp us." ~Rainer Maria Rilke
"God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed." ~Saint Augustine