Spiritual with Buddhist Leanings in an Evangelical Family: Part One

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One of the challenges of writing about my Near Death Experience is the disdain I will feel from family members once this novel is published.  Not only am I “too liberal for Texas” (except for that lovely blueberry Austin), but I am also an outcast in my family for my spiritual beliefs.  In my family, there seems to be a contest in place.  The more pious and judgmental you are, the more “holy” and “Christian” you are.  Hate, judgement, and disdain for others is not at all what the light demonstrated to me. 

Love, acceptance, and compassion are traits that are closer to God.  If these traits are expressed through a sermon and a church, then this is a good sermon and a good church.  If hate, fear, and judgement prevail, you’ve got the wrong spiritual leader and the wrong establishment.  Don’t drop money in the collection plate.

I’ve told my story to the Bio Channels’ I Survived Beyond and Back Series, and briefly to a researcher for an article in National Geographic, but I’ve never asked my family members if they wanted be interviewed.  I worry that my mom might talk about how she thinks my near death experience is “of the devil.” 

A few months after my accident when she handed me a pamphlet from her church citing examples of suicide among a few people who experienced the other side, I felt only sadness that she believed arguments about NDEs from people who had never experienced an NDE.  The claim made by a minister was that these experiences took people away from the church, encouraged them to get divorced, and made them more suicidal.  I haven’t personally heard of anyone committing suicide after having an NDE.  I know I had a much greater joy for life after my experience, and this trait is common among NDEers.  I saw God in everyone and unlimited possibility for each person.

I tried to imagine why someone might commit suicide after an NDE.  Perhaps, if a person already suffered from depression  or addiction before their NDE and didn’t address these issues after the NDE, suicide might be an option.  In that case, the suicidal person needed therapy, recovery, and other forms of healing to help with depression and/or addiction.  These particular cases didn’t need to be made into an example of why NDE’s are “from the devil.”  That is not logical reasoning.  The pamphlet my mom gave me reeked of fear and hatred of anything that contradicted the box that minister lived inside.  The pamphlet didn’t change my mind; rather, it affirmed that fear and a lack of compassion for others is not of God.

Even recently, LifeWay Christian bookstores pulled all books relating to near death experiences, citing that they would “refer the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”  Specifically, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper was pulled along with other titles.  I am aware that my audience will not be Baptists and Evangelicals, so this decision does not disturb me.  I’ve seen people coming from these places of fear write reviews for books that I adore, especially Proof of Heaven.  The more Godly thing to do with one’s time is to focus on love, not hate, to focus on helping others.  Writing angry reviews seems a waste of time, and it seems better to focus on authors and writing that brings joy to one’s life.

Many of these angry reviews also claim that those who write about NDEs, do it only to make money.  Most people who labor to write a book, labor to write out of love and conviction.  They hope that others will be touched by their message.  They hope to connect.  No writer knows in the middle of the struggle to complete a book if their book will be a bestseller or not.  They only know they must write.  Criticisms that people write these books only to make money don’t take into account how much time, blood, sweat, and tears goes into writing a novel.  All that time and passion given to the page is a gamble, like anything else, not a guarantee of success.  Most writers can only hope they have an audience.

In my memoir in progress, Healed, I write about how my mom handed me a pamphlet from her church which attempted to discredit NDEs.  I hoped to better understand why Evangelicals fear those who have had personal experience with the light.  I also wrote about when I first told her about my experience, and I was still quite groggy after surgery. 

I don’t think my NDE contradicts the love and teachings of Jesus, but I didn’t see Jesus specifically during my NDE.  Pure love and understanding that surpasses all human reasoning is not “of the devil,” and my experience showed me more beauty and love than I ever imagined possible.  I saw that people were either shrouded in darkness or operating from a place of light.  Fear is darkness.  An absence of goodness is darkness. Love is the light.  Doing good things for others and the world is how we live in the light. My mission on earth is to remind people of their light and their ability to spread light in this world.

Excerpt from Healed  

I wanted very much to describe what I saw on the other side, and I remember saying, “Mom, I died.  I saw the other side, you know?”

She nodded and replied, “Did you see Jesus?”

My heart sank.  I knew she wouldn’t understand my experience or be enthusiastic about it if I told her no.  I also felt groggy from the medication, tired, and in pain.  I wanted to feel someone else’s excitement, so I said yes.  The Light could have contained the beauty of Jesus, even though I didn’t see a human form depicting him. But it was a hollow yes.  A yes to avoid an argument I wasn’t strong enough to have at that moment.

The light was lovelier than anything I had ever imagined in Sunday school, and I wanted mom to understand that we are not judged as her religion claims we will be.  After all, I was an insecure, depressed, college student; lost, deeply afraid, and experimenting with drugs, but the light had nothing but compassion for me.  This amazing divine light gave me deeper, more complete love than I had ever conceived possible.  For so long I had been hungry for total acceptance, and I found it on the other side.    She smiled sweetly and patted my hand as if I were only a child, years behind her in spiritual understanding.

I realized that although I needed to share my experience, she was not the best audience…..

 

5 thoughts on “Spiritual with Buddhist Leanings in an Evangelical Family: Part One

  1. I have never had a NDE, but I have been thrown into the lions den before. I can relate to your testimony in a way. I know about judgement and how crippling it can be in someone’s life if we allow it. God called me into the ministry in 2008. I had so much support and all was going well until 2010 when my wife had me locked for a crime I did not commit. When I got out friends said they were their for me and that I should share my story with others. But, I started noticing judgmental statements here and there that made me feel uncomfortable. Then in 2011, my wife filed for divorce, because she was in love with a man that was serving a 23 year prison sentence. When our divorce was final, I was informed that God could not use me because I was divorced (she committed adultery, not me). I could not remain somewhere where I felt more judgment than acceptance. I met my new wife, who accepted me for who I was and showed me love I have never felt before. I moved to Fort Worth and began a new life. I began to go to my wife’s church where had been attending for a few years. I met with the pastor and other leaders and shared my testimony with them. They replied “you are exactly who God is looking for, for the ministry.” I now have my pastoral district license which allows me to preach anywhere I am asked to. God is about love. His grace was poured out upon us, so that we may become a lighthouse (beacon) for him. There is too much judgement in this world today and not enough GRACE.

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    • Thanks for your response! I completely agree that God has enormous love, grace, compassion for each of us. We are all harder on ourselves and others than God is on us. Congratulations on moving on from the past and creating a beautiful present and future.

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  2. I haven’t had an NDE, but I have had experiences of the great love that exists in the universe, and I know how hard it can be to try to relate to family members who are fearful of the kind of openness present in that love. At the same time, I’ve come to see our differences as a gift, too. I’ve had to learn how to be non-judgmental about judgmentalism–something I’m still very much working on! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

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    • I love that…”learning how to be non-judgmental about judgmentalism.” I’m working on that, and I do see the humor in it all. My family has been known to be judgmental, and then I judge them for not being “loving, open, and nonjudgemental.” I am working on being loving minus the judgement. Being in a state of love and acceptance feels better than struggling against the world.

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