I grew up a good Baptist.
This meant that childhood me was absolutely certain that those with Charismatic leanings were complete fakes. They were just highly emotional people who lacked the proper understanding to know when they were getting swept up in a wave of nonsense.
...until I met this pastor in college. He was intelligent. His education in Biblical studies far surpassed mine. He was very even mannered. And it did not take much investigation to conclude that his pursuit of God over time put mine to shame.
AND then I found out he was a Charismatic.
What was I to do with that? He didn't fit into any of my assumptions about those kinds of people. In fact, in all of the religious check boxes that I valued, he had me beat. Could I really tell him he was not smart enough to know better? Or that he was too shallow? Or that his faith was fake? And if so, what would that say about me in comparison?
I was forced to reconsider my assumptions. That's the importance of experience.
- We can believe that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart (Proverbs 22:6)
- ...until we connect with a loving old pastor whose children have chosen a different path.
- We can be convinced that God will always provide for all of our needs (Matthew 6:26)
- ...until we are told the stories of children starving to death.
- We can be assured that God has promised to protect us (Psalm 121:7)
- ...until we meet a neighbor who lost her God-fearing grandson to gang violence.
- We can declare that God will never give us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- ...until we hear of the cries of the Christian brother who faced trials to the point of mental & emotional breakdown.
It is all too easy to reduce our God and our faith to simple promises or universal proverbs and in doing so we miss the complexity of both God and the world in which we live.
We badly need the stories of others to break us out of our simple certainty.
May we seek and treasure those stories.