7 Billion Paths to God

paths

The first time I really experienced God in a way that was all mine, I was at a Christian music festival. I was listening to a speaker talk about his relationship with his dad and for the first time, everything that I had been talking about and thinking about for my whole life just clicked. The questions that had been floating around in my head suddenly made sense. I didn’t doubt my salvation before, but on that day, it became real.

I’m sure I could look at that event and figure out what it was about it that worked for me. Why, after years of church attendance, the gospel story finally resonated in a way that it never had before. Maybe it was because instead of simple expository preaching, the speaker used more story-telling. Maybe it was because of being inside a man-made edifice, we were outside, feeling the ground beneath us. Maybe it was because instead of wearing the vestments, he wore a muscle shirt and jeans. Maybe it was because the festival played modern music instead of the hymns that I was growing weary of singing back at home.

Whatever it was, it must have been the right thing, because I’m not the only person who stood up that day when he gave the altar call. I was one of many in that mountain-side amphitheater who felt like a physical response was necessary to that message.

I’ve seen this more often than I can count. People who will say, “I’ve attended church my whole life, but I never heard the gospel until I attended this church!”

We hear that and start to believe our own hype. What we are doing is better than what they are doing. They don’t even preach the gospel! We create divisions between us and them, with us being the ones who have figured it out. Of course.

All of my life I’ve heard that there is one path to God. But I believe we have twisted that away from Jesus to the way that we find Jesus.

If you read this book, then you’ll be saved. If the service is ordered in this way, you’ll be better able to hear the message. If we sing this kind of music, wear these kinds of clothes, pray those kinds of prayers. Then. Then it will all work together and people will Know God.

I do it too. I know what works best for me and I begin to herd people toward my particular path. I love the way that my church operates, so I think that all churches need to operate in the same manner. I like a particular style of music, a certain manner of preaching, a precise way of reading the Bible, and I begin to think that if only everyone would just be like me, we could really have an impact.

Here’s the thing. In all of my years in church before I sat on that dirty hillside, listening to that speaker tell me about a night out with his dad, the same message was preached in my stained-glass window church. It wasn’t delivered the in same way, but it was the same message. The difference was that I didn’t show up until that outdoor meeting.

That was the day that I found my path to God.

We are each individuals. Whatever path worked for me, might not work for you. Whatever path worked for you, might not work for your co-worker. Our families of origin, our personalities, our experiences, all of the things that shape us and make us unique will color the way that we approach faith, and as such, our paths to God will all be unique.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear about your path. I do, because parts of it may help me on my own journey. Even with our differences, there will be moments of similarities, segments of the path that we will traverse together and I want to enjoy that with you.

But if our paths diverge for a while, that’s okay. We’ll meet again at the gate.

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

    Beautiful.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    I love this so much. Thank you for writing it. (although you almost lost me at “muscle shirt”…does any man look good in one?)

    Why do we think that the Holy Spirit is absent in other faith communities and believer’s lives just because they don’t fit our preferences or personal beliefs?

    We try to make God small. Thankfully, He will never allow that to happen.

    I ABSOLUTELY include myself in that critique. This is a well timed reminder for me.

    Thanks again.

  • Dan McM

    Yep, and amen. We all meet God in different ways as unique as we are, and as unique as our relationships are to him.

    One thing that I noticed here, that I also see with the majority of folks I know (I suppose it’s a pretty “american” way of doing things) — most people tend to describe finding God as though it was something that they did themselves. You noted that you had heard the message lots of times before, but that you didn’t “show up” until that day, that “that was the day that I found my path to God”, and I totally get that…. But,instead of thinking of it as you not being engaged before that, I’d say rather that God didn’t open your eyes and ears to really hear the message until that day.

    Sort of like the guys on the Road to Emmaus. They were with Jesus, he was explaining things to them, their hearts were yearning, etc…. but it wasn’t until God removed the blinders that they really saw, really understood what was going on.

    I know you have a good understanding of grace and know that we’re not saved by our works and all that…. that’s not where I’m going at all. What I’m saying is that many of us, even if we understand God’s grace and are true to his call still think of our relationship to him in terms of what we did to find him, not what he did to open our eyes.

    I’m totally on the same page with you as far as people meeting God in unique places. God calls us all in different ways, and we sell him short when we assume that he must call everyone the same way. If we think we’re the only group that gets it, we’re missing a significant bit about how God works.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Yeah, I don’t think that God is passive. I’m not sure exactly what that means in terms of opening our eyes and stuff like that. The whole free-will/sovereignty thing is hard to suss out. I obviously lean pretty heavily on the free-will side, but I can’t deny that there’s a wooing.

      But yeah. I think it’s a PART of the elephant. ;)

      • Dan McM

        Active vs passive. That’s a good way to put it.

        I wasn’t even thinking of the whole free-will/sovereignty aspect, but I see why you would make that association. Ironically, I think free-will-ers tend to lean more towards “listening for his voice” than “sovereignty” types. (I know it’s a broad generalization, but “God called, I answered, we’re done” might be a good bumper sticker option for some.)

        So many things to look at and describe on the elephant for sure…. if it’s actually an elephant.

  • http://www.natalietrust.com/ Natalie Trust

    Beautiful. Thank you for this.

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    “But if our paths diverge for a while, that’s okay. We’ll meet again at the gate.” < So profound and grace-giving, Alise. I needed to read that today.

  • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

    “We are each individuals. Whatever path worked for me, might not work for you. Whatever path worked for you, might not work for your co-worker. Our families of origin, our personalities, our experiences, all of the things that shape us and make us unique will color the way that we approach faith, and as such, our paths to God will all be unique.”

    I couldn’t agree more with every word you wrote here if I tried.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Yes. So much yes. I’ve found that I can share what has worked for me, but I have to trust that my experience may not work for others. I think we sometimes fear that our experiences are not valid if they don’t work for others, and so we get really uptight about which path works. I’m grateful that God meets us each where we’re at, but I struggle to apply that to how I interact with others.

  • Akoua

    Alise,

    I am somewhat confused. This is not an attack but rather a concern, you state:

    “We are each individuals. Whatever path worked for me, might not work for
    you. Whatever path worked for you, might not work for your co-worker.
    Our families of origin, our personalities, our experiences, all of the
    things that shape us and make us unique will color the way that we
    approach faith, and as such, our paths to God will all be unique.”

    The Bible is clear that there is only one way to God and that is through The Lord Jesus Christ. When I read this beautiful prose of yours it leads me to think you are saying there are many pathways to God which lead me to think of the other spiritualist beliefs out there. Is Jesus the answer or no? Could you please elaborate? Sometimes I think we forget that Grace is only received through Jesus’ sacrifice for us, no one else’s. I hope you receive this in the vein that it is meant. God Bless.

    Akoua

  • Betsy Henning

    Well said. As always I’m blessed for having read your post.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Anyone know where the meditation path in that photo is?

  • pastordt

    Perfect. Thank you.

  • Patricia

    I used to think the same way. There’s a book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Pathways that helped me see different ways of experiencing God’s presence (such as through nature, through study, through asceticism, etc.) and how there are strengths and weaknesses to each (and this is within the context of knowing Jesus, of course).

  • http://www.austinbiblecollege.com/ Benjamin Craig

    A truly wonderful piece and a great reminder!! Just because someone doesn’t have it “click” or grow in the same way as you doesn’t mean they are doing anything wrong!!

  • luke martin

    How we come to Christ, well may in fact be different from others. Some it takes a death in the family, others cancer. Ezekiel, a small wind blowing through a leaky, dark, and lonely cave. It was through the wind he received his message. Christ is the only way to Heaven, but how we come to Christ? This varies based on you. Here’s the main thing: Do it!