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Okay, this is a long story, but very germane to the ethos of TLS. Earlier this week I told you guys about my new friend “Diane”. For those who are new members, I’ll give a summary of what I told you guys already. By the way, I’m sharing this with her permission.

Here’s what I already told you about Diane:

I went to a Wellness Expo last weekend. I had a very interesting conversation with a young woman named Diane. We were part of a group that had supper together at a restaurant after the Expo. Diane and I sat beside each other for a couple of hours. After she learned what I do, she must have felt free to open up and tell me her story. She said she was basically raised atheist. She recently moved to this city and was going through a difficult time. She’d met another girl who’d invited her to her church. Pentecostal. I nodded my head. I know Pentecostal. Diane said she invited God into her heart. She said her life’s really changed and it was apparent to me that she felt very loved and happy. She said the kind pastor of the Pentecostal church basically told her that he sensed God wanted her to know that he has nothing but love and grace for her, that she was not to judge herself because God wasn’t, and that all is well with her soul and to be happy. She was smiling when she was telling me all this. She was obviously so content and positive. An impressive young woman already with a lot of intelligence. She wasn’t using Christianese either because she didn’t know it. But I knew exactly what she was talking about. I smiled and encouraged her. It was cool to see a young woman so confident, liberated and joyful. I told her I was really happy for her. Her confident contentment shone through her.

Now, I could have warned her that her concept of God might not jive with their concept of God and that this would become a problem. I could have warned her that this sense of confident comfort might come and go as we grow, stretch and mature spiritually. I could have warned her about the Pentecostal church because I was there for years. Or I could have warned her about many Christians in general… that they will smother you with love and affection for a while, but at some point they are going to tell you you need to believe what they believe and live like they live and to cut yourself off from everything else.

I didn’t say any of this though because I respected her journey and she has the wisdom to find her own path. I’m a validator. I validate other people’s journeys. I’m an encourager. I encourage people to be spiritually independent. Diane’s journey is a fascinating one and this is one of her chapters. She is a smart woman. She is figuring this out. Right now she’s happy, content, loved, respected, and her life has purpose and meaning. Why rob her of that with depressing news from the future? Perhaps with her smarts, her atheist upbringing, and her open-mindedness she will avoid some of the traps we fell into. I hope so. Or maybe she’ll sometimes learn the hard way like we all have and do.

Here’s the new development with “Diane”. We’ve been corresponding, and here is our exchange just a few days later:

Diane: So I mentioned to a few people about the healing stones and how I saw a physic this weekend and people at my church think that people who use this “stuff” are evil and this comes from a demonic place. It’s almost like relying on someone else to heal you when really we are told to rely on God. Part of me thinks it’s ok because God must have made these stones. What do you think?? I’m unsure what your opinion is on Christians as of now, but from your cartoons I feel like you’re a type of Christian who doesn’t follow the rules. A non-typical Christian of some sort? I’m curious what your belief is. I don’t feel like I completely agree with most Christians and have a hard time labeling myself as one lately.

Me: Yes I am a non-typical Christian. I identify as “christian” because that’s my roots and my home, so to speak. I tell people “My home’s in Christianity but I have cottages everywhere.” That means I appreciate truth no matter where it’s found or where it presents itself. 

Most religions demand complete 100% devotion to their own body of doctrines and rules. This obviously isn’t surprising to you. You have a mind of your own and want to use it. You are intellectually curious and that is a good thing. But many people find that threatening and dangerous. You must follow your own heart.

I believe we all experience the same things but perceive these through our own world-views and impute our own stories to these experiences and then use our particular language to articulate them. Once one realizes this then you can be comfortable and confident with where you’re at but respect others where they are at too. Plus you can take what’s true and reject what isn’t without fear. 

Labels are dangerous because they attempt to describe the contents thoroughly and finally. But I believe we are fluid beings. You are. I am. The label today won’t be the label tomorrow. Sometimes I’m a believer, sometimes an atheist, sometimes confused! But I don’t care. I’m not worried about it anymore. I love me and embrace all of what I am. I have a healthy inner believer and a just as healthy inner atheist. And I’m fine with that. Others might not be, but that’s their problem, not mine. It’s their fear that demands I label myself to make them feel more comfortable and know how to relate to me. But I say: relate to ME, not what I believe.

That’s the way I look at it. Does that help?

Diane: Ok you’re making me feel better. Thanks. The people at my church make it sound like the physic wasn’t even a real person, like she was an evil spirit in a body trying to trick me. I don’t feel like healing stones do any harm to anyone. If I put good intentions towards these other forms of healing then why couldn’t it be a good thing?

Christians seem to have such closed minds. It seems they think they know all the rights and wrongs, but it’s just all opinions. Why are they all separated in baptist, pentecostal, etc., and yet they all think their individual group is the right way? I don’t think there’s a perfect way of living.

I just won’t tell my Christian friends what else I’m up to. I don’t feel like having debates with people. I respect their belief but it’s becoming clear that its not for me. It’s like a cookie cutter belief… no room for me to even use my own brain, if that makes sense.

I appreciate your reply. I feel like we share an understanding of the subject. It’s nice to have someone like that. I’m still searching for questions and finding my own answers to things though. It’s a fun process!

That was fast! She’s smarter than I thought. Diane just turned 23 years old. What more can I say?

I love you guys!