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Together – A Dream

June 26, 2018

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This last year I attended some reunions of old missionary friends. They were happy, heartwarming occasion but I couldn’t avoid detecting moments of discomfort on the part of some. I could be wrong, but because some folks are more vocal than others about their religious beliefs and activities, I felt that those who aren’t as active or confident might have fallen into some negative comparing.

While very active in their youth, many are now home bound. They are trying to make a living, to take care of their families, their aging parents or struggling with various health issues. They sometimes feel isolated and as if the best of life is behind them.

For reasons that I can’t explain, I have actually felt more at ease with these less outspoken folks, than with those who seem to have it all figured out. Those who struggle, undergo crisis of faith, have doubts and do not presume to know, seem to emanate more wisdom and humility than those who claim to have great faith.

In the last few months, I’ve also gotten involved with a committee who’s trying to organize another reunion. While I am always happy for any such occasions, this time I was struggling to keep up the enthusiasm. Why? Because I wished we could draw more of the people who aren’t so outspoken, who may even feel disadvantaged in a religiously charged environment and thus prefer to avoid.

I wished that more of the people that we used to live and work with would participate, even if they no longer believe as we did. I imagined, however, that they would not feel attracted to anything aiming to just keep the past alive, so I wished that we could do something new and different, something that would make them feel more at ease.

It is with these questions in mind that I fell asleep the other night, to then awaken in the morning from a very vivid dream. Perhaps it worked its way out of my subconscious, but I woke up with the most positive feelings about it. It was like, “yes, that’s it”, and I have been thinking about it ever since, so here it is:

In the dream we were having a small get-together, but seeing that we hadn’t met in such a long time, we were somewhat uncertain on what to expect of each other. It was the morning and small groups of people were either sitting or standing while talking to one another. Somewhat thinking that folks expected something more “spiritual”, I tried to start a devotion and began to read something. People sat and quietly listened, but I felt relieved when an approaching acquaintance interrupted me and I could let people return to their casual conversations.

Then the scene switched to a large room or hall, with rows of seats towards the front and an empty space in the back. In front of the seats there was a raised platform and on the wall behind it there was a huge screen in which people could write whatever they wanted to.

A small group of people was standing on the platform, while everyone else was sitting on the chairs and listening to them. I had the impression that the people speaking were the organizers of the event and that they were presenting some new way in which we were coming together.

On the big screen beyond them, someone had written some doubts that they had about god and religion. Compared to what we used to believe, it all sounded very negative. Seeing that, one of the organizers invited the person who had written it to come up on stage. It was a young girl in her late teens or early twenties. As she arrived, the woman who called her up moved next to her and encouraged her to speak freely about her doubts.

The girl did, with the continued encouragement of the organizers, as well as of the audience. Being that it was all so contrary to our former way of handling such issues, I was surprised by this new approach, but not too much. Somehow I knew that it had to be so, that there was now a new concept of faith, which no longer feared this type of honesty but actually encouraged it, because it looked beyond it.

The impression I had was that the “organizers”, as well as most of us attending, were operating from a new level of awareness. It wasn’t completely new either, as it somehow related to our old faith, but let’s say that we had never experienced it this way before. It was the awareness of a constant, abiding presence within us and living from it, instead of just believing in it. It was as if what we once professed faith in had now become reality.

It simply was what it was, and it no longer needed any religious practices, symbols or traditions in order to be. It also did not fear any contrary ideas because it was not an idea, but a reality. No opinion, for or against it, made any difference to it and so it welcome anything and anyone.

From this perspective, community was more important than religion, which could even be spoken against, without anyone making a big deal of it. In essence, people were valued more than what they believed, and were even encouraged to openly express their religious doubts. Somehow, we knew that for them to experience that same abiding presence, they had to first lose their beliefs about it.

It seemed as if most people there had already discovered this essence of faith beyond beliefs. They also knew that the only way to get there was through the loss of whatever they previously thought about God and religion. In this state of things, the community accepted and loved individuals at whatever stage they were, encouraging them in their journey towards discovering for themselves the true presence within.

It appeared to me as if the only resistance there came from a few folks who, clinging to their old religious interpretations, resented the voicing of any doubts about them. For the vast majority, however, the community was more important. It was the hearth of God’s presence and He was its guarantee, which is why it did not fear to embrace diversity and include those who doubted, as well as those who feared doubts.

In the third part of the dream I was in the back of the hall, beyond the rows of chairs, in an open area where people were just hanging around, relaxing and talking to one another. There was a young man there, maybe 18 or 20, wearing a nice knitted sweater that had been chewed by a playful little dog. The whole lower part of the sweater had actually been shredded and the dog was now playing with the broken pieces on the floor. The young man didn’t seem too upset about it, as he understood that the dog wasn’t mean but just wanted to play.

Then I saw the young girl who had posted her doubts and spoken about them on stage. She was there too and we began to talk. She obviously felt a little awkward and began to apologize about her doubts saying “it’s my curse, it must be because of my father, he’s an atheist”. Wishing to ease her struggle, I encouraged her not to give in to such notions, reassuring her that nothing could be out of God’s design and most certainly not her father.

I then pointed to the dog and the broken pieces of sweater on the floor, telling her that her doubts were like that dog. “No need to be disappointed by them”, I said, “it is a game and a good one”, and went on to explain how her doubts were undoing a knit-work of old beliefs that needed undoing. The idea was that her previous faith was good for a time, but now stood on the way of her experiencing its true essence, that same presence that others had discovered.

True faith was to be discovered on the other side of beliefs, and to get to it one had to pass through unbelief. That’s why the new community welcomed doubts instead of fearing them. That’s why it even encouraged people to voice them, looking on such folks as farther along than those who were still afraid of them and clinging to past “certainties”.

There was no more fear or judgment, but only love, community and a new knowing of faith that embraced and included all previous stages, as well as their denial.

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