I have a friend who is very, very Christian. She tucks Bible verses into every pocket, her hands are full of them, she is holding a big stack of them under her arm, and there’s a box of them she scoots along with her foot, right out in front of her while she walks. She suffers patiently, since Jesus suffered so much for her. She is utterly good to her children. Her children are loved deeply and visibly.
She is so sure that her way, Christianity, is the only right way, I know she will never seriously entertain the thought that there is any alternative.
And now this woman is dying. Cancer. The docs are working on her with chemo, and one never knows, but this kind of cancer isn’t usually cured.
Her friends are joining hands and circling around her. Filling the air with whispers of scripture, stuffing the love of Jesus into buntings placed around her body, into pillows tucked beneath her family. Making a delicious construction to hold her safe and warm.
She is a remarkably good woman, and has been nothing but kind to me. I love her.
But here’s the rub. She thinks her chosen faith is something I should share. She thinks she is going to heaven and I am not. She thinks her Christian belief makes her better off than I am. She has judged me as “less than” because my spiritual beliefs differ from hers.
As certain as she is in her spiritual truth, I am certain in mine. She knows no more and no less than exactly what she needs to know, same as me. And whatever mystery is about to happen to her, will differ only in interpretation from what will eventually happen to me. Her spiritual beliefs do not make her any better than me, just as mine do not make me any better than her. We are simply two different human beings, experiencing this peculiar moment, with two different interpretations of what is by definition a fundamentally unknowable mystery.
When she implies she is living the way everyone should be living, when she says her belief is what everyone should be believing, when she explains how Christians are blessed and the rest of us are not, it doesn’t feel true to me. It doesn’t sound like love, it sounds like human judgment.
Not long ago she said she was worried that some of her friends were not going to meet up with her in heaven. I’m not worried about that because I don’t believe it comes down that way. But the part that haunts me is that I’m afraid she is so sure she will be reunited with certain of her loved ones in heaven, all she has to say now is, “See you later,” instead of a real goodbye.
Now before you get all worked up, I want you to know that I understand it’s not that different. I have a comfortable construction of belief that I am erecting around myself, same as she has done. She thinks I am wrong and need to change before I run out of time. I think the same thing about her. It doesn’t matter if I think my construction is a little roomier and more flexible than hers. Both of these comfortable constructions serve to keep us feeling safe and secure. We don’t know any other way. But I think it is important to remember that even the most comfortable of constructions lock us in, preventing us from experiencing the unknowable enormity of All That Is.