Truth of the Matter

I sat joined by others in a collective silence. The dull ringing emanating from the large Tibetan Singing Bowl on stage let the congregation know mediation had begun. Besides the occasional throaty cough, the room was quiet. I peered around at those seated to the left and right of me. I wondered what they were thinking about. I wondered to whom, or to what, they were focusing their attention. As I sat looking, I wondered…what the heck am I doing here?

Much like shopping for wetsuits, shopping for churches can be a little tiresome. And, unfortunately, like wetsuits, churches don’t come in a one-size-fits-all. I knew that if I wanted to find a church that fit–a church that felt right and I was comfortable being in–I would have to do some footwork. This led me on a journey of four churches in four weeks–this led me to a memorable experience with some local New Agers.

A second playing of the Singing Bowl brought the congregation out of meditation. Ironically, I couldn’t focus the entire time. As the last lingering vibrations faded, eyes opened, deep breaths were taken, and smiles were passed from person-to-person as if spring had finally arrived breaking a long hibernation. For some reason, I equated meditating with being physically still, so I was just happy to finally shift in my seat. I looked over to the guy who invited me (the one who insisted I check this place out). I think he may have centered his chi.

Like the different churches I grew up in, a short meet-and-greet was a part of the morning structure…you know those awkward few moments that necessitate an abbreviated form of small talk that inevitably leaves you concluding the conversation with some variation, if not with the exact phrasing, of “Welp, see ya later.” The woman sitting to my right obviously didn’t know appropriate meet-and-greet etiquette as she felt it necessary to resuscitate our conversation just moments after I ended it.

“Now, is there anyone visiting with us for the first time?” the reverend asked as everyone did the ol’ “look once, look twice” routine making sure their butts hit the right chair. I noticed through my pcrephials that the woman to my right was trying to get may attention as I settled in. I promptly looked to my left with a sudden curiosity of whether or not anyone responded to the reverend’s question.

“Psssst…hey…hey! the woman whispered.

I held out for as long as I could before she started making me uncomfortable.

“Oh…hmm?”

“You’re new here right?” I was fully prepared to omit the fact that I was indeed a first-timer, as I would anywhere else, but it’s a little more difficult to do so when the person doing the asking is looking at your face waiting for a response. I paused. Does a lie carry as much weight in a New Age church?

“Anyone at all?” the reverend pressed.

“You are, aren’t you.” the woman concluded as she started waving down one of the ushers meandering down the isle.

“That isn’t necessary,” I told her. She gave the “point-and-tap” over my head as if ordering me a drink. “Really, that’s…wow, okay.”

“Well, you weren’t going to say anything,” she said with a smile.

“You’re right. I sure wasn’t.”

I looked down the row. Passed from person-to-person, the biggest pink rose I had ever seen made its way toward me. I forced a smile as I took it. I held the rose giving a nod to the woman on my right (now, my second coastal nemesis).

“Welcome all!” the reverend shouted. “Welcome all.”

After a reading of the Dalai Lama, and a rather bizarre vision shared by one of the regulars, the morning message began. Interestingly, of the four sermons I heard over the course of that month, the proclamation I would remember most vividly, I was about to hear.

“What is truth?!” the reverend asked as he reached the climax of the sermon. “We can’t know it! How can we?! Think about it…it’ll hurt your head! Truth is one of those things that is just too vast to comprehend! Truth. How can we know it?” Once again, I looked to my left and right. The nods of affirmation I saw from those around me was a frustrating sight.

I never considered the words of Jesus quite like I did that morning. If it’s possible to take a verse(s) for granted, in that moment I knew I had. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard/read John 14:6, but sitting there, with my big pink rose, I thought about it differently. “I am the way the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father except through me.” It was amazing to me that a verse so simple, a verse I had heard dozens and dozens of times in the past, wasn’t so simple. The same question that was being asked over 2000 years ago was being asked that morning: What is truth?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines truth as: “the body of real things, events, and facts.” When butted against matters of religion, this definition becomes a bit more complex. What is real if we can’t touch, taste, smell, hear, or see it? Theological relativists would explain that if something’s not sensible (unable to be sensed…by the senses) and cannot be quantified in scientific terms (e.g., one’s faith), then it becomes a matter of subjective interpretation. Or, put another way, there are no spiritual absolutes.

For over an hour, this message was charismatically preached to a responsive crowd. I can’t say that I blame the excitement in the room. I mean, if everything is relative, then there are no absolutes; and if there are no absolutes, then there is no right or wrong; and if there is no right or wrong, there are no consequences for our actions. No rules, no authority, no punishment. Come to think of it, that sort of sounds like the sign I put up on my tree fort as a kid.

As children, a place of no rules and no punishment was the utopia we all strove towards–a place where consequences was nothing more than a word used by adults. But something happened along the way. We grew up. We outgrew our tree houses and the rules that accompanied them. As Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Truth isn’t beyond comprehension. But it can be ignored. We can know it; we can know Him. For those truly searching, truth isn’t hard to find. In fact, truth found us (John 3:16; Matthew 1:22,23; Philippians 2:1-11). So, the question isn’t how can we know truth? but rather, will we choose to know and embrace it?

…Welp, see ya later.

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~ by jontroll on November 19, 2011.

3 Responses to “Truth of the Matter”

  1. Oh man. I so enjoyed reading this, my gifted friend. Dang. So good. I’m always grateful for moments that affirm that I really do believe the truth I profess. I had lots of those moments in China. I’m glad you’re getting some… especially when they’re so entirely entertaining! Thanks for sharing, Jon!

  2. Hey, thanks, Jaime! I’m with ya, always grateful for those moments!

  3. AMEN!! I loved the blog. Way to speak the truth.

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