The best way for me to explain trust in God is to explain my life's story and how God's world and life flowed into mine. I used to hate it when asked to give my "testimony" and still do in some ways. I find the beginning of my story personally embarrassing if taken in a way that is supposed to make me special or is taken in a grandiose way. The way I see it, God visited me and this says more about God. The greatest difficulty concerning giving my testimony was in the reality that the dearest parts of my story were for a very long time traumatic throwing me into depression at best or a PTSD fit at worst. I would have to find some way to bury myself just to stay on the surface of my testimony and not relive it. Then there was the difficulty of how to explain having your personhood crushed and marred as a child by abuse causing physical and psychological harm extending on into adulthood--and yet, while being damaged also being overtaken by divine love to such a degree that I would do it all again without pause--yet not believing horrible evil is necessary for good. The first is not necessary for the other and evil is not part of some divine plan. That is just morbid. However, I am saying the latter gives meaning and light to the former so that a transfiguration of sorts occurs whereby something beautiful is present in something ugly.
Coming out of my experience as a whole (more to come) I will explore the question: How does or should one trust God? The question is a difficult one to answer if thinking in terms of only one answer or when trying to distill trust in God down to an easy formula. How can one capture trusting God in one or two verses, abstractions or rules of thumb detached from the variety of narratives of God's people struggling to survive, and failing? How do I capture it in the midst of stories of PTSD, abuse and emotional destruction? Where was God?
The question of trust in God is all the more difficult if one is not prepared to empathetically enter into the experiences of those actually suffering and trusting in God. It is yet more difficult if verses are ripped out of the Bible without allowing for the diverse circumstances conveyed in the Scripture to speak to diverse people and realities today. And I hate platitudes because they are mismatched. They assume a reality (often times false) and enforce it onto a foreign circumstance (i.e. saying to the woman raped or a father who lost a child that they are experiencing a "blessing in disguise"). These platitudes are non-empathetic and yet proport to teach or comfort, neither of which they do. With all of this said, how does one trust God?
Going forward, here is what I will NOT be covering: I will not be covering many particulars since they involve revealing identities and that is not good for me or others who have suffered abuse, at least not yet. All I have is my life in brief and how God has entered into my struggles and how I have come to trust him and how I have perceived trust in God in multifaceted and ever growing ways. It is from the angle of how I have balanced knowledge that: God is someone who is infinitely loving who provides for his people (and those who are not his!), is sometimes hidden, allows evil but is the source of love, and is everywhere present--in, among and around us. This is a story about God and who he is in part, through my eyes and out of this how and why I trust Him.
Alright, no more stalling.
I first met God when I was nearly six years old. I calculate it by the absence of my two adopted sisters and the church that we attended: The Marina Cathedra (probably "Cathedral" folks just pronounced it that way). I had just listened to a fire-and-brimstone sermon and, recalling I had pinched my little sister, was certain I was a great sinner. I had a choice: choose Jesus and go to heaven or say no and go to hell. My child-brain thought the former sounded better. I informed the Lord that I already had a dad and didn't need another one, but conceded I would be his friend and do whatever he told me. I then told my mom that I had to see Pastor Turner so I could get baptized to make it "official." However, immediately after saying "Pastor, I want to be baptized!" I fell to the ground praying something I do not remember and was immersed in pure light.
What I experienced is difficult to explain to people. I can't say much. I am in the strange predicament of having experienced something/someone of a different quality, more real than what I experience every day. Instead of having a hazy experience it is best thought of as ultra clear. By analogy, it is like a person seeing another basic color and then returning and trying to explain what it is and what it was like without their brain being able to retain the color itself. I used to just say this light was "whiter than white, lighter than light and more real than real." I was just immersed and existed in this personal light.
When I read other accounts of people experiencing this light I see why some describe it as being one with God or losing the boundaries between themselves and God because the unity is so strong. It's like you are a part of him. I was left with a profound sense of interconnection--God was coursing through me to the extent that I even breathed him in and out. It's more than immersion as the light is not only around you but through you. Yet, I was simply existing in the light completely caught up into it so there must have been a distinction between me and the light. We were not the same. Nothing was said to me during this time, I just knew who it was and communed. Sometimes I feel sad thinking about this time because I feel so terribly separated as though I am longing for home and the one I love all at once. You could say I often miss God even though I still interact with him in other ways.
In another instant after the experience of pure (uncreated?) light, I realized I was on the ground praying and sat up. The Pastor was praying over me, then asked: "Allison! Do you accept Jesus into your heart?" and a series of other questions to see if I understood my decision. He then agreed that I could be baptized and my parents took me away. I noticed something sticky on my head and my parents said that while I was praying he anointed my head with oil. I didn't tell them about my experience because I assumed this happened to everyone when they say yes to Jesus. However, before I left I felt as though God told me (that quiet inner voice) to remember what happened because when many people get older they forget this kind of thing. I reminded myself whenever I thought of it and took great pains not to change much, hence the short story.
I didn't know it at the time, but I was going to reflect on this experience for years to come and it would give me hope in dark times (but also be a source of sadness as I remember and at times feel left behind). When I experienced extreme isolation it would remind me that God visited me and that even though I was alone and unloved by others, he loved me even if I could not feel his presence.
Through the years this experience has also made me lonely since I didn't know anyone else who experienced something similar. In later years I would read others that had similar experiences such as the desert fathers, Wolfhart Pannenberg or a traveling preacher who escaped slavery. And at Fuller I finally met someone! Then discovered someone related to me who was not a Christian had this happen to him when he was a young man--this was the person I had been strangely compelled to talk about God with all these years as a child and the same was true for him--and then there was a good friend of mine who I would never have guessed! When I called her she was completely changed into her best self and had a similar experience only two days before we spoke! She has been struggling in many ways, but I can see God working in her beautifully and I am amazed.