What about Jesus? (part deux)


It’s been almost a year since I last posted the conversation I had with a person called SharedTears.

While I wasn’t expecting a response, and while it took so long to get one that I thought the conversation had been dropped, I did receive an email from her. (I only assume it is a her, I don’t know for certain, but it’s easier than typing him/her and more grammatically correct than ‘them’.)

The responding email was long, which is probably why it took so long to get it. It was also filled with very personal information about her past and personal testimony. Because of that, I’m not going to post the entire thing here, but I will post the parts that are relevant and that apply to my response.

My second email is basically a rehashing/source for some of the other thoughts and things I’ve shared on my blog already and more personal info about myself and my past experiences. It is also advice for how I think those who want to ‘share the gospel’ should try looking at things from a Pagan perspective.

Dear Serpent,

It was nice to hear from you again. I will try to answer your questions as best I can. No, I was not raised in a Church. My grandfather was Catholic, but I was never taught much about their beliefs. I had a baby sitter that took me along to church with her twice, but I was very young, around the age of 5 or 6. My parents divorced when I was about 7, and my mother married a Jewish man. I had a very rough childhood, and I had heard about God. I did begin to pray to him as a child. No one formally shared the Gosple with me yet. Over the years a lot of sad things happened in my life, abuse etc.

<snip>

And to amswer your other question, no I have never belonged to any other Faith or studied one either. I have seen God work in my life in so many wonderful ways. After having suffered so much abuse in my childhood, it was hard for me to believe God loved me…but after years of walking with Jesus, he has shown me that he indeed does. I used to wonder why my step-dad had to suffer for so long with his illness, but after seeing him accept Jesus, and then die peacefully I realized God couldn’t take him until he knew the truth, and then made a choice.

God is merciful, and he gives everyone the chance to choose. The Christian life is not easy, it is not what some have made it out to be. It is not getting everything we want etc, Christ asks us to depend on him, as you do he changes us from within. I couldn’t live one day with out Jesus in my life.

<snip>

I truley believe with all my heart, that God himself is trying to reach you…I have a feeling you feel the tug at your heart, and questions are surfacing. If I could only tell you a few more things…I would remind you, that God loves you and created you in his image. He gave his only begotten son for you… Jesus died and paid for all your sins…and he longs for you to come to him in childlike faith and accept him as your Savior…. My life has never been the same since I accepted him into my life…he changes everything… I will admit I am not perfect, and won’t be until he comes to get me. The Christian life is an ongoing journey of growth etc, and we will still sin but have Jesus as our advocate!

I hope I was able to answer some of your questions, if you have any more just let me know. I would be glad to help in any way that I can. I will be praying for you as well.

It was very nice to recieve another e-mail from you. May God bless you.

Love in Christ,
Sharedtears

P.S. About the Christian shows on T.V., like TBN, and Daystar I do not reccomend all of the shows as they have mixed false teachimgs in now, and have caused a great amount of confusion. I like to go to http://www.rbc.net or I read my Bible, and I go to church now as well. I didn’t go to church for a long time as I have been hurt by so many people, but God has been working on that part of my life…and he has placed me in a Church, and The Pastor’s wife has taken me under her wing so to speak.

It took me about two days to write back, and then another few hours to follow this email up with another one.

Dear Shared,

<< I truley believe with all my heart, that God himself
is trying to
reach you…I have a feeling you feel the tug at your
heart, and questions
are surfacing. If I could only tell you a few more
things…I would
remind you, that God loves you and created you in his
image. He gave his
only begotten son for you… Jesus died and paid for
all your sins…and
he longs for you to come to him in childlike faith and
accept him as
your Savior….>>

Thank you for your reply. But I’m really feeling that our email conversations are heading for different directions. I told you in my very first email that I wasn’t Christian, that I had plenty of study and understanding and experience with the Christian faith. I explained my position on several Christian beliefs and theologies, and I also explained what my personal beliefs and thoughts were  based on my own religion.

I’m not seeking answers in the terms that you’re thinking of. I’m not searching for anything within the Christian faith. I am genuinely interested in why others believe as they do and what they get out of faith or religion, but that does not mean that I am not faithfully devoted and happy with where I am in being a Pagan.


I ask Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’i, Catholics, Atheists, and other Pagans about their beliefs as well. I’m certainly not seeking to join up with every single faith that I ask questions about. Please don’t assume that because I ask you about Christianity, that I want to become Christian. 🙂

If that were the case, then it would be laid upon the heart of every single person that God/Allah/Jehovah/Brahma/Buddha, was trying to call to me that I talk to about their faith.

You don’t know anything about me. You can’t honestly say that you know I’m thinking or feeling, and to make that assumption is just incorrect, especially when I’ve openly told you and explained to you that isn’t where I’m coming  from or what I’m interested in.

Believe me please when I’m saying that there is no hidden meaning in what I ask you. I’m just curious to see where you’re coming from and what your experiences have been. I have my own experiences, knowledge, and beliefs that have led me to where I am today. Your path isn’t mine. You were seeking and found Christ. I was seeking and found the Old Gods. I’m no more willing to leave my experiences and understanding behind than you are to leave yours. I’m happy here. I’m satisfied here. I’m fulfilled here. I’m enjoying life and what I’m doing here. I’m not looking for anything else.

I’ve studied Christianity and I’ve been Christian. I wish you well on your path, and I’m very happy for you that you’ve found peace and happiness in Christ. But that’s just not the path for me. I hope you can understand that this isn’t meant as anything personal against you. I hope that you know I’m not saying I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I’d like to continue talking to you. You seem like a genuine, honest, and caring Christian. But I don’t want to hear sermons in emails. I don’t want to be told over and over again about something that isn’t my path. I do believe that you mean well. But it’s just not the religion that I follow as was revealed to me.

Share your thoughts and experiences with me. But don’t tell me that they’re meant for me as well. Share your beliefs with me. But don’t mistake my interest in getting to know how God is revealed to you as seeking for him to be revealed to me in the same manner. Talk about your religion with me. But stop trying to convince me to follow it.

Blessings,
Serpent

And my second email, written because hers was so in-depth with regard to what led her to Christ. I felt it was only appropriate that I share as much:

Dear Shared,

This came to me as well last night after I’d written the first letter back to you…

I’ve enjoyed talking to you through the emails we’ve shared. And I’m honored that you opened up to me in the last one as you did. I had meant to write back and share my thoughts and experiences with what you said about your step-father and his death, but at the end of the letter, when you spoke of ‘god leading me… questions surfacing…’ I lost that train of thought.

I’d like to pick up with it again here.

I am the daughter of an American woman and a Macedonian immigrant. My father belonged to the Macedonian Orthodox church here, so some of my earliest memories of going to church were with him. M.O. is very similar to Catholic, except that instead of following the Roman branch, it’s more Byzantine/Eastern. I spoke Macedonian more fluently when I was very young, but because English was the primary language of our home, by the time I was 10, I didn’t speak much of it anymore. My mom wasn’t religious, but I think she believed in God. Her side of the family was basically Christian, but of many different denominations. I had aunts and uncles who were Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, and some others. My older sister (from my mom’s prior marriage) was Mormon when I was young. I remember going to church with her when I was about six or seven years old. I don’t really remember any of the teachings in detail. I just remember that the Sunday school classes were really fun and I liked the songs.

I really had big questions about “God” when I was little. I wondered about everything and I prayed, because that’s what I thought you were supposed to do. One of my favorite books to read was an illustrated children’s bible. So I knew the stories and whatnot. Also, my sister listened to religious music recordings, so I heard a lot about it from there.

Still, my most profound religious experiences were when I went to church with my father. There was something deeply touching about the ritual involved. The holy water, the candles, the incense, the artistic stained glass windows. And because the service was spoken in a language I didn’t completely understand, I could just listen and absorb the atmosphere. I also loved it for the culture. Going to church with him was the most accessible way for me to really feel Macedonian.

Of course, during this time in my life, I also had experiences that didn’t really fit any particular religion. I felt most comfortable being barefoot outdoors. I talked to trees, birds, and other animals. I had dreams that were more like memories. I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about…

For about a week, I had a dream where I was living in an apartment building, close in design to the one I was actually living in at the time. The dream was recurring, every night for about a week… maybe more. I was five years old at the time. Each time I had the dream, it added a bit more onto it. To summarize, the dream was during WW2 and I and my family were being taken to a Nazi death camp. I remember the ride in the back of a truck. The train as it went closer to the station. The smell of people all confined together. I remember being pulled out roughly and our group being quickly separated. I went with my father. I remember them saying we were dirty and had to shower or wash up. So we were all led towards a big ‘shower building’. Everyone was scared but few would talk. We were taken inside and our clothes were all taken off. Then, we were put into this large room with several shower heads all attached to the ceiling. I remember not being able to breathe and my eyes and stomach stinging and burning. The last few nights I had this dream, I woke up crying.

A month or so later, my father was watching a video that he’d borrowed from another friend of his. The movie was in Yugoslavian. I was coloring in a coloring book in the living room while he watched. My mom was there as well. The movie was set in WW2. When I looked up and saw it, I started saying, “They’re not going to make them take a shower. They’re going to kill them. All those people…” or something like that. I was five years old. I’d never been told about the Holocaust. I’d never seen anything about it. I didn’t even fully understand the language of the movie my dad was watching. My mom asked me how I knew about it. I said, “I just know.”

I had other unusual experiences as well. But that was one of the main things that led me to the understanding of reincarnation.

My father died of cancer when I was 11 and after that time, I fluctuated between living with my mom and being under my older sister’s legal guardianship. Eventually, it became a permanent situation where I was under my sister’s custody. So, while I lived with her, I went to church with her. She’d since then
become a Christian and the church was said to be ‘non-denominational’ but it was basically Pentecostal.
I’d already been going with her for a few years before then, so it wasn’t really a big change once I lived with her. But as I got older, I began to feel a definite “not belonging” with the group. I was always deeply religious and spiritual. I’d never caused problems with the youth group or anything. It’s just that no matter what I did or said, I was an outsider. After a few years, I just stopped caring about it.
When I was 12, I went to church camp with theyouth group. The first year I was there, there was a thief in the girls’ dorm. I even had a pair of jeans stolen. On the last day of camp, when everyone was packing up and saying goodbye, I asked the camp director, Joyce, what was going to be done with all the things that were in the dorm’s lost and found. She said they’d be donated to shelters and such things. I asked her if I could have the curling iron that was in there. She said yes. So, with her permission, I took it. When we arrived back home, I was to spend the night with my brother-in-law’s family. So I was unpacking to get my pj’s out and get ready for bed. One of his sisters, a couple years older than me, asked where I got the curling iron from, because all during camp, I’d been using other people’s. It was no secret I didn’t have one. I told her that I asked Joyce and that she said I could have it. The two of them asked if they could see it. I handed it over. They took it out of the room and I never got it back.

 
I found out the next day that they had given it to their mom because they thought I’d stolen it. I don’t know what happened to it, to be honest. It was never returned to me. But the next year, as church camp time rolled around again, I was called in for a talk with the church’s pastor. He was a nice guy. But after that talk, I’d lost a lot of respect for him.

He said that if I were going to the camp, that I had to realize I was representing the church, myself, and God. He told me he knew about an ‘incident’ with a curling iron last year. I told him that I didn’t steal anything. I told him to ask Joyce, the camp director, because she knew since she had given me permission to take it. I said I was very upset that instead of anyone even asking me or believing me, they automatically assumed I had stolen it, when nothing in my behavior had ever warranted such an accusation. I told him I was upset, angry, offended, and that I thought he and whoever else believed that about me were wrong and unfair. I was 13 at the time. I still went to the camp, but I was basically done with it.

Over the next year or two, I stopped trying to be what they wanted me to be, and I let my questions and such things be heard. Our youth group played bible trivia one night. I was on the team with the pastor’s daughter. One of the questions that came up was about the Pagan origins of Easter. I knew what the answer was, because I’d been looking into and learning about Pagan history. I told the team what it was. The pastor’s daughter disagreed with me, so the team went with her. The answer was given, our team was wrong, but everyone on my team wanted to know how I knew that. I said I’d read it somewhere… That was the last night I willingly went to church with my sister.

Now, I want you to understand that I wasn’t having issues with God or Jesus. Just with that particular group of his followers. So, I started attending churches with different friends. Catholic, Methodist, Protestants of various denominations. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons. I even went to a Buddhist Temple a few times. I really liked the Buddhists. I was studying religion all on my own at that time as well. I read the bible, but I also read the Koran, the Bhavagad Gita, the Book of Mormon, and various other books written by different authors or about different topics. I read studies and books written with an atheist point of view. I studied meditation. I absorbed knowledge from every source I could find. It was also during this time, my freshman year in high school, when I decided to do a project on the roots of Halloween for my world studies class at school. It was about that time of the year, and I thought it was interesting. So, I read and studied to write my paper and give my report. These were oral presentations, not just written, so I made up overhead transparencies and other things. I had a really good time with it. I got an “A”. But the things that had come up during my study for that report sort of lingered with me. Words and rituals, phrases and beliefs in things like spirits, the otherworld, Pagan practices… I was intrigued. So, I kept studying. I asked my sister what Paganism was about but she didn’t know. So, I continued to study on my own.

Then I learned that Paganism in various forms was still actively practiced as a religion. There were different forms of it… So I started looking into what those were all about. Then I found the details and it was… dumbfounding.
Everything that I had already naturally believed in for my whole life… Had a name. The things that I studied and learned about in the Pagan faiths, and particularly in the practices of Witchcraft/Wicca, were what I ALREADY BELIEVED. It wasn’t some new thing that had come to me out of nowhere. It was all right there. What I had always known was true had a name. It had beliefs. It had holidays and observances and practices and theories and understanding of God and the world. Reincarnation, belief that we’re all connected and that the Earth isn’t separate from us or from God, understanding the power of the mind, the natural energies present in the moon, stars, plants, trees, animals. Medicines found in nature and not in pharmacies. Love, peace, happiness, knowledge, all these things being expected and then required! I felt like I was home.

I continued living with my sister for the next three years. And out of respect for her beliefs and her house, I didn’t actively practice Paganism. But I studied it. I went outside and sat under trees and meditated. I went to the zoo and while I was looking at the animals, I understood them. I researched herbalism and holistic medicine. I was still passionately interested in history, so I kept studying that. Then, my mother died when I was seventeen, at the beginning of my senior year in high school. It was a very rough time for all of us. My sister wanted to relinquish custody of me and the state didn’t want me to go into foster care. So, I went through emancipation. I was probably the only senior in my school who had her own apartment. But along with this, I was able to fully dedicate and practice my faith.

 

I’ve been doing so ever since. In a few weeks, I’m going to be 34, so I’ve been Pagan all my life, just under different terms and traditions until I found my way back to it. I’ve studied it for about twenty years, and been actively practicing it for the last eighteen or so. I’ve participated in group work. I’ve led workshops and given lectures. I’ve taken clergy training. I’ve studied psychology and counseling. I’ve worked with helping people and helping to guide them along their spiritual path and it’s been fulfilling and wonderful.

I don’t know if you’ve read my entire website or not. I don’t know if you believed I was just some ‘dabbler’ who had wandered away and could be told about Jesus and Christianity and thus some metaphorical lightbulb would spark to life over my head and I’d go back to the church. I don’t know if you didn’t realize or understand how serious or how devoted I am to my beliefs and how strongly I hold to them because of my personal experiences.

I’m a Priestess. I lead, I teach, I interpret, I guide, I counsel, I help, I give, I serve. I am meant for this path. I’m not simply a lost soul who is seeking God.

I’m always seeking… But I’m not lost. 🙂

I’m not sharing any of this with you in any attempt to tell you that you should become Pagan; I’m sharing this with you to explain why I’m not a Christian. I adamantly believe that it is for each person to come to the divine as is meant for them. Pagans do not believe that ours is the “one right way” because we believe there is no single correct path. It’s not as simple as “God sent him, Jesus died for our sins, the bible says so.” I have my own interpretation, my own understanding that came after a lot of prayer, meditation, and study. And it’s not like that for me.
I’m not saying that you are wrong. I believe that for your experience, your life, your belief, you are absolutely correct. God has led you to him through Christ. But I’ve had other experiences. I’ve felt “God” in the wind, in the flap of a bird’s wings, in the call of an owl or the howl of a wolf. I’ve felt the energy present in old stones, in feathers, in trees and in the ground. I’ve heard the voice of deity
spoken through priests, priestesses, and myself. I’ve seen the energy and effect of magic and spells. I’ve seen and felt people be healed after a ritual was performed. I know that you believe that is all ‘Satanic’, but it’s not. Something that loving, that healing, that helping, that honorable, that whole, has to be divine.

I also think that instead of it being ‘me’ who was brought to ‘you’… there’s a much stronger possibility that it was ‘you’ who were led to ‘me’. I wasn’t the one seeking out other websites. And I wasn’t the one who made first contact. I’ve very much enjoyed hearing from you and having the chance to respond, but I think that our meeting was meant to be more for your benefit than for mine.

I think you were looking around at sites for pagans, witches, wiccans, atheists, etc. I don’t think I was the only person you wrote to offering a link and communication. I think I have probably been the only one to regularly write back to you though, and probably one of the nicer, more polite ones you’ve
heard from.

I understand that it’s your duty and calling as a Christian to try and reach as many people as possible and share the gospel with them. But I think that you’re not experienced in how to do this. You’re going with your heart, which is good. But you lack understanding of how to effectively share your beliefs and in that way, how to help others find the path to Christ. You want so badly to share these experiences you’ve had, and the wonderful impact being a Christian has had on your life, that you want to make everyone feel this way. That’s the beauty of the Christian faith in its purest form. I honestly admire you for that. But when you share with others, you have to try and understand where they are coming from. Especially when you’re talking to people of another faith or of no faith. If you really want to be effective in ministering the gospel, you have to try and understand why people aren’t Christian. What led them to the understanding they have now. Or what caused them to believe or not believe as they do.

Dear, dear, Shared… How do you share the gospel to people who just don’t believe the bible is the word of god? How do you convince someone that God is such-and-such, when their personal experiences have led to an entirely different understanding? These are big questions, and some I’m pretty sure you’ve thought of already. I don’t think that I was led to you so that you could help me… I think you were led to me so that I could test your faith, make you realize what’s needed in order to be a light to others, and so that I could help you.

In other words… A Christian can’t tell you how to witness to a Pagan. A Pagan can.

I’m saying all of this because to me, and to those that share my beliefs, it doesn’t matter how many people ‘join’ or ‘convert’ to Paganism or one of the Pagan faiths. Pagans are much more skeptical of those seeking to follow our traditions.

They are tested, made to study, watched, observed, and then, if they are deemed ready, they may join. With Christians, it’s “Believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again and you’re saved.” No study is required, no testing, no teaching, just simple faith that what is said in a book is true. The study for Christians, the testing, comes AFTER. That’s a big difference. You said it yourself in your last email to me… “He wants you to come to him with the faith of a child”. That’s much different in our traditions and one of the reasons that Pagans hold so strongly to our beliefs. Because we’ve come to them AFTER the seeking and the study, not before.

I can speak so honestly of Christianity because I was Christian. And because I’m secure in my own faith, beliefs, and religion, it’s not a test to me to talk with a member of another faith that’s different than mine. I honestly view it as a learning experience and a chance to exchange ideas. That’s why I asked you about your experiences and what led you to become Christian.

The other thing in witnessing to non-christians is that you have to eventually accept when you can’t win them over. It’s not a failure on your part. I have a good friend who is deeply religious and devoutly Christian. He tried for years to convince me that Paganism was wrong. We’re still friends, but he’s
accepted that I’m not going to change. He’s said, “I really value that you argue religion with me… It makes me take a hard look at my faith. You test me. You make me really work to know why I believe the way I do. It’s made my relationship with Jesus a lot stronger.”

Maybe you came to my site and wrote to me to share the Gospel… Or maybe you came there to meet me and have your faith tested and grow stronger. Either way, I’m glad you did and I hope that we can continue communicating.

Light, love, and laughter,
Serpent

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