Here is an excerpt from an unpublished short story I wrote about my experiences with faith. This happened when I was nine years old.
“God always was, always is, and always will be,” the catechism teacher spoke to the class.
This did not make sense to me. I raised my hand.
“What is it, Lori?”
“When was God born? How could He always have been here?”
“Lori, you are not supposed to question God. You’re supposed to have faith. If you ask questions and don’t trust Him, you’ll go to purgatory.”
Another rule to remember … don’t ask God questions. I understood purgatory as a place similar to hell where souls did penance for sins, like jail. Once we paid our debt to God, we’d be let out to go to heaven. A mortal sin (breaking a commandment) gets us into hell for eternity, unless we confessed and asked for forgiveness. So many rules to remember and prayers to recite.
You’d think, after the above incident, I’d be petrified to ask questions for fear of heading to purgatory. Nope, not me. I’ve never been able engage my heart without my brain and vice versa. Just because someone we admire tells us something is true doesn’t mean they are flawless and can’t be wrong. If something doesn’t make logical sense, I need answers. So, I don’t stop asking questions until I have balance between what my heart is telling me and what the facts say. It may end up being to my detriment in this day and age, but it’s who I am.
I’m sure many people believe they’re open-minded, but do they use critical thinking? The phrase is literally what it states—be critical of our own thinking. Challenge our own thoughts and belief systems. This is not to say I don’t have faith in the unseen, but spirituality is not the point of this post. I’m using it as an example.
I understand that truth can be subjective based on each individual’s experiences. However, subjective truth only goes so far. The Universe/Nature/God or whatever one calls the force behind life, set up some parameters. For example, waterfalls go down, not up. Chrysanthemum seeds cannot grow roses. If I have two dogs and adopt two more dogs, I have four dogs. People might create their own perceptions of these things and tell themselves two dogs plus two dogs equals six dogs, but that doesn’t make it true. Some might say, well, that’s their truth. But no, it’s their perception. It’s not reality.
Reality and/or truth can be denied, but it’s still truth despite a person’s differing perception. My mother-in-law denied that her husband was ill. She consistently said he was “getting better.” She perceived him as well and convinced the both of them he didn’t need his medication. Her denial almost cost him premature death…twice. Her perception didn’t change the truth. He needed medicine to survive another day. It may have comforted her to remain in the perception that he was well, but someone needed to see truth to keep the man from suffering and death. Sometimes perception that is not based in truth can be dangerous.
Many don’t realize that they’re seeing through the eyes of their own past or present abuses. They react from some trigger in their brains that sets off a certain perception that may even be hurtful to others. Media, social media, politicians take advantage of these emotional wounds. When those wounds are aggravated, people don’t use reason, let alone critical thinking.
Would we no longer be righteous if we actually tried to understand someone we disagree with? Would our world fall apart if we found out we were wrong? Or, would the truth set us free?
The point to my novels, both Whit’s End and my work-in-progress, is to show two different perspectives of the same issue. When the characters don’t look deeper and question the very foundation of their ways, the reality they perceive and react from may bring dire consequences.