Because of the nature of this article, I feel it is necessary to express a sense of my personality and background. I’d never been, a “religious individual,” per say; but I’ve always felt an emotionally-charged connection to a “higher source.”
I had visited many different churches and experienced different faiths throughout the course of my life. I was baptized and raised in Catholic Religion (to a degree); had converted to Baptist religion during the early 90s, and then in this new Millennium, I found myself becoming a member at a local Methodist Church. Not a devout “Christian,” in the meaning of the word, but nonetheless, I wanted to find a sense of self and rediscover the spiritual side of me so that I could become the best human I could be.
Growing up, I was the youngest in a large family of all-girls; notwithstanding my Dad. My parents are what I would call, “Teaching Parents.” They weren’t the emotional, huggy-kissy parents, but more so the parents who would make you think before you spoke or look before you leaped. They had instilled a greater guideline to our lives by allowing us to experience it first hand. While we were in school, our parents struggled to make ends meet; and though we weren’t like other kids who flaunted their expensive items, fashions, neat gadgets and partook in leisure events; we all still survived. It is my belief that because we grew up without a lot of money is the reason to why and who we are today.
As we all grew up and out of our family home, memories of childhood were mixed as we girls had differing views and opinions of the how’s, what’s, when’s and whys. But we all knew that our parents did provide for us and loved us the best way they knew how.
In the last decade, I’d lost my ability to walk due to an injury. But with ample faith and trust in not only myself, but a higher power, I was able to break free from the confines of a wheelchair. Most persons with similar physical injuries are fortunate to ever regain use of their limbs again. In essence, I am a walking, living miracle.
Throughout my years, I’d always been outspoken, candid and sometimes a bit wacky in my thought processes. I’d had personal dreams about God and Jesus; and encountered haphazard, metaphysical experiences. Often wearing my heart on my sleeve, I’ve been known to retell events and dreams to family members and close friends. In response, my sisters think I’m eccentric (in a crazy sort of way); some think I walk a bit on the wild side of life; some think I have absolutely no tact; others think I’m overzealous; and other folks may think I’m downright scatterbrained.
My spiritual epiphany didn’t come immediately. It happened over a long period of time: When my father passed away last October, I was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow. More than just the average “dad,” he, like my mom, had been a life instructor to me. Not always emotionally connected, both always managed to make us realize our physical and mental potential by teaching us how to use mind over matter. No, my dad wasn’t a Magi, but he was a realist. His world was black and white, the haves and have-nots; and he always strived to create new ideas so he could earn an honest living. In retrospect, my dad was crackerjack “MacGyver.” He could make something out of nothing, and never hesitated to capitalize on his efforts.
It took my whole background and my dad’s physical passing to realize and understand the meaning of life. What happened over the course of the last three months of my life has been a transformational experience for me to say the least.
Allow me to elaborate: a few weeks after my dad crossed over, I had a spiritual dream regarding his physical death and the afterlife. At the time, I personally did not want to accept that he had become “one” with the spiritual world.
As a human being, I wanted him to be the way he was here on earth, and definitely did not want to accept his newfound expression of love as “universal love.” The human side of me was not ready, nor willing to comprehend his new coexistence in the Spiritual realm. I struggled with the message of my dream. Ideally, it should have been a dream of comfort, but I actively chose not to see the valuable meaning that it held.
My Spiritual Epiphany
It wasn’t up until I went to Church this past Sunday that I rediscovered its hidden meaning. Our Pastor is a humble man, but enthusiastic in his worship services. This past Sunday was no different than the rest, other than the fact that he explained how this new season of worship was to focus on the New Testament of the Bible. Now, any other sermon may have gone over my head, or may not have been taken to heart, but he reiterated that our purpose of coming to church was to worship Jesus, not for us to merely be “entertained” by the choir or the sermon. Attending church is not to “get anything out of it for yourself,” rather it is to pay homage to God. During the service, I sensed that our Pastor was speaking to us with a heavy heart, and that his message about God was in its purest form of hope and honesty.
When I left the service, I told our Pastor that I had really enjoyed it. I went home as usual, caught up with some household chores and prepared dinner. At evening’s end, something told me to pick up the Bible and to read the section on Matthew. Wow! What a vital message this was to me. It wasn’t just any message either – it was a wakeup call.
As I began to read through Matthew’s testimony, the words came full circle to me. Please allow me to present the following passages I read from the Living Bible (paraphrased):
Matthew 6:19 – 6:21
“…Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value, and are safe from thieves. If you profits are in heaven your heart will be there too…”
“…So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things – food, drink and clothes. For you already have life and a body – and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat – they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food – for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?
So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathens? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.”
“…Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother.”
Matthew 9:10 – 13
Later, as Jesus and his disciples were eating dinner (at Matthew’s house), there were many notorious swindlers there as guests!
The Pharisees were indignant. “Why does your teacher associate with men like that?”
Because people who are well don’t need a doctor! It’s the sick people who do!” was Jesus’ reply. Then he added, “Now go away and learn the meaning of this verse of Scripture: It isn’t your sacrifices and your gifts I want – I want you to be merciful. For I have come to urge sinners, not the self-righteous, back to God.”
“…If anyone publicly acknowledges me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as my friend before my Father in heaven.
But if anyone publicly denies me, I will openly deny him before my Father in heaven.
Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, rather a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s worst enemies will be right in his own home! If you love your father and mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse o take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.
If you cling to your life you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will save it.
Those who welcome you are welcoming me. And when they welcome me, they are welcoming God who sent me. If you welcome a prophet because he is a man of God, you will be given the same reward a prophet gets. And if you welcome good and godly men because of their godliness, you will be given a reward like theirs.
And if, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.”
Matthew 16:21- 23
“From then on Jesus began to speak plainly to his disciples about going to Jerusalem, and what would happen to him there – that he would suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders, that he would be killed, and that three days later he would be raised to life again.
But Peter took him aside to remonstrate with him. “Heaven forbid, sir,” he said, “This is not going to happen to you!”
Jesus turned on Peter and said, “Get away from me, you Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are thinking merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.”
“Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders! You are like beautiful mausoleums – full of dead men’s bones, and of foulness and corruption. You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with ever sort of hypocrisy and sin…”
As I read these and other detailed verse, I found so many relevant passages to my Pastor’s service that I finally understood. I had finally gained an overall comprehension to the meaning of life and how God and Jesus Christ fit into the scheme of it all!
The “Higher Source” that I had been connected to all these years, was speaking to me in ways only I could understand. It wasn’t coincidence that I had went to Church and listened to his teachings; it wasn’t coincidence that I picked up the Bible that I hadn’t read in a long time; and it wasn’t coincidence that I had had the dream about my dad just two months earlier. No, somehow all of this tied in together to form the perfect meaning of my earthly existence:
While I had struggled with accepting that my father had “crossed over” into the spiritual world of heaven, and his new “universal love,” it suddenly dawned on me that I had no choice but to accept this revelation. It wasn’t up to me whether or not my father lived or died; it was entirely up to God and His will. And his (my dad) newfound love was greater than any love I had experienced in my life. I had rejected his love because my human side wanted to hold on to the earthly dad I once knew. My selfishness had gotten in the way of accepting the love of Jesus Christ.
After I read the book of Matthew, I understood that we must first love God, and that life is not about me. It’s not about you. It’s not about your family. It’s not about anyone. It’s not about the clothes we wear, nor the material things we possess; life, and this spiritual epiphany was telling me that it was time for me to do an in-depth, spirituality check. And that spirituality check came when I read the story of Matthew.
In hindsight, our Pastor has and still does exemplify Jesus’ works. (I won’t mention his name because I know he’s quite modest.) He even went so far as giving two separate worship services: Traditional and Contemporary. He never frets about how one dresses to worship; if they’re a sinner or saint; or if a parishioner is rich or poor – his purpose, as should be the purpose of all Christians and Disciples, is to recruit souls for the greater good of Jesus and God.
Life will throw curve balls at you. Some we can dodge, others may hurt us emotionally, even physically; but even in death, we can overcome through the light of Jesus Christ. He is what sustains us throughout our journey. Sometimes, it takes death or tragedy to fully understand just how much God loves us. In my case, like he’d done so for many years before, my own dad (through the power of Jesus Christ) taught me a lesson in his dying: in the end, all we have is God, Jesus and Universal love. If we don’t accept and embrace them, our lives have been lived for nothing at all. What we do with Jesus’ teachings…well, that’s entirely up to us.
Just some points to ponder…
COPYRIGHT 2006 – A Spiritual Epiphany!
By CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd