Last night at our book study we talked about Paul’s mystical experience on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) We don’t know exactly what happened to Paul—accounts vary—but we do know that Paul experienced something dramatic enough to alter the course of his life 180 degrees. He changed from enforcing rules to encouraging love.
We also talked about our own mystical experiences. There was no shortage. People shared stories of songs popping into their lives at the right moment, inner voices calming them or urging them into action, and visible reminders a dead loved one or feelings of their presence.
I noticed something, though. Almost everyone started their stories with qualifiers. “It might be just a coincidence, but . . .”, or “I don’t know if this is a spiritual story or not, but . . .”.
That’s the paradox of mystical experiences. We are physical beings, so we need something physical to happen so we can perceive a message: a sound, a sign, a feeling. But because the message we receive is carried via a physical medium, it makes it easy to dismiss as just the physical thing and nothing more. Skeptics and critics say, “You’re reading something into it that isn’t there,” or “It’s a coincidence,” or “You’re crazy.”
The very thing we need to perceive spirit is the very thing that makes us want to dismiss it.
Sometimes mystical moments give a person comfort or a gentle nudge in the right direction, sometimes they save lives, and sometimes, like Paul on the road to Damascus, they dramatically alter the course of a life. The common theme of all the stories we heard was this: every person received exactly what they needed exactly when they needed it.
All of the stories we heard could be dismissed as coincidence or the result of a vivid imagination. There’s no way to prove anything beyond the physical, but there’s also no way to prove that these moments were just coincidence. So we have a choice. We can choose to believe what we wish. I think it’s much more meaningful, comforting and just plain fun to believe that these moments that stop us in our tracks have spirit flowing in, through and all around them.
In future, when I hear someone begin a story with “I don’t know if this is a spiritual story or not, but . . .” I’m going to sit up and pay attention. The story is bound to be a doozy.