Friday, December 16, 2011

My Sensed-Presence Experience

I recently finished a rereading of “The Believing Brain by Dr. Michael Shermer” and in it he speaks about the sensed-presence effect. It is when the brain suffers hallucination(s) of a presence due to stress-induced neurological dysfunction caused by any number of reasons Dr. Shermer lists; monotony, darkness, barren landscapes, isolation, cold, injury, dehydration, hunger, fatigue and fear add sleep deprivation. This part fascinated me because of an experience I had which held proof in my mind of god’s existence, even if the worlds explanations of who, what , when, where and why were rejected during my journey of truth and self-honesty.

Why I was wrestling with giving up my beliefs in a personal god I systematically started with religion, which was easier than I thought, and its doctrine. I found that finding the research on debunking the Bible was easy and widely available; all I had to do was start looking with reason goggles on (I started with Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism). The thing I had the hardest time with dismissing was a personal experience I had during my second internship as a Youth Minister for the church of Christ.

I arrived at the church the summer after my junior year at Oklahoma Christian University, which was a trying year for me, I was hounded by doubts about biblical texts, but resolved in my faith that god would work those out for me, and I was excited to see the kids I had formed a great relationship the summer before as we grew the youth group from a handful of kids to more that 30 with good relationships with other youth groups in the area. My optimism was high for another successful summer. I had kept up through emails with the minister and a few of the youth who never let me know about the destruction the elders wreaked upon the youth program throughout the year.
A group of 30 was now three, which was two less than when I started. After spending time speaking with the families of those who left I learned the eldership cut all the funding, blocked use of the van to transport to youth functions, and closed the use of the youth building for youth activities. There were many other things that happened, all to lead up to a broken moment one
evening. I remember I walked into the little apartment located in the basement of the youth building, I was so tired and emotionally spent, so I got on my knees at the end of my bed and began to pray, which turned into weeping. I felt alone, abandoned, emotionally and physically exhausted. It was in that moment I felt a hug, a true embrace which turned into a very peaceful feeling. I awoke in my bed the next morning with a feeling of clarity, I felt truly touched by god and it gave me a strong sense of direction. I got dressed, packed my belongings, called an elders meeting and resigned and returned to Oklahoma.

I still feel peace when I think about that moment. It was a profound decision gate which changed the course of my life when I changed my major from Youth Ministry to Liberal Arts, never wanting to do ministry again. Looking back I'm sure that was the moment my journey to skepticism began and the seeds of reason and logic were planted. I’m glad I have a better understanding of how and why I had that experience, which is the last string of magical explanations I have been holding on to. Still, I am thankful for the defense mechanism my brain has, and the hug that it gave me in my time of need, because I really needed it.

1 comment:

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    Cheers :)