In 1939, I had hair long enough and thick enough that you could grab a handful and hang on.
I’m eternally grateful for that head of hair because Danny Pond grabbed it and pulled me out of the undertow of Chesapeake Bay. He brought me ashore and pumped the water out of my lungs, and I’m alive today because of it.
As I have read accounts of what has come to be called “out-of-body” experiences, I have been able to identify with those writings. My memory runs parallel, but not exactly the same as what I’ve read, and that’s OK.
No two people experience life-threatening circumstances exactly the same way. That goes for miraculous healing, as well.
As I have studied the Gospels, I’ve noticed the differences in how Jesus treated the blind. Out of these differences a story has grown up about two men who, through Jesus, both regained their sight.
They fell into conversation, comparing what happened to them. One said, “It was Jesus who cured me.”
The second asked, “Did he use mud?”
The first man said, “No, no mud; he just touched my eyes.”
The second man then objected.
“If he didn’t use mud, it must not have been Jesus,” he said.
The first man affirmed that he knew it was Jesus, no matter what the second man thought. The argument went on for some minutes and they parted, still disagreeing.
The reality was that both men regained their sight and both felt gratitude for being able to see. But they could not agree on the object/person of their faith.
I talked to a psychologist friend who thought the whole out-of-body thing was our brain reviewing what we’d learned or read about. It had nothing to do with God, he maintained.
We parted friends with a vast chasm of difference in how we viewed the world. His faith was limited to what he could see and touch. He had no room for the spiritual.
How like our society, where we have multitudes of groups all affirming faith in the God revealed in Jesus, but stubbornly insisting that their experience is the one and only true path for followers of Christ.
How sad that our picture of God is so small that we try to fit the Creator into the limits of our minds. If our Creator built the earth out of a ball of hot gas, how much more is God able to build lives out of the varied experiences of folks like you and me?
Is it so important that our view of the ocean agree with every one else’s? I’ve see the ocean on both coasts and my view of the Atlantic is quite different from my view of most of the Pacific. So what does the ocean look like?
God is so much bigger than your view or mine. Thanks be to God that revelation is bigger than any of our minds and souls.
The Rev. John Pugh, a retired United Methodist pastor, lives in Billings.
The Faith & Values column appears Saturdays in The Billings Gazette.
Pastors, ethicists, educators or others who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.