I am on a train, the whistle just blew the wheels have begun to turn. I am watching the backside of downtown Austin and it feels very much like I am on a ride at Disneyland or on a tour of a movie studio where I, for one second, get to peek around a corner and see how the magic happens. Trains, I am guessing, are quite heavy and the wheels, as they say, have been put in motion. Like it or not, I am going somewhere.
There are some days on which I am keenly aware that by the time I get to sundown I will be living a different life than when I began. Some of these days are more obvious than others: the day I left home and moved to college, the day I graduated, the day I moved to Austin.
There are other days that are much less obvious. Today I am on a train to Dallas to take the first in a series of courses I will be taking on spiritual direction. This is something I have wanted to do for years and there is the oddest feeling of mundane anticipation, of a pedestrian hope, when the train first begins to move. This is happening.
I wonder, am I approaching a big moment that will change my future? Is this day just the fruit of the little labors of applying, paying for, praying for and studying? Or is this event just a small piece of the puzzle of the really big events still waiting to happen.
Ive been wondering most of all if what I am feeling counts as a religious experience.I am not having ecstatic visions. I am not intensely emotional one way or the other. There does not seem to be any sudden in-breaking revelations, hallucinations, intuitions, chills, ache, fever or nausea. I am simply a guy sitting on a train.
The answer to all of these questions is, of course, yes. In the truest sense of the word, this is a religious experience precisely because today is the result of a lot of little labors including of years of coming to understand who I am and who I want to be. Yes, it is the work that brought me here, the moment itself, and the future toward which it moves. Getting on a train to Dallas is a kind of an act of faith. Not a terribly costly one (depending on what you think of Dallas) but nonetheless it is an act. Here I am, and this is the next most reasonable step I can take if I want to get to there. Faith.
So what does a religious experience feel like? Today it is a little bumpy but rocking back and forth gently. Today it is a little sleepy, a little curious, and for the moment a little hungry. Regardless of their intensity, all of our experiences are religious to the extent that the moments of our lives are bound together in a story bigger than I am. That is the nature of religion.
The Christian faith is not all mysticism and invisibles. It is a string of everyday experiences like washing dishes or cleaning my room. It is a string of pieces of life used to bind up the broken pieces of the world so it can be more like meant for it to be. Religion, in a literal sense, is binding these moments, my life, our lives together with God.
I am part of a story, an itinerary, a spiritual geography. This faith has moved me, is moving me as we speak. It is every little step. It brought me here, is taking me there and is going somewhere that I cannot yet see. But today I get to peek around a corner and see how the magic happens. A lot of it is just plain work.
I am on a train. It is a heavy train, and the wheels, as they say, have been set in motion. Like it or not, I am going somewhere.
This post is part of the Faith for Reasons series where you may find realted posts.