Friends of the church, remember I was raised with you.
The experiences we shared were shared side by side, from grace to shame to joy. I basked in the power of a love radiating from a presence far beyond me. As a Pentecostal, I trembled and thrashed and wept at the altar. I spoke in a tongue I did not understand. I felt the power of the presence there, and back then, I described it exactly as you did.
While I did leave your world, I still hold onto the light of love that I first witnessed there. We may call it different things now, but I still believe that I learned what I was supposed to learn. And, like any evangelist, I intend to share it with others.
At heart, we both believe that evangelism is our calling to share the light of radiant love with the rest of the world. However, you probably believe this can only be done in our language: our culture, our beliefs, our traditions… our religion.
One cannot convey an experience to a world they do not understand, yet every world has its own history and language. So evangelizing — like missionary work — requires a willingness to leave your own culture in an attempt to understand another: for you cannot convey the meaning and reality of your world if you do not understand their world.
This is translation. This is evangelism. This is, always, how the light is carried into the darkness.
I learned this as I explored ever more worlds — but there was a more important revelation. Whenever the light moves, it illuminates: it unveils new perspectives, forms changing shadows and shapes, and hints at true enlightenment.
We assumed our light, carried into the world, would make the entire world look like us; instead, it changed the way we see ourselves. As it shines, it burns away the culture and trappings of religion, sacrificing form in favor of a greater spirit. It shifts our focus away from the words and traditions we know, and points us toward a greater love beyond them. It asks us to sacrifice what we are, and allow ourselves to be born again.
To me, this is the essential leap of faith. If we do not take it, we are more likely to serve a representation (or perhaps, a false idol) than the greater love we seek. To be faithful, we must chose to seek the flame — and that requires looking beyond the shadows it casts.
Unfortunately — like a parable of fire — this metaphor is only an attempt to translate my complex experience back to you. And to you, these words may seem strange, hostile, or utterly nonsensical… but remember: I was born in your world, in your light, in your language.
You taught me love. You loved me. I left to show that love to others; I left your words behind, in my attempt move beyond them, and teach their meaning to the world.
I have taken a leap of faith — but for all I left behind, I still carry the light of love with me. And as I look beyond the words, the ever brighter that light burns.