Sometimes, we let ourselves believe that experiences are valuable and valid only. . . if they’re explainable.
Of course, sometimes, marvelous things happen, and that ignites our curiosity. “How is that possible? How does that work?” This kind of questioning is expansive in its energy, deeply curious about how the world works and how we function within it.
But another kind of questioning can show up in ourselves that’s simply dismissive. “How could that be possible? Surely, that isn’t so. That’s ridiculous.”
Skepticism can be healthy and helpful. Needed, even. I’m certainly not knocking that in total. Instead, I’m talking about those moments when we stop being curious. When we’re so sure we know how the world works that our questioning (or our explanation points) become contracted instead of expansive. We stop marveling. We cease to believe that more is possible beyond what is easily explainable. We also come to this conclusion: Experiences are valuable and valid only. . . if they’re explainable.
We make explanation the benchmark.
But sometimes, marvelous things happen that we can’t explain. Sometimes beauty remains, unexplained. Maybe the beauty is more important than the explanation.
A few months ago, I wrote a post in a large Facebook group of clergy. I said,
“Unpopular Church Opinions. Go!”
330 comments followed. I’ll leave the details confidential, but many of us described beefs we have with church life. Some shared minority theological perspectives, wondering what folks in our congregations would think if they knew we had shifted our thoughts. And then, some (and I didn’t expect this) felt courage to share for the first time that they had experiences that might be thought of as mystical in some way. These were experiences beyond what is typical or explainable. People seemed to be encouraged by seeing this in one another. “Wait, you too?” “I never get to talk about this anywhere!” In our communities of faith — often, very cerebral communities — people would probably disregard such experiences.
Well, last week, I had a beautiful experience that I will leave unexplained.
I was in the midst of doing some work, specifically, reading on my laptop Kindle app while some music was playing on Pandora, and all of the sudden, I stopped because I had this sensation. It was a feeling of calm, followed by a feeling of awareness. In the awareness, I said,
“Someone’s praying for me right now.”
This is not something that happens to me typically.
I sat with it for about three seconds, and then said, “It’s Ellie.”* Somehow, I had a sense that it was Ellie. She’s my friend in the U.K. And I did feel a remarkable sense of calm. I looked at the time because I wanted to remember it. It was 1:37pm.
Later that evening, Ellie and I ended up chatting on Facebook about something else entirely when I said, “How many hours ahead are you from Eastern Standard Time?”
“Okay, this may sound really weird. . . but were you praying for me today? Because I had this sense that you were. And it was at 1:37pm EST.”
“Yes, I was! And that was it, exactly. I was walking outside on my way to a 7pm meeting at a local pub. It was about 6:40pm, and during that walk, I prayed a blessing for you — that you would feel peace.”
“Ellie, I did. It reached me!”
I can’t explain this. I don’t need to. It’s beautiful. I’m going let that beauty remain, unexplained.
Even if untypical, there may be a very natural way to explain such a phenomenon. Perhaps we are more connected than we think we are (I tend to believe this strongly!) I welcome the expansive, curiosity questions.
But my concern, the point of this post, is that we are so internally dismissive of some of our own experiences, that we may miss very real ways of perceiving, very real ways of being connected, very real ways of marveling because we’ve been socialized to discount them. But still, the beauty remains, unexplained.
*Friend’s name changed