When Beliefs Collide
September 16, 2003
Ever since I told the family that I only have 6 months to live, Mom and Dad have been agitated about my spiritual path. They raised all of us Christian, but to my parents’ dismay, not all of their children fell in line with their belief system. While I have a deep spirituality, it does not follow all of what the Bible talks about. For example, I believe in Jesus but I don’t believe in a literal, eternal hell. My parents, however, follow the word closely and hell is a reality for them. It’s for this reason that my terminal illness, coupled with my beliefs, is extremely distressing for them. They fear that once I leave this earth, we may end up in different eternal residences and, therefore, they may never see me again.
This issue is very painful for them and has been brought up in different ways throughout my life and my illnesses. Lately, the topic has been brought up quite frequently and with urgency. Sometimes I feel compassion for their heartache and sometimes it makes me very angry. I have even contemplated lying to them and saying that I had done all of the things they asked me to do, just so they could have some peace. Ultimately, I have been pushed to a point of such frustration that I decided I needed to confront them about this issue. My plan was to lay down strict boundaries and declare the topic of religion off limits. I would tell them in no uncertain terms that their feelings were their problem and they should leave me out of their religious quandaries. Luckily, before I had this bitter conversation, I decided to pray about it first.
My father was on his way over to spend some time with me this afternoon. Before he got here I went into my room and laid down on the bed. I relaxed myself and got very quiet. I started to journey inside myself to the other plane where my “spirit guides” await my visits. The irony doesn’t escape me that my most trusted spirit guide is Jesus. I feel very close to him individually, just not the religion of Christianity. This distinction may seem strange to some people, certainly that is so for my family, but nonetheless is where I am coming from. I sat down to pray to Jesus about this problem and was flooded with answers. In fact, he gave me a list of things to tell my parents and I have included some of those here.
I asked the question “Jesus, how do I talk to my Dad about my beliefs”. These are the things he told me. They simply popped into my head as a conscious thought and I wrote them down.
- Tell him that he is confusing religion with rules. Religion is not rules, it is love.
- Tell him that you are my child and I love you. Ask him how in the world he thinks I would ever let anything bad happen to my child?
- Tell him that everything you have done, you have done to find love. Love of yourself, other people and love of the universe. If Buddhism and other traditions help you learn more about love, then they are a good thing.
- Tell him how you always turn to me first with your big problems.
- Tell him that when you say you love me, you mean it, not only as a practitioner, but as someone who knows me personally.
- Tell him to lay his burden down.
- Tell him that he will never know how much I love you but that is all that really matters.
Let him think on these things. Arguments are not necessary.
Arguments were not necessary. When my father arrived, I read these things to my father and he cried. He told me that he felt sure now that I would be ok. He was able to lift his fears and sadness and embrace the concept that, despite my “non-traditional” route, I had found my way to heaven. I was blown away by his reaction. I never expected that kind of understanding. It was clear that my talk with Jesus was a glorious example of "taking the high road". This experience will forever change the way I look at conflict.
My parents and I will always come from a very different perspective on religion. What this taught me was that when religions collide, there are two ways one can handle the situation. One can fight back with the force of the ego and claim “rightness” or one can dig deeper and find the spiritual thread that connects most world religions; love and compassion. I could have gotten indignant and told my parents to back off. Perhaps that would have been acceptable, reasonable. But would it have been helpful and healing? Certainly not.
By listening to the Divine Voice inside me, I was able to draw myself closer to my religious “opponent” while maintaining my own integrity. This certainly is the ideal and I am forever grateful that I spoke to Jesus before I spoke from judgment and anger.