What do you do when someone tells you they had a spiritual experience that changed their life?
In “Till We Have Faces” CS Lewis, an Oxford Don around WWII, examines this very issue. He set the book in Greek mythology (not for the sensitive soul) to examine what to do when a most beloved sister claims to have had an enriching and life changing spiritual experience.
Lewis portrayed what NOT to do, namely to attempt to convince your loved one their spiritual experience was “just in their mind” for in the end you may destroy them and find they did have a spiritual experience.
Gamaliel, one of the most respected Jewish teachers almost 2000 years ago who mentored the Apostle Paul, was also faced with this question.
The Jewish Council, on which he had a prominent seat, was faced with a group of men who joyously proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus with the resulting message of Father God’s love and salvation through Jesus. The Council wanted to kill these men for proclaiming a spiritual experience different from their own.
Gamaliel advised the Council to leave the men alone, for if their experience was of natural origin it would fade to nothing, but if their experience was of supernatural origin they would be fighting against God.
Advice from an Oxford don and a Jewish elder: do not harass them about it. They did experience something. Time will tell whether it was natural or supernatural. And you should seek to benefit from what God is doing rather than fight against it.
Regardless of how outrageous it may sound, be patient, love them, offer truth and wisdom, let them process their experience, and see what you can learn.
What truth and wisdom can you offer? Here is the touchstone to examine all supernatural experiences: where is Jesus in their experience? Are they drawn closer to or driven further away from Father God, Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our Faith, and Holy Spirit our Councilor? Are they drawn into deeper dependence on God or are they becoming more self-centered? Is it resulting in humility or pride?
If God and supernatural experiences are not part of your life, invite God into your life and find out how amazing He is!
Recommended reading: “Practicing the Presence” by Brother Lawrence and a biography of St Francis of Assisi. These are on the “Too Good to Miss” list.