16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
Last Sunday we joined Bartlesville Southern Baptist Church. So did another couple, and a woman was saved! We were all standing at the front of the church, and the pastor started a round of applause for us. But it’s funny because then the light bulb right above where we had been sitting exploded and everyone was kinda startled. It was almost like Satan was angry about us joining the church.
I’m not saying for sure that it was supernatural, but it could have been. It’s also possible some water leaked in and got the light bulb wet. It has been raining a lot. The water was probably a foot deep in some places. I can’t believe we drove through that. The garden’s probably in bad shape but oh well, it will be fine. God will make it grow.
I’ve been talking to a guy at work about Christ. He said he had a theory that maybe God appoints certain people to tell others about Him and I said, “Yes! I’m one of them!” The Lord really put the words in my mouth. I’m honored to be used by Him. Even though he kinda believes the gospel, he’s already decided that he won’t be “religious.” All I can do now is pray.
We talked to my brother the other day and though he does want to stop leading worship there and find a better church, he’d rather wait until their apartment lease is up in November. Mom’s worried because she wants him and his wife to move here before something horrible happens, but I know it’ll be okay because the Lord showed me that He’ll bring them here before it’s too late.
— April 26th 1999
Dear Former Self,
Well, at least you’re open-minded enough to consider the possibility that the shock of cold rainwater against thin hot glass caused the bulb to shatter. It’s a rational, scientific explanation. But I can tell you’d rather believe the supernatural explanation. You’d like to think Satan expressed his outrage by making the bulb explode, kind of like in a horror movie. But this isn’t a movie, this is real life.
I’ve noticed that although you’re keeping a journal about your life, much of what you write is straight from your imagination. For example, you’re assuming that even though the garden is flooded, God will use his magic to make it grow anyway. How do you know that? And when it eventually does grow back, are you going to credit God? Plants always grow back once the conditions are right. It’s a natural process, not a miracle.
Another example is how you think God put words in your mouth when you were speaking to your friend at work. Are you saying the Holy Spirit literally possessed you and made you say the right things? That doesn’t seem very likely. If the creator of the universe literally spoke through you, then your words would have been more profound. Again, you’re imagining things.
Yet another example is how you think you “know” God will bring your brother and his wife to Oklahoma. How could you possibly know that? If I recall correctly, you were praying and in your mind you saw an image of your brother driving a U-Haul. But did you know that random images pop into people’s heads all the time? Just because you imagined that doesn’t mean you saw the future.
The point is that you are living your life with one foot in the real world and one foot in your imagination. You suspect Satan is causing supernatural events, you think plants can grow back impossibly fast, you think a spirit is literally speaking through you, and you even believe you have psychic powers. There’s nothing wrong with having an imagination, but you need to learn the difference between fantasy and reality.
This is one of the many problems with religious thinking. Theists are accustomed to making things up as they go (demons are tempting me, angels are protecting me, Jesus spoke to me, God answered my prayer, and so forth). And because of this, the line between the real world and the imaginary world is very blurry for them. It makes them more likely to accept supernatural explanations and less likely to accept rational explanations, which explains why some people are able to hold ridiculous beliefs while simultaneously rejecting scientific evidence.
As for your brother moving to Oklahoma, it’s not gonna happen. Over time, more and more of the things you believe God told you will turn out to be false. Eventually you’ll figure out that it wasn’t God who told you those things–it was your imagination.
— Matt, April 19th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.