Apparently people think that if you experience a "religious experience" you are 1) nuts 2) hallucinating or 3) it's all in your head.
But I believe in religious experiences because one happened to me. Yes, I'm still confused about that one. Okay two. Apparently I melded them together. One night on the couch out of the blue, Jesus entered our little room and smiled at me. I must have blogged about it, but I can't seem to find it in a search. It was a while ago. My memory is faulty. Update: Took me a while to remember the basic title. Here's the post about the second happening.
I'm not the only one. In fact, I've heard of a number of experiences from people I know. One of them lives with me, but I'll get that part in a sec.
The first time I heard about it, I admit having never experienced one myself, I was skeptical. My roommate, who is some sort of evangelical Protestant, couldn't really describe it to me. She said it happened in the bathtub and that she felt peaceful. I'm guessing that she didn't actually have a vision the way I had. The skeptic in me couldn't understand it because it wasn't like the saints describe since there was no vision, just a feeling.
The second experience I had heard about was from a friend of mine in grad school. She explained that she converted to Christianity after being a stanch atheist. She was raised Christian but never really got into the beliefs until one Christmas her parents got into a fight. Feeling hopeless she gave prayer a try and went to bed. The next morning she felt at peace and for some reason she knew there was a God.
Hubby has also had a religious experience that he can't explain either. He's never given many details to me despite my slight poking. He only says he's not sure if he was under his own delusions because he (at the time) was so religious. But it's also the reason why he's agnostic, not an atheist. He's pretty sure there's a God and that he experienced His presence.
Recently my church ladies' Bible study group has started again. Last year we covered SHE and also a book on the Theology of the Body. Both of the topics were related. This year they've decided to do something different and we're studying scripture more directly as it relates to the Holy Spirit.
This last session the topic of religious experiences and miracles came up. There were four women at our table. One woman said she felt the presence of God in her life telling her to convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism, but nothing like I experienced. Our group leader completely blew my tiny revelation from God with the fact that Jesus wakes her up nightly. And she also has visions. She said it all started after several family members died. Jesus wakes her up and basically tells her how much he loves her. I told her it sounded like an infant (her) stirring in the night and a parent (Jesus) comforting her. At first the visions overwhelmed her. She didn't think people would understand so she started reading the saints. And this has helped her.
The other lady in the group felt left out. She said that she hoped for an experience herself. We gave her some advice: receive the sacraments regularly, pray about it, and open yourself up to it. But I warned her the well does get dry. The other lady concurred. She said she had experiences before as a teenager, but then they stopped for a long time. We also told her that just because she hasn't received that gift didn't really mean anything. God has his reasons for why he does what he does.
Needless to say, I really do believe that people experience the divine. It's not all in our heads. Although most people won't believe that they are, most people have had some sort of experience. Some few blessed individuals have them regularly.