Two people fell asleep on a totally dark night. One slept outside a cave in the open air. The other slept inside the cave. Both are in total darkness.
In the morning, the person outside the cave woke up as the light slowly becomes alive. There was a beautiful sunrise and a gradual lighting of the day. The morning got brighter and brighter until high noon, when the sun was at its highest. The sun was bright and beautiful, amazing and wonderful!
Meanwhile the person inside the cave slept until noon. Slowly waking up, it was still totally dark inside the cave. Drawn towards the light and the fresh air, the person left the cave, awed and startled by the sudden burst of brightness. The sun was bright and beautiful, amazing and wonderful!
Both people have arrived at high noon and stood in the same place. Their arrival time was significantly different. And of course, both need to travel through the rest of the day.
This is a parable about difference in the spiritual journey. The person sleeping outside the cave could be compared to persons baptized or dedicated as an infant, attends church as a child, learns about the faith little by little, attends Sunday School, gradually arriving to a place of committed faith in Christ Jesus. Deep and genuine faith, being God-connected in Christ can happen gradually.
The person sleeping inside the cave could be compared to persons who comes to faith with a startling, powerful experience that knocks them onto the ground in a blinding way (as happened to Saul of Tarsus, who became the greatest evangelist ever: Paul).
Both types of experiences are valid ways to come to faith. God’s Holy Spirit uses both (and many in between) as ways to bring people into the fold of the Good Shepherd. To me, it’s troubling when people insist it has to be one way or the other. God’s Holy Spirit works and moves in a variety of ways. People experience faith in different ways. There is no one way we must pray, no particular church-words that must be used.
More importantly, faith never ends at high noon! We are to travel together from high noon through the rest of the day. The Spirit calls us to be closer to God, to be part of a community of believers. At the end of the day, God calls us into the full banquet of the eternal kingdom, to fully share together what we can only taste in our earthly lives.
So, let’s be tolerant, even understanding of each other’s faith, different interpretations of the Holy Bible, different ways we worship, different language we use, even the things we don’t understand about other faith-groups. God understands and God hears us all. God loves us all. Amen!