When writing this post I wanted to avoid cheese at all costs. It’s so easy when you write a post saying hello to people, you can get into corny language, and not truth.
And I guess that’s part of who I am. I’m James Prescott, and I don’t like to be corny, or fake – I’ve always valued honesty, integrity, and that jargony word, authenticity. As a writer, that goes into all the work I do – my books, my blog posts, everything.
Including my spiritual journey.
I’ve got a very interesting journey, which has led me to a very interesting place in my spiritual journey, and my life…and of course, as many of us have experienced, these seem to be very much tied together.
I began in the Methodist Church. Very traditional, very conservative evangelical. God was distant. Jesus was close. Warm, loving, safe. But God was distant. I had a major childhood trauma, with my mother suffering brain damage which led to alcoholism, and ultimately to my parents fighting constantly through my teenage years whilst I was being psychologically bullied without end at school.
I took responsibility. As an introvert, I didn’t have too many friends, and the ones I had I couldn’t confide in. The person I turned to, ironically in hindsight, was God. That’s when my prayer life came alive.
University, my Christian experience was – despite it being in a Methodist church – much more Pentecostal. It was the 1990’s the Toronto Blessing had just happened, so there was prayer ministry, people falling over or getting healed, laughter in the spirit. It was an amazing time. i was closer to God than ever.
Then, only two years after graduating from University, my Mum passed away.
This changed everything.
In hindsight, it was then that I woke up. Because the God I’d had up till then, the God of certainty, the God I could grasp and comprehend, who had made sense…was dead.
The God I’d followed wasn’t big enough for me anymore. I wasn’t really aware of what was happening. Only that I wasn’t sure of anything anymore in relation to my spirituality. And I had no one to share my questions with.
Then I discovered Rob Bell’s first book ‘Velvet Elvis’. I read it in one sitting, within two hours. And I’d never read a book that length in one sitting before.
Reading it, I discovered a God who was bigger than my brain. Bigger than my experiences, good and bad. Bigger than the Bible itself. Bigger than religion. A God of mystery, doubt, and the unknown. A God I didn’t know everything about, a faith with room for explanation.
I felt alive again.
And in the 12 years since then, I’ve just kept growing and expanding and deepening my faith, and my understanding of the divine. I discovered spiral dynamics, new monasticism, non-dual thinking, the mystics, and more recently, moved beyond the old conservative/liberal divides, to a more transcendent Christian spirituality.
Where Am I Now?
I’m now in a place where I don’t know all the answers. In fact, where I know I’ll never know all the answers. I’m always asking myself, and the divine ‘What is there I don’t know? What the next stage? Where do i go now? What don’t I know? How can I grow?’
I’ve found a concept of the divine that includes the best of some of my journey – the prayer ministry, worship, good theology, movement of the spirit, but also has room for mystery, doubt, mysticism, and allows me to enter into experiences like Atheism For Lent. The latter process in itself, critiquing my faith, asking it questions, has deepened my spirituality but also expanded it. Indeed, I’ve found the more I’ve learned about the science of the universe, the bigger, wider, deeper and more mysterious the divine becomes. And everything has become spiritual.
Above all, my sense of what the Bible is has changed. It’s no longer a legalistic religious text stuck in the past, which we worship and use to limit God. It’s a collection of books, of different genres, written by different people at different times in history, with different agendas, in different contexts. The truths in there, for me, are way bigger than simply the words on the page…and in seeing the Bible this way, it’s been rediscovered for me as a book of wonder, pointing me towards the divine, like a signpost – rather than the stone tablet it was as a youngster.
Of course, I know there’s more I don’t know. I’m not wise. I don’t know it all. I can’t contain God in my brain. If I have God all figured out, with all the answers, and no mystery, mysticism, uncertainty, or doubt, I know I’m in trouble. I love that there’s mystery, unknown, unseen, in the divine, that He, or She, in all things, everywhere you look.
And there’s always more to learn. I’m only just beginning to come to terms with where I’ve been and my journey of my life up to now. But now I feel more free of the past than ever, knowing it’s always a part of me and has shaped who i am, but it doesn’t define me or my future.
My future is unwritten. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know where I’ll end up. But I know I’m on a big, mysterious, divine adventure, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why would any of us?