I grew up in the teachings of a Unitarian Universalist church. Didn’t learn much about God there but a whole lot about the brotherhood of Man and all the different world religions. The greatest gift from this legacy was an expansive trust and faith in the intrinsic goodness of humankind. I still carry that firmly clenched in my being, despite many disappointments along the way. However, the greatest disappointment growing up this way was a complete lack of transcendent vision beyond the tiny boundaries of this life.
After a startling, life-changing encounter with God, I searched through several Christian and Jewish congregations for answers. I carefully listened to the teaching and immersed myself in the community each time, ready to put down roots and blossom. Each time, some kind of cosmic door shut before me, and it was time to move on. Every time this happened, it was caused by an act of rejection.
The Pentecostals taught that unless you spoke in tongues you were not saved. Even though I had been deeply changed and awakened by an experience involving speaking in tongues, I knew there was something wrong with that restriction. I watched a very sweet man humbly asking for this gift week after week on his knees, believing he would not be accepted by God until he could speak in tongues. Broke my heart to go, but it was time.
I had great hopes for the Messianic Jewish avenue, but it became clear after some time that they embraced the same core tenets as the Evangelicals, who taught that you couldn’t be saved unless you believed in Jesus a certain way. You could call him Yeshua and cling to the Jewish truths undergirding your faith, and the restriction here was less narrow. But this exclusion of anyone outside the mindset was just as real. When that became too much for what I believe is the nature of God, I had to go, with great sadness.
Turning to Judaism was a relief. There was no talk of earning salvation, but after centuries of anti-Semitism, it was understandable that a non-Jew would have to convert in order to be a welcomed member of the community. The rejection there was simple: you could join up as long as you did not believe in Jesus or Yeshua. I was not and am not able to do that. With many fond backward glances, I took my leave.
Since then, I have been studying and praying at home, weighing all I learned in each place. I have been thinking quite a bit about the Wider Hope (universalist) view that everyone is saved, including animals. I wonder about the opportunities God may have for us to embrace him and trust him when we are crossing over from this life to the next reality. I think that once I am divested of my physical self and its attachments and cares, I will be grateful that God is fair. I will be overjoyed that he is real, that he will decide our fate with justice and love.
I have to ask this question: If God hates evil, and his very existence is the anithesis of evil, wouldn’t it be consistent with his nature to rescue all his creation from the clutches of the evil one, even if only a certain few of us go on to live with him forever in the way we all hope for? In my feeble understanding, it rings true (and not just optimistically) that those of us who will be lovingly laid to rest will applaud with great joy for those who will go on with God. We may be surprised and delighted to see who is chosen, much as we applaud our Nobel Prize winners and sports champions. All will be saturated with the weight of Glory.
I pray that you are as encouraged and comforted as I am by these thoughts, as we face down our fears and doubts and continue on the path God has laid for us to his love. Knowing and trusting that Great Love in this life is all the paradise I can imagine for now.