Our modern culture seems to have an allergy to symbolic meaning. We live in a world (I speak for those of us in the US, at least) that has primed us from birth to be literal-minded people. We deal better with signs rather than symbols. The difference between the two is that signs are literal. They point directly to something (the stop sign says STOP, so we stop). A symbol carries a deeper meaning. To stay with the imagery of the stop sign, the red color symbolizes stopping, but it can also mean ‘warning’ or a myriad of other things in different contexts. (This stop sign example is a dreadfully limited one; please forgive me.)
I grew up in a Reformed church where you had to go through a catechism process where part of the syllabus was aimed at explaining and understanding the symbols, which gave me an appreciation for them. But, I found that with that syllabus I also received a heavy dose of laws and a lawkeeping mindset that went against the Grace of God, the love of God, and especially against the move of the Holy Spirit in and through the child of God. Eventually I ended up in a Pentecostal church which freed me up spiritually, and I found that they had more freedom associated with the symbols and a broader interpretation of them in life. I was baptized again, this time by immersion as a confession of my revitalized faith. Later I experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, with some of the gifts of the Spirit operating in my life. This brought an even broader understanding and appreciation of the symbols. It still took me years to move from a lawkeeping mindset and seeing God as an angry, vengeful God, to more fully living in the Grace and Presence of an Eternally Loving and kind God. And now I appreciate the symbols even more, as they have become real to me.
Thank you for this. And thanks Mr. de Waal for sharing your experience - it also resonated with me. I want to comment, but don't feel I'll be able to make myself clear. I feel the pull to the sacred, but I keep bumping up against the law keeping - and male - version of God when I try to connect. I came of age in the mid-seventies: feminism good/patriarchy bad and religion was brain washing. I believed in something greater than me, I just couldn't connect to the examples I was coming in contact with in my search for a spiritual home. Some Pagan religions were the closet I came because of their connection to the universe as a whole. I became a "charismatic" Christian in my early fifties, mainly as the best choice (I thought) for providing my young children something to believe in while growing up. I felt that having the condemnation God (read: Catholic) while growing up; which was confusing to say the least, led me to many, many decisions made to stay with the flow, not because that's who I was. If I could give them the confirmation that they were loved just as they were from something greater than them; it was a leg-up from my up bringing. Once they left the house one [my son] stayed with the faith, the other [my daughter] dropped it like a hot potato. Just saying. I started recognizing the silent judging that was going on as just that - we'll love you even though you are not getting into heaven because of [fill in the blank] and stopped going - but believed strongly in Jesus as the person to emulate for his true connection to our God. I flailed around for awhile, trying to find another connection and that's when I found your blog. I went through every iteration of faith that you've gone through with you. :) I am happy (?) to say that I started doubting where we were about the same time you did. I just deleted the rest of my post - it was becoming WAY to long.
I will say this, I feel like this final path you've chosen is authentic. I was skeptical that you would get a hard edge with your teachings by going "mainstream". But you are far from it. You speak to the essence of having faith in something greater than we are and I am beginning to appreciate a set liturgy as a way to settle in to that peace of God and not as some road signs keeping on toward "the(ir) way". Although it is still tough for me.
After reading this, following you has either led me to this wonderful path to peace, or I am a believer in Jonas. [insert shoulder shrug emoji here] I think; I've just followed someone who happened to be doing the same search that I was - and I'm grateful.