When the Tree Comes of Age

Robert - Gainesville, Florida
Entered on October 26, 2008
Age Group: 65+

Like it or not, we are each born into a belief system beyond our control. I was born in the Northwest among Irish, Catholic, Democrats. By the time I was 21, and in college, I still believed I was an Irish Catholic Democrat. I thought I had my head on my shoulders. Little did I know that was entering a decade of drug use, mysticism and a trip to India to study Buddhism. If you had asked me at 31 what I believed, I would have said, “I am a Zen Buddhistic Theosophical Christian and I’m forming a new political party called The Love Party. I tried to run for governor of Washington State to legalize marijuana, prostitution, end compulsory public education and provide free health care to all, convert to solar power and stop nuclear proliferation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attract enough voters to get on the ballot.

When I was 34, I was living in the Californian Dessert and had a vision. I saw a spirit whom I believed was Jesus. He asked me to work for him. He said, “Do what my words tell you to do, and to stay out of the churches.

When I was 41, I’d been in an out of a couple of dozen churches and was studying at Mennonite seminary in Virginia. If you had asked me what I believed, I would have replied, “Christians must stay out of wars, live non-violent lives devoted to helping others and avoid all worldly thing like radio, television, movies, theaters, dances, gambling, smoking, toking, sports, rock and roll and country music. Men and women must dress modestly and women should wear a head scarf when they pray. I thought it was a sin to vote.

By the time I was 51 I had spent 4 years as a pastor in Nashville, had administered a Bible camp and was a chaplain at a Florida sea port and a full time elementary public school teacher. I had five children, and had left the Mennonite Church. If you wanted to know my beliefs, you would be surprised to hear that I still believed much of what the Mennonites believed with the exception that I no longer believed in the Trinity and had softened on the arts.

By the time I was 61, most of my beliefs had come of age. I was happy with my beliefs. I knew what I believed and why I believed it. My beliefs were season tested and based on, peace, love, forgiveness and tolerance. I still believed that we must avoid wars and live by non-violence. I still called myself a Christian, but believed we would be judged more on how we treat others than what our doctrine is.

I doubt I will live to 71, God forbid 81, horror of horrors to be 91, but as I said, I think my beliefs have come of age. In life, as in nature, the best fruit appears when the tree comes of age.