How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be without the sweetness of trifles! And it was now a joy to put away what I formerly feared to lose. For thou didst cast them away from me, O true and highest Sweetness. Thou didst cast them away, and in their place thou didst enter in thyself–sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more veiled than all mystery; more exalted than all honor, though not to them that are exalted in their own eyes.
– The Confessions of Saint Augustine
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound), That sav’d a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
– John Newton
From the earliest of my days, I recall pondering the meaning of my life and the world I lived in. My mental and emotional faculties had not yet fully developed, but there was a sense in me that there was something more, something bigger than my immediate environs. Perhaps it was my mom, a woman who was exploring her nascent and ambivalent Christian faith, who instilled in me this sense. In contrast, my dad was an agnostic who viewed the Christian faith and people with suspicion and pity. Consequently, I was not raised in the church, though my mom would occasionally take us to either a Protestant service or a Catholic mass. I was, however, taught the morals of my traditional parents, including integrity, loyalty, and the value of family. In all this, I somehow became acquainted with the notion of a god who ruled the universe and would determine my immediate and eternal future, though the notion was largely formless. One developing idea was that God would judge me according to how my “good” deeds compared with my “bad” deeds. I also had a sense that sacrifice was involved in knowing God. I would ask myself, “if God asked me to throw myself into a fiery lake, would I?” My surprising answer had been “yes”. Despite my ideas of judgment and sacrifice, I felt that this God I did not know so well somehow cared for me. I also pondered my own and my loved ones’ mortality. It didn’t make sense that I would cease to exist at some point, and the thought of my own death and the death of my loved ones filled me with terror. I found comfort in an ill-defined sense that there was a higher power who would rescue us from death.