“What convinced you to change your thinking?” I was asked this question by a person who was curious about changes in my understanding of faith. We have all changed our thinking about many things. This is about development and learning. The only ones who don’t change, I believe, are those six feet under.
But the question being posed is what causes the change in one’s thinking. Debaters would say evidence and logic is what causes the change. I am not sure I believe this. I think there is some predisposition in a person that makes him or her receptive to a new idea. I used to imagine our belief system as a kind of puzzle in our heads. Each piece represents a life experience. It is our natural tendency to want the world to make sense, so we tend to try to make these pieces fit together in some way. We believe that the way we think things are is the way they are. But then an idea comes along that doesn’t fit into this picture we have created. We have a choice then to reject it or push the pieces around to figure out how it fits into what we have already put together. We may even have to throw out an old cherished piece to make room for the new.
Years ago I had a friend, Jeanie, who believed deeply in the power of healing. Her neighbor had a child that had a life-threatening disease. Jean prayed for the child and told the child’s parents that she believed the child would recover. When the child died, Jean’s faith was shaken to its roots. “I was taught to believe that Christians who turn to God can know that their prayers will be answered.” She didn’t know whether her relationship with God was in question or the mercy of God itself.
Jeanie’s experience challenged my faith as well. This experience was a new puzzle piece that did not fit into the picture I’d been forming in my mind about a God of love and mercy. I did not reject this new piece. I let it sit on the table as I would in working a real puzzle, until some time I would find where it fits in the scheme of things.
As my sense of the divine has evolved, I have come to accept the importance of openness to new ideas. I made a decision at some point to never reject another person’s experience of God, even if it seems strange to me. It may never fit into my picture or I may find down the road that as more puzzle pieces are added, this one, that I was sure was from another puzzle altogether, suddenly fits.