My favorite quote from the Harry Potter series is spoken by Dumbledore shortly after Harry has been struck down by Voldemort. Harry is experiencing the afterlife and he asks his former headmaster if any of this is real or if it is all just in his head. Here is Dumbledore’s brilliant reply:
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
I think the essence of this quote is what I need to successfully navigate step 3 in my 12 step recovery from compulsive overeating.
As far as I can go back in my childhood memory, I had faith in God, specifically Jesus. I can recall with clarity talking to Jesus as an imaginary friend. He was always looking out for me and I loved him. I prayed to him at meals, in church and at bedtime, but only because my parents made me. But we talked constantly. Whenever there was no one else in the room, we would talk and talk and talk. We sang. I showed him my art. We were pals. Sadly, I continued to go to church and that simple faith got all bollixed.
I learned about the Old Testament. I leaved about Revelations. I learned about the Devil and I learned about hell. At the point those seeds were planted, my faith was doomed. As long as things went relatively well, I was able to cling to my faith. I was a really rotten Christian, but a Christian none-the-less.
Then I doubled down by going to Bible College. Ish!…make it stop. I made the colossal mistake of learning theology. I learned that the Christian Faith was cobbled together with some very outlandish claims. I was compelled by peer pressure to tie my spirituality to my political views. I accepted a very narrow world view and avoided anything that might lead me to a contrary point of view.
At a certain point, it all became too much and I had to moderate my views. I changed denominations and embraced my liberal views. But I still tried to keep my teetering world view intact. This helped for a while. I even began to think of going into the ministry.
But then I experienced true tragedy. I felt real pain and I began to really empathize with the pain of others throughout the world. My narrow world view could not explain what had happened to me; nor could it explain the suffering of others around the world. In the span of a couple of years, my faith utterly collapsed.
I briefly tried to revive it with a program called Imagine. But ultimately that turned out to be just another money making scheme ran by a corrupt minister.
So here is the big question: How do I turn my will and my life over to someone or something I am not sure is real?
This is where I must turn to the great theologian Albus Dumbledore. “Of course it is happening inside your head…but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
I love the way step 3 is worded. It does not say turn over your lives to the God of the Jews, or the Christians, or the Muslims or the Hindus or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It says God as we understand him. That leaves space for even me.
I cannot, nor can anyone for that matter, empirically prove the existence of a god. They cannot prove their point of view or their system of theology is right. No one can even prove that god does not exist. God in any way shape or form is not open to the scientific method. You can debunk stories, dates, and miracles of all kinds. But as to whether or not there is or is not a god is open to debate.
Here is what I do know. That kid, the one who talked and sang to Jesus, he felt safe, loved and protected. It may have all been in my head. But it was right and good.
So that is who I will ask for help. S/he may all be in my head, but that is also where all the food goes. So if it works, I think I will give it a shot.