Faith is a deeply personal experience. People come to it in many ways. My proof of the existence of God came to me in the most unlikely of circumstances. I had an out of body experience when I was being sexually assaulted at age fourteen. I documented this moment in my novel, The Fishfly. But there was something missing from that narrative, an insight which came to me only recently.
In that moment, when my innocence was being taken from me, I vividly recall looking down on the situation from above and feeling a certain serenity. Was this God’s way of somehow giving me some distance, allowing me to forgive these two very troubled souls, mine and the perpetrator’s? Psychologists call what happened to me dissociation; it is the body’s way of protecting itself during trauma. I accepted it as such over many years of therapy and spiritual alienation. I embraced my feelings of abandonment and betrayal; I blamed God for my misfortune. Eventually, I learned how to cope with the feeling of acute separation from myself and others, even though I didn’t fully understand it.
I was only able to find my way back into myself, as it were, when I gave up trying and let God take over. But even then, I could never explain how or why I felt that certain peace and safety, in that terrible moment, so many years before. It didn’t make sense until I read this:
There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
The Bible promises God will never give us more than we can handle. Was my out of body experience His way of helping me cope with this horrific ordeal? As hard as this may be to believe, it makes perfect sense to me now. God was protecting me by giving me a glimpse of my eternal spirit-self, where matters of the flesh lose their grip on us.
In that moment, I felt compassion, peace, awe and a deep realization of how almost trivial this corporeal existence really is. I certainly understand that many would call this an existential experience. Others, a disassociative hallucination. Call it what you will but I can still connect to that miraculous feeling of being protected and reassured in my darkest moment. Ultimately, daily giving myself over to Christ, I have received now a certain clarity around what I’d experienced so many years ago. Thanks be to God.