Sarah Parham

How studying other religions has increased my faith – Part 1

I have decided that if I didn’t have to break out a computer to write, I would write so much more. The computer has taken on the image of both work and distraction. Perhaps even more so in the last six months since I’ve started going back to school. My computer is now associated with writing academic papers, and all the things (read: Facebook, Pinterest, etc) that distract me from writing said papers. So when I have a moment to sit and relax and meditate on the things of God, I am not inclined to pull out my computer to write out the things God shows me. I’m always afraid that by looking at this bright screen somehow the spell of God’s presence will be broken. Haha.

Well, I got lucky this week! Inspiration came even as I was already looking at this bright screen. Last week I took a class on the World Religions. I’m learning so much through all these world religions. Even things about my own faith. Ways I can be stretched. Places I can learn from them. I wanted to share just a few tidbits with you.

Hinduism, which I knew nothing about going into this class, has one god that has many manifestations. There are three major manifestations called Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva. These three represent three major functions of God. Brahma is the creator aspect of God, Vishnu is the sustaining aspect of God and Shiva is the destroying aspect of God. Initially the idea of God having a destroying aspect can be shocking and even jarring. But according to the Hindu faith, Shiva is necessary and good. If the universe were created and constantly sustained things would quickly get out of hand. Therefore, Shiva is the one who destroys things. However, this destruction is not viewed as negative. Rather, death is seen as a necessary precursor for rebirth. Destruction and creation are constantly linked in a never-ending cycle. It makes me think of Ecclesiastes.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to uproot.

So often in our cultures though, we just simply don’t believe this. We want to believe that we can continue on and on with new beginnings, but with no need to end anything. To end something seems like a failure. When it’s time to move on from a job, there is an ending. And it is good. When someone passes from this life to the next, we haven’t failed, it is good. When your baby goes to kindergarten, and the preschool season ends… We have a God, just as the Hindus, who is the author of endings. That isn’t often said. But God said it:

I am the beginning and the end.

I won’t prescribe to the full understanding of the Hindu faith, that life and death are linked in a never ending cycle. It is from this full understanding that the idea of reincarnation comes. Besides being not scriptural, that just sounds like torture. However, we could do ourselves some good to recover a healthy understanding of God as both the beginning and the end. We so often call on God to do a new thing in our hearts, in our lives, in our families. But in order to do that new thing, perhaps God is calling us to end an old thing, an old habit, an old pattern of living. We have this tendency to see endings as our responsibility. I must end this sin cycle in my life. I must end this unhealthy pattern of living in my family. Etc. But Jesus has said

“It is finished”.

He gives us both the new beginnings and the ends.
Frankly, I’m not very good at this. Letting things end. I am currently in denial that summer break has ended. I’m also in denial that my oldest daughter’s babyhood is ended. She’s in first grade now. First grade! Of course those are just the little things, they get bigger. But you get the idea. So, to hear from Hinduism that God, yes, even our God is the author of endings, well, it was a much needed reminder for me.

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