Have you ever recounted something hilarious that you experienced and no one was able to share it? No matter how much you try ‘set the scene’, your audience will never fully be able to appreciate your experience. I have encountered a similar frustration when going to different countries. No matter how much you try to show pictures or expound on details of your trip, people only leave appreciating how much it impacted you. The truth is, firsthand experience will always be the most ideal and most effective way to live.
This is true when it comes to God as well.
Firsthand experience is unforgettable
Do you remember the first time you told someone you liked them? Your first live concert? Your first cell phone? That first time you watched Mufasa die?
The truth is, your experience is connected to you in a bond that is not easily broken. When you experience something for yourself, it is immediately personal. It immediately evokes emotion and heightens your senses that will define your life (to varying degrees) thereafter. I remember jumping out of a swing when I was a three year old and landing face-first on the freshly-cut lawn a few meters away. To this day I feel nauseous when I smell grass. Experience empowers memory more than anything else could.
Firsthand experience is irrefutable
One of the biggest problems with a world accustomed to living online is that there is a whole lot of opinion and information. Yes, it is all coming from individual experiences, but it can very easily be misinterpreted. And in many cases people will project their own experience onto whatever they are reading. I can read about the new introduction of Dunkin Donuts in South Africa. I can look at pictures of their menu and specials. I can speak to people who have been. I can watch videos of people being served in the store. But all of it is still a fictitious construct of my imagination until I actually show up and smell the baking dough, taste the fresh donut and engage with the person at the till face to face. Up until that point, I have no authority in promoting or having an opinion about Dunkin Donuts South Africa.
That is why it has really upset me when people have taken to social media to create -and then express – their worldview. If you haven’t had firsthand experience, you have no true foundation for belief. On the other hand, if you have had a personal experience – no one can tell you that you did not have it. It is irrefutable.
Firsthand experience requires sober perspective
In my second month of having my drivers license, a car almost drove into me. The guy was driving over 160km and I turned in front of him, not able to judge the speed at which he was approaching. He stopped dead in front of me, jumped out and began to yell some pretty antagonistic words at me. Some of the passengers in the car were responding in anger as well, but they couldn’t see that he was actually crying. In that moment I just kept a straight face and watched the man climb into his car, speed around the corner and turn into the hospital. There is no doubt that he was extremely emotional and in a hurry to get to a loved one.
My firsthand experience may have been abuse – grossly unfair and inflammatory at that – but my perspective helped me interpret what was really going on. All of us are human. Bad things happen. We all make wrong decisions. We are all oblivious to certain situations. There is nothing more dangerous than building your life on firsthand experience that you choose to internalize before you analyze it. You can see it in almost every Marvel villain – their downfall comes out of a terrifying firsthand experience as a child.
Jesus needs to be a firsthand experience for you
You can listen to hundreds of sermons, read all the right books, do all the right things, sing all the right songs and pray all the right prayers. But I can tell you from my own experience, that these things will leave you feeling hollow and frustrated – questioning Christianity and God.
You could have been abused or disgusted by people who call themselves Christians. You might have looked at a person who claims to know God and not want any part of their lifestyle. Firstly, I can tell you that the label on the front does not always mean the contents is the same. I have met – and have been – an empty vessel with the label ‘Christian’ on my life.
Jesus is still available for you to experience him for yourself – not through the words, lifestyles and opinions of others. I have a relationship with Jesus that is personal and deeply real. It has nothing to do with anyone around me. It is a private, extremely deep connection that has defined my whole existence. It may seem impossible, but if you are up for it, try Jesus for yourself. Click on the link below to find out more.