A Testimony or an Encounter

It’s become fairly popular to discuss paranormal experiences, aliens, entities, cryptids, spirits, and other things from the fringes.

I enjoy a good weird encounter story as much as the next person, and have heard my share of them.

When the question comes of who these various beings are, I’m always reminded of the statement, “You will know them by their fruit.” What is the fruit? It’s hard to say. And the fact that it’s hard to say, I think, says something.

Consider another kind of experience, called supernatural by Christians and shared as a ‘testimony’. These stories appear similar on the surface, but really the only commonality is the presence of some kind of personage not typically visible on the material plane. Otherwise they are quite different.

A testimony is usually something like this: I was in a bad place – perhaps physical sickness, addiction, or a bad relationship. I saw or heard an angel or Christ or a saint – they healed me, helped me, showed me the way. I am now in a better place – I can walk, I am free from addiction, I am on the way to reconciling my relationship.

Saul encountering Christ on the road, being temporarily blinded, and receiving his calling follows this pattern. So do Joseph and Mary being visited in a dream and told to go to Egypt.

A testimony has a definite direction and purpose. Upon sharing it, everyone gets goosebumps, erupts into applause, and praises God. They usually also become better people themselves from hearing the testimony. And the one sharing it feels strengthened when they remember the events.

A paranormal encounter, on the other hand, seems to have no end, no completion, no direction, and no purpose. A person sees a creature in the woods, feels deep fear, and that’s it. A person is taken up by an alien-looking being, forgets parts of it, suffers from headaches and missing time, and can never figure out exactly why or how or what to do about it.

Those listening to encounter stories do not often become better for hearing it, but more curious or creeped out. And the one sharing it doesn’t tend to feel strengthened by remembering. In fact, many of these experiencers try not to remember.

The main fruit of these encounters seems to be an ever growing obsession with figuring out what happened. A pursuit that, while it may uncover many interesting things, never seems to reach a conclusion. Like a show of endless cliffhangers, the pursuit goes on, and sometimes consumes the person.

Either that, or they have to just put the experience off to the side in a compartment. It’s not part of their story, just some odd accessory. It doesn’t integrate.

The fruit in these peoples lives couldn’t be more different. One is clear, definite, and positive for both the person involved and those they share it with. One is unclear, indefinite, and negative or at least ambiguous for both the person involved and those they share it with. One inspires hope, love, and change. One inspires either fear or an all-consuming curiosity which never seems to get consummated.