In the past few years I have been reevaluating my faith, trying to reconcile the multiplicity of influences on matters spiritual that have nudged me along the path on enlightenment.
I am by definition a Catholic of the Roman persuasion, and I attend Mass less frequently than I once did. There was a period of time when I never missed a service, served as a lector during Mass, and participated wholeheartedly in my parish.
A series of life-changing experiences, however, shook my faith. The events themselves are not worth repeating here, save to say that I - like many other lost souls - encountered circumstances that made me question the existence of God. There were nights during the height of my misery when I shook my fist and cursed God; how, I railed, could there be a God who lets evil befall a faithful servant? While no saint, I worked hard to be a good Christian, and it seemed I was rewarded by being shat upon.
It took me a few years to get past my misplaced anger toward God. I have since come to terms with the period of my life that once seemed unfair, and I understand that I will never really "know" God in this life, at least not in the sense of being able to comprehend why certain tragedies happen.
Wisdom gained from such life experiences certainly has lasting value, though I would never willingly choose to a path of pain simply for the long-term perspective gains. I still struggle, though, when I listen to spiritual leaders who claim that their flavor of faith is the One True Faith, and that all others are lesser (or even heretical) beliefs.
In my opinion there are a great many paths to God, and there are at least as many routes that can lead us in directions away from spiritual fulfillment. Some false paths are more quickly recognized as counter-spiritual, such as drug addiction or an obsession with wealth. Others - like cults - seem to provide the answer to burning spiritual questions, but which snare many unfortunate souls who fall for their Siren songs of false prophecy.
There are also people we meet along the way - call them angels, if you'd like - who live as directional signposts toward enlightenment. Maybe "tour guide" would be a better term for those souls we encounter who seem to have just the piece of advice we need at a moment of spiritual crisis. Perhaps God works through these people, offering us possible paths to inner peace, if only we see their signs.