Me, I believe in God. From childhood I have searched for God. I’ve been down many paths on that search, explored many things, believed many things. Why have I believed anything? That is the question that wracks my brain!
My chosen faith has been Christian. I know it may sound dumb, but Jesus has called to me in many ways in life. I think the first time was when I saw him in a movie, played by Jeffrey Chandler I think? In my teen years, the songs of Jesus Christ Superstar, I heard “I don’t know how to love him,” and I just wanted to know how to love him! Eventually, I did find a way to do that. At times my faith as a Christian has been as strong as an iron-clad mountain, and yet there has always been a little box of questions over which I keep stumbling, sometimes falling completely away. I love the Bible, have read it many times in its entirety, and yet there are some things in it that I find questionable, even objectionable. Too much killing going on in the Old Testament, even of animals. Then, too, as much as I love Israel, I just have to ask, out of the entire world God chose one nation to be his people? That just doesn’t seem right, and nothing can make it seem right. When I read the Old Testament, I absorb it as allegory. I am the nation of Israel. Out of the entire world, God chose me (but not only me). I must kill off in my life all that will separate me from God, cause me to turn away from him, before I can enter my Promised Land. When I read the prophets I see God’s sorrow over my turning away from him, as I continually do, even his anger, and his joy at my return. The history, the literal interpretation of it, are those necessary to my salvation, to my relationship with God?
Then there is the very basis of Christianity, which is that we cannot be good enough to enter into the Presence of our Holy God, and therefore Jesus died and in his death took the punishment for all our wrongs, and accepting that payment on our behalf earns us admission into that Presence. That’s okay, and simple enough, but how about all the people who lived before Jesus? How about all the people who lived after Jesus and never heard about him? Believe it or not, I am quite tender hearted. My kids will tell you that I am really a lousy disciplinarian. (But that’s okay, because my kids have turned out to be really wonderful people anyway.) The other thing I’m really not is narrow minded, in any way. Gray is actually one of my favorite colors. I don’t believe in destruction, of self or others or relationships, but I do believe absolutely in love. So I have a really hard time accepting the idea of eternal punishment for people who don’t accept Jesus’ death as payment whether because they didn’t hear it, or didn’t get it, or even just didn’t believe it. No, nobody is perfect. Everybody is unjust, unloving, unlovely, even downright bad sometimes, but not bad enough to have earned eternal punishment. My dad was a devout agnostic, right down to his dying day. Since his death I have not spent a lot of time thinking about his eternal home, one way or the other. I am not anybody’s judge. But several years ago I had an experience which told me, dramatically and unequivocally, that my dad was “saved” … i.e., went to “heaven.” My dad was in and out of consciousness (a morphine-induced haze actually) for three days before he died. Either God came to him in that haze and spoke to him in a way that allowed him to believe, or there is another way which allows even those whose intellectual objections prevent them from exercising faith, to be “saved.”
I can wrap my faith around me like a warm blanket, hold it close, spin in circles and dance with joy. I can put aside all those questions and just believe. I love the fellowship of Christians. What’s the worst that could happen? I could be wrong? If there was no God, then I’d die and would be conscious of nothing, and it wouldn’t matter. In my life, I might have lived a little better for my beliefs, found more warmth. If there was a God and my particular beliefs about him had been wrong, I don’t think I’d be punished for them.
But I am not alone here in my belief. What I say and do and think has an impact on other people, whether the few or the many, for better or for worse. I want to DO GOOD. I do not want what my daughter suffered to be for nothing. She is a bright and shining light and I want to shine it into the world and perhaps help others find their way. How can I do that if I am lost myself?
I am really terrified to be saying this. I can see other alternatives. It’s a pretty basic thing to believe that God exists, the creator and sustainer of the universe, that he wants us to love him and to seek him in the way that is best for us, without any one path or religion being universally better than the other. That’s okay. But when I step out on that path I feel lost, cold, unsupported. I pray, because prayer is just second nature to me. I talk to God all the live-long day about everything. God has been warm and near and close and he hears me, but what if he is more distant and detached? Even though God does not often step in to my life in amazing and miraculous ways, what if that isn’t even a possibility? What if there is nobody to even ask for help?
And I am terrified over even the possibility of losing that fellowship of the heart with other Christians, most especially my little family of believers, my friends and prayer partners in my church, and most of all, my son. Of all my children, only one is a Christian, and his faith is so beautiful, so pure, so loving, I just would never want to disturb that understanding, lose even a bit of that oneness of heart.
I think that doubt is a normal thing. Am I wrong? Are there people out there who believe and never doubt? The Bible tells us that if we have faith and do not doubt, that we will be able to say to a mountain, be moved into the sea, and it will be moved. For years I took this to be a statement on the power of faith, but I have come to believe that it is probably more an indictment on our ability to believe and not doubt. After all, how many mountains do you see being moved into the ocean? Okay, perhaps nobody really wants to move a mountain. But we want to find our missing children and bring them home safely. We want our beloved friends and family to be healed. We want to find jobs and make enough money to be able to support our families and pay our bills. Yet faith is by its very definition believing in something that cannot be known. Under those circumstances, is it possible to not doubt, ever, at all?
These questions are screaming in my head, however, and so I had to let them out somewhere. I think that the reason they have come up now is at least in part because my world has widened so far in the last few months. My questions could sit in that little box, but when I started encountering others who had those same questions and objections, I needed to have answers, and I didn’t, not even for me. Of course, my pastor would say my faith is being attacked, that the devil wants to take me out before I can become a really powerful force for God. Which is it? I don’t know. But I want to know. I have more than enough unanswered questions in my life already.
Readers, I’d be really happy to hear from you and know what answers you have found. I know it’s the holiday season and you are all busy, but if you have a wise word for me, please take a moment and send it my way.