I was recently asked by a friend why I believe in God. I thought it might be best to share the time when I first came grudgingly towards Christ, that this might shed some light on my knowledge of who God is and why I continue to follow him. It’s not a direct answer, but more reflection to help me make the right answer later. So here goes…
I grew up going to church with my brothers and sister, but not my parents. This provided a framework of doubt that hung over everything I learned about God in my early years. Why, if God was so important, did my parents not come with us? Why was there always this excuse of not finding the “right” place?
My parents raised me to believe that there were very clear behaviors to be practiced/avoided. Sex was appropriate only within marriage. Stealing and lying were both wrong. Don’t believe everything you see or read. Don’t use an English accent if you aren’t British (seriously, this was a sad if not even comic lesson to be learned on my part). Do your best. Drink with moderation. The list could go on.
But, I must say, I had a very hard time seeing the justification behind these things. Why should I not lie? Why should I not steal? Clearly as a teen I wasn’t really deep in reading of philosophy. I couldn’t have really articulated how these things impact us socially, etc. But it seemed that there was something missing. I found myself gravitating towards the idea that God might exist, but he certainly didn’t care about these things. He certainly wasn’t involved in our lives. I had seen little, in my way of thinking, to suggest that people actually lived differently based on what they said they believed. I wanted in many ways to believe in the God I heard about at church, but felt much more comfortable with a distant God.
So I came close to a deism of sorts, though I must admit I would not have known the term at that time. The word that most often comes to mind is “relevant”. I believed that God was there, but he was not relevant. His being or presence had no bearing, no impact on me.
I won’t say that I was happy. I was miserable. I had few friends, and little reason to believe the “friends” I had could be trusted or relied upon. The only way I got people to notice me was by smarts. Now, I don’t mean that as an arrogant statement of intelligence. I don’t find myself particularly capable in study (my memory is quite pathetic, actually). I’m not quick in reasoning. But at the time, I was quite self-assured, arrogant and foolishly clever in my own eyes. I found myself quite able to pick an argument and beat it to death. I found myself reading the old and new testaments, not to know God, but to devastate the arguments of my opponents.
This, and the combination of an example of someone who followed Christ in a way that demonstrated selfless love, proved to be my “undoing”. I was at a youth retreat, actually arguing with the bible teacher that I didn’t agree with the literal creation story, making an utter mess of her class and her attempts to assure the students that they could trust the Bible, and by extension, God. In the moment when I was most viciously destroying the teacher’s arguments, I stopped. I cannot really speak to what my thoughts were. They became jumbled, then crystal.
“I don’t know everything. I simply can’t be so certain.” That probably sounds pretty arrogant. Sounds that way to me, now. But at the time, it was revolutionary. I didn’t understand everything. I didn’t have to pretend that I did. I couldn’t make a claim to really know what I was talking about. That isn’t even what I was doing; I was just arguing to argue, and making a fool out of myself in the process.
Within the hour, I asked Jesus to be my savior, my rescuer. I knew that I was just a mouthy kid, trying to puff himself up by looking smart. I wanted the wisdom I believed God alone could offer. I wanted to know him, and I wanted to know the truth about all these things I had been squabbling over. I felt something change in me immediately. I have never been the same since. Following this date, I read the Bible much more purposefully. I was no longer looking for a bullet, the line of reasoning that would end an argument, I was looking for God’s heart.
Anyway, I have come to realize that I don’t have to understand everything. And that it is incredibly unlikely that I will. That does not mean I cannot study and try to my utmost to understand and grasp those things that seem beyond my understanding. At the same time, I attempt to live my life so that it is clear God is relevant. He is not something just to be squabbled over, argued about and pulled apart – he is a person to know, to talk to and hear from – and to share. And it is that personal experience that cannot be taken away from us, and that has the potential to reshape everything we are. It is not just faith that defies all reason (though faith calls us to trust in more than what we can see). It is faith based on experience with God, his trustworthiness in the past and his revealed character.
Hope this provides interesting reading for someone.