A quick intro to where I currently stand on spiritual matters. Read this before my other posts.
I was born and raised in a Christian home. My father was a pastor so I know a measure of the bible, and some theology too. I’m not an expert, but I know what the bible says and I studied it for years as a part of my daily life.
Being a Christian was a part of who I was. I felt there was no other way I could be. I had never officially had that repentant ‘moment’ that other people say they had - that day that they say they turned their life over to God - as I always felt I was God’s child right from the moment I was born. Of course there were times when it seemed hard to follow, or I rebelled, but never for long, and I always returned to God. In those times, I never truly doubted I would return, and I always accepted that it was my sin and my choice that had led me off the ‘path’.
This makes me sound like I was a typical wayward teen, but I really wasn’t. I wanted my parents to be proud of me, and I wanted to be the type of guy that others would look to and see Jesus’ love. So all my sins were internal or petty - selfish anger, pride, lust - never anything particularly obvious to an outside observer. That isn’t to say that I didn’t recognize these sins as sins - I did - I asked God regularly to forgive me for them, to take them, to teach me to be better.
Despite this though I guess I arrogantly assumed that my sin wasn’t all that great, and for the most part - I was doing OK.
But the biggest part of Christianity was a bit more elusive.
In my mind, the thing that separated Christianity from all other religions was this: that God wanted a relationship with me. No other religion I know of declares that God wants more than good deeds and happy thoughts. It is distinct and unique.
I’m telling you my thinking primarily for you to understand that I get it. I get Christianity. I understand that it’s not about rules and regulations.
What I rarely (if ever) felt was that God was interested in me. I believed that if I truly knew God I would feel it. To the very core of my being. I knew other people who knew it. My parents knew it. Why didn’t I feel it with the certainty and conviction I thought that I should? That is - just saying I was a Christian and reading the bible and going to church left me wanting more.
A few times I think I felt it. A few clear headed moments when I felt my sin, or felt so emotional about God I thought I could burst. But I’ll make a confession - being slightly sceptical about some things - I couldn’t help but wonder if the times I felt that way were due to lack of sleep, or any number of other more earthly factors. I’m not going to dismiss them all, but there was never a pivotal defining time I could say - “I have felt/seen God, and I know He is there.”
Instead, I took it on faith. My faith helped me when I couldn’t see God. Instead of my experience, I used my parents, my church leaders and my friends as sources of God’s work in the world. And I thought “that’s not too shabby, nice going God”. And it wasn’t too shabby. My family and friends are all great people, who care deeply about one another, and care for the earth, and care for strangers - not a slouch among them.
But relying on others can be a difficult thing. 1 Peter 3:15 says:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.<a href=“http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=67&chapter=3&verse=15&version=31&context=verse" title=“NIV verse at Bible Gateway”>1 Peter 3:15 (<a href=“http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/?action=getVersionInfo&vid=31" title=“NIV information”>NIV)
I felt that I may have been able to fudge it if anyone asked, but I never felt I had the answer. I may have said “I have hope and joy because I know God loves me”, but I feared that if anyone pressed me, I couldn’t convince them that they needed God too. And it became kind of important to me that I should have the answer. So I read some books on creation vs. evolution (and those sorts of things) so that I might have more ammunition to refute the claims of science. And I prayed for God’s presence to fill me. And asked for God’s love to show through me.
But besides a few nice people telling me that I was a decent guy, I never attained that status that some people have of “amazing person of God”. Obviously I was doing something wrong, or God had chosen not to speak to me. Let me aside here for a moment and say ‘Some of you can point out my mistakes at this point, but don’t yet please’ - I realise that my ambitions at this time in my life may have been the problem. Regardless, I wanted to really know God, but found that I couldn’t do it.
Let me explain with an analogy. If you aren’t a Christian, the analogy may not work, but for those of you who are - go on, click and read, and then come back.
OK, so I couldn’t get God to show himself to me - but I still kept going on faith. Years passed, and I thought I was getting closer to God. I got married, and I thanked God for his blessings. A year passed, and life was good. Then my wife got ill. We knew fairly soon that it wasn’t life threatening, and we even hoped she’d get better reasonably quickly. Lots of people have ‘Chronic Fatigue’ and get better in 1 or 2 years. We were hopeful.
But as time went on, I discovered more about how Mil was feeling. She hid it well, but she was in constant pain, and couldn’t do anything that she wanted to do any more. She had to stop going to bible studies - but I kept on without her. She soon found it difficult to wake up for church - so I kept going alone. One by one, all the things we hoped for our first few years of marriage fell away, leaving Mil bored, alone, and hurt. Leaving me angry, frustrated and tired.
I kept it up for a while. And I thought that maybe it was in God’s Plan^TM^. But the illogic of the situation started to eat away at my faith. I thought, how could this be in God’s plan? To allow pain and suffering on someone I love? How could any future benefit outweigh the damage that has been done to our faiths, our friendships and our plans? I still had a glimmer of hope (still do honestly) that it could all work out for the best. It all happened slowly over time, but I put it into words one morning after a particularly bad night. That postwas the first I wrote.
My frustration has become the seeming pointlessness of it all. For years I thanked God for the wonderful things He’d done - hooking me up with Mil, surrounding me with friends, getting me into jobs and courses I wanted. I even thought my first IT job was a gift, and apologized for doubting him the times he didn’t get me jobs I thought I wanted. That sleepless night though, I wondered if we give Him too much credit. If God cares about those little things, why wouldn’t he care about these big things, or things bigger still - hunger, war, poverty? Maybe care is the wrong word, I’m sure I’ll be told that God does care. What I mean is - why not act?
So here I am.
I want to believe. I want to go back to how things were for us. Even with Mil uncured, I could still believe that there is a purpose to everything (see Games and the Meaning of the Universe for how I could understand).
But now it will take more than just reading my bible. I still pray occasionally. Maybe they are selfish prayers, but I pray that God would reveal Himself, or cure Mil, or just let me know in some way that He cares. I don’t want to dictate the terms of how He might do this, but it’d have to be obvious. And when I don’t pray, I try not to think about it. Science has given me a viable reason not to go running to God when things don’t make sense, and the world makes more sense to me now as a mindless machine. Again, I want to be wrong but…
And the future? I want to get God’s attention. I want him to notice that I’m not on His guest list any more and come looking for me. I guess in a way, the parable of the prodigal son is not a comfort for me, because I don’t feel I ignored my Father, but that he ignored me. And if I can’t get His attention, I’ll keep living my life. One day, these questions will cease and I won’t bother looking at all. Alternatively, this testimony will have a sequel - and I’ll tell you how I came back to God. I know which outcome my loved ones will be praying for.