There’s a lot about my Christian faith that I don’t understand. I can’t conceive of a loving God allowing his children to suffer in hell for eternity because they never heard of Jesus, were repulsed by the actions of those who claimed to represent Jesus, or just didn’t find substantial evidence to back up God’s existence.
I don’t fully understand prayer. Is it about changing myself, or getting what I want? If I ask God for something and don’t get it, isn’t that treating him like a genie? If God already has a plan mapped out, is prayer supposed to change his mind?
And that’s just the beginning of my laundry list of questions. Why bother calling myself a Christian at all, then?
Because there’s something inherently attractive about a religion where God came to meet us, rather than requiring humans to work their way up a moral ladder (provided you already believe a God exists).
Because Jesus said to love our enemies. As much as I find that notion ridiculous, I also find it fascinating and want to learn more.
But of everything else about Christianity that’s complicated, this obligation to “share my faith” is especially puzzling.
I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a polished, rehearsed, and coldly delivered “faith pitch” that utterly lacks sincerity and a desire to know the person you’re speaking to. I’ve resolved never to speak about my beliefs like that. Because if what you believe makes up who you are, it’s something that will eventually uncover itself when you talk to people. When you love someone, you make him or her known. It’s something we do without realizing it, when that kind of devotion is so tightly woven into our lives. And people notice a difference.
My goal has always to strive for authenticity. I fumble and stumble around for honest answers, not theological constructs. I try to make a point of asking, “What are your beliefs, if you’re comfortable sharing?”
I don’t try and hide the fact that I struggle. I envy the Christians who seem to have it all figured out, who calmly state that the answers to all their questions were found in the very same verses that give me trouble. I’ve wondered if there’s something wrong with me for not being as persuasive as they are.
But I think there’s something inspiring about the persistence to understand something that’s bigger than us. There are plenty of times when this faith thing seems like a fool’s errand, and maybe it is. I wonder sometimes if maybe that’s the point. If a spiritual realm exists, it’s impossible to think we can fully understand it using the resources of a material world.
There’s something more inviting about a person who says, “I’m on a journey to find wisdom, wanna join?” as opposed to “My beliefs are solid and unchangeable, here’s why.”
My fear is having a small, easily shakable faith that falls apart by asking a single question, losing a certain debate, or reading a particular book. But to only surround myself with other Christians, only read Christian books, only listen to Christian music…I fear that even more.
When I flip through my Bible, I see beauty in the verses that provide hope to people lying in hospital beds, courage to men and women on the battlefield. But I also look through the Bible and see horror: verses that have been used to justify the worst crimes against humanity, the most dangerous kinds of intolerance.
I’ve been the accuser of heresy before. I’ve also been the one accused. But in reality, all of us are both.