The latest in this series.
I am a Christian. That is, I believe God exists, I believe Jesus Christ is also somehow God but distinct. I can't explain it, but it's not a polytheistic thing and I'm not here to try to convince you or debate the issue. This is my blog and this is about me exploring my me-ness in all its facets as a precursor to developing a mission or vision statement or whatever. I kind of hate this disclaimer, but I feel it's necessary. I've encountered way too many people who feel that I am delusional or confused or stupid because of my faith and I'm not always confident in my ability to respond and so it can be frustrating.
I was raised in a home that alternated weekly between my Mother's Catholic church and my Father's Lutheran church. In high school I moved to a different church and in college I mostly avoided church except when I could get home to "my" church or when someone of the female persuasion told me I was accompanying them to church. The college had Lutheran in the name, but it was hard to find God on that campus. There wad church services and Campus Crusade, but while I was attending, there was also a proposed new mission statement that no longer included Jesus. After college, I found another church, Lutheran, because that's what I knew. We married at a Presbyterian church because it was more attractive than the Lutheran church and as we moved further east into that other valley, we stumbled into a non-denominational church. This is where I first really understood the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and where I decided that I would never again claim allegiance to any denomination. The fact that this personal relationship concept was new to me after so many years in the church, acknowledging my own complicity, is an alarming, if not worse, indictment on these churches. I wouldn't say I was memorizing scripture, but I attended church weekly, sang the worship songs, read my Bible, attended Bible studies but yet somehow this concept alluded me. I believed in heaven, I believed I would be going there when I died, I believed accepting Jesus into my heart was the key, but then it was like it stopped there - grace was enough.
But, not a church does a Christian make, nor religiosity and its trappings salvation bring.
That church changed my life (finally) and it was also the place where I am certain I heard God speak directly to me on two occasions, an audible voice in my head. And nothing like my own inner-monologue or the more troubling distracting voices I heard in my head as a young child but thankfully had outgrown. (Don't worry, they weren't instructing me, it just felt like a lot of people talking over each other, a reason I think I still don't like crowded noisy places.)
I won't pretend I understand it all completely. When I read of an absolutely horrid thing one human has done to another, the idea that all happens as part of God's plan is difficult to stomach. Especially when children are involved. It's one thing to say free will is necessary in order for us to accept God, it's another to question why He allowed something to occur. It's hard to be comforted in those moments that we may have no clue of things He has prevented or that maybe He caused us to become aware of someone's actions before they did more harm.
But so often I am amazed. By my children, my lovely wife, an absolutely splendid day of blue skies and puffy white clouds (or of hammering rains and trees swaying and bending in the wind) and not just think that this isn't some random act, but truly the work of a Master Designer who has surrounded us with beauty in people, potential, nature, creativity and the examples of heroism, selflessness and bittersweet sacrifice.
It's in those moments that I think I am here for a purpose, I am not just a random happenstance, the pinnacle of evolution 38 years ago.
It's in that that I understand that my faith is not a series of rules to keep me from certain activities, but as a response to all that I've been given, in return I'm compelled to act (or not act) in a certain way. I can't earn squat by being a good person, but because a good God loves me, I want to be a good person. I want to be more like my perfect Creator. I'm not perfect, but I have the rest of my life to practice and you know what they say about practice.
Perfect? I'm far from it. Like everyone, I like to pretend it's all good on the outside, but I still make plenty of mistakes. I can ask for forgiveness for these sins, I can ask for help when I'm tempted to commit them again, and I think I'm generally improving. But I'm only human, so I'll be a sinner 'til I die.
Not for who I am, but for what He's done. Not for what I've done, but for who He is.
The bible tells us there's an enter nifty that we're all going to. Paschal's wager says (and I'm paraphrasing and might have spelled his name wrong but this is pretty much s.o.c. so no stopping) "If I'm wrong, at least I've lived a life that I can be proud of. But if I'm right I know I'm heading in the right direction."
An area of interest for me is apologetics because I feel so frustrated when I can't respond in the way that is persuasive but loving? "It's not closed-minded, it's a singular focus! *YOU* should be careful your mind isn't do open your brain falls out!" doesn't help anyone. I came across a phenomenal book called "I Don't Have the Faith to be an Atheist" that I thought was so amazing, I am willing to buy a copy for anyone who wants a copy. It basically methodically works from our innate sense of right and wrong through things like the second theory of thermodynamics to the case for an intelligent design for time and space, moving on to show that an intelligence must have existed in order to create us, intelligent beings, and slowly and methodically works through history and science (it doesn't even get to the question of the validity of the Bible until chapter 7) until it's made the case that either Islam, Judiasm or Christianity must be true before diving deeper into the conclusion that when all the evidence is examined, Christianity is the remaining truth. That, as the title suggests, a bigger leap (or closed-minded willful stubbornness) is required to remain an atheist. It's a pretty amazing book.
But was Jesus God? He said He was. He couldn't just be a wise teacher and a prophet. He either was who He said He was, or you have to discount everything he said and write him off as a liar or a lunatic.
And of course, as a marketer, I must also marvel at Christianity from the perspective of it not being true. A man named Jesus existed in the point in time in history, enough non-religious texts also make reference to him and his cruxifiction. If he was a fable that someone (or some group) turned into a religion, this was absolutely the most amazing job of marketing and creativity, the likes of which all the most brilliant minds on Maddison Avenue have been unable to duplicate in the pursuit of selling anything else, even stuff that's more appealing to our human nature.
I don't always understand God's purpose or plan (that "God never gives you more than you can handle leaves a bitter taste in our mouths on the days Mrs. ADHD/ODD/ODD and Mr. Autistic/PDD-NOS/probably-ADHD are both struggling but we also look at them both and just see LOVE - how beautifully and wonderfully made they are, how they've brought out in us a kind of love we didn't know existed, how they can't be random accidents, and how they've been entrusted to us - and not think we in turn move be loved as well - but someone far more patient, someone who models that love, rejoices in our highs and comforts us in our lows.