My mind is never completely at rest. (Unless of course I’m sleeping, but even then who knows.) I am always thinking about something, wondering about something, considering something, asking some kind of question. I jump around from one thought to another with no particular rhyme or reason. My thoughts look like Jackson Pollock painting: you aren’t quite sure where he’s going with it, but there has to be something there. Or maybe not.
Usually not, to be honest. But sometimes, a question occurs to me that just won’t go away. It keeps circling back and circling back, unable to be answered and unable to be ignored. The combination is frustrating. And before I know it, I’m in the middle of an existential crisis. Do I exist? Does the world exist? Is there a God? Am I dreaming? (Thank you for that Descartes, and the power of suggestion.) Is everything an elaborate story with myself as the circus freak everyone is staring at? Am I the only one being deluded? Or am I the only one who sees the truth? Is there truth? Or is everything relative? And do not get me started on infinity and eternity.
Skepticism comes naturally to me. I’m suspicious, love to ask questions, and always want to know why or are you sure? But being a skeptic and a Christian occasionally becomes untenable. When you grow up in a religion based on faith, skepticism has a field day. At some point, Christians just have to simply have faith in God, in Jesus, in the Word, and the Holy Spirit. We have to trust in what we cannot see, and we have to share that faith with those around us. There comes a moment when a Christian has to accept that they won’t always be able to know why things are the way they are. But they have faith that God knows and will reveal when the time comes.
As someone who grew up in the church, I was taught about Jesus for as long as I can remember. I memorized Bible verses. I knew the order of the books of the Bible. I knew the ten commandments. I knew the Lord’s Prayer. I knew the story of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. I knew all the right points. When I was five, I accepted Christ into my heart after hearing my dad tell me the story of Zaccheus. It was the easiest thing in the world, because I think part of me knew it was what I was supposed to do. When I was eight, I was baptized, because it was the next logical step. I made the choice myself, but I think part of me knew it was expected.
I’m not sure I ever really had faith in God. I’m not sure if I ever put my trust in God. I think I always held something back, kept something to myself. There was a part of me that wanted control, but was also afraid. Afraid to give myself over to the unknown and unknowable. Afraid to give my fate into the hands of something I would never truly understand. Afraid to trust in something that may not have ever been real to begin with, and then to find myself disappointed.
It is easy to be disappointed when you aren’t really looking for a reason not to be. There have been many things I’ve done wrong in my walk with God, so many ridiculous mistakes I’ve made, but the worst thing I’ve done is constantly look for a reason to say, “You aren’t real. Jesus isn’t real. This whole religion is a joke, made up to make people feel better and take their money.” I wanted a way out, a way to lose the responsibility that comes with being a follower of Christ, a believer of God. But even as I was searching for that escape route, I knew I wouldn’t find one. I knew my doubts were an excuse to try and live a life without rules or principles or morals. I wanted to be like everyone else, and yet I knew that I would never be able to fully enjoy that life.
The Civil Wars (a indie/folk/country duo) has a song called “Poison and Wine” that so perfectly describes this dichotomy:
You only know what I want you to
I know everything you don’t want me to
Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
Oh you think your dreams are the same as mine
Oh I don’t love you but I always will…
I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back
Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don’t have a choice but I still choose you…
Maybe real faith, the hard, frustrating, deep faith is when you know, even in the midst of doubts and skepticism, that He is real, His Word is true, His Spirit is in all of us, and His salvation is there. Real faith is being in the middle of skepticism, ready to renounce everything, and still believe that if you were to make that choice, you would still know that God was true north, the only constant. I have never been able to truly see my life, the world, the universe without God’s presence. I simply cannot do it. My mind tries to take me there. All of the history I’ve read, the philosophy I’ve studied, the religions I’ve researched have shown me Christianity is full of holes, contradictions, and corruption. The world has ruined Christianity, and I’m left to sit here and pick up the pieces.
And some days I can’t put it together. Some days, I let the anger and frustration win, and I refuse to try and make sense of the God that I grew up knowing. I let the shattered pieces lie scattered around me.
But then there are moments when I can pick up two of the pieces and they fit perfectly. I set them down and admire them, thanking God for the peace that comes with having something, anything fit together. There are days when I add another piece and another piece, until a picture starts to form.
Faith is making the choice to put those pieces together, knowing that sometimes it doesn’t look like the pieces should fit and only God can help us make sense of them. Faith is a choice we make everyday, not something magical that happens the day we accept Jesus into our hearts. We have to work at it, keep it alive, and ask for God’s help. The mistake I would always make was thinking that faith was something I was supposed to figure out on my own. If I couldn’t, then I couldn’t come to God for anything. I thought I had to have a pure, wonderful, complete faith and then I would be able to seek God.
God meets us wherever we are in our lives, in our walk, in our faith. He is the only one with the strength to break through our skepticism and doubts, whether its through the Bible, prayer, or the support of a fellow believer. He isn’t waiting for us to be perfect, because He knows we never will be. We are sinners. We make mistakes. We do stupid things. He knows this. But He also knows our hearts. And if in our hearts, we seek, long, ache for God, He will meet us there. He loves us. We are His favorite. He has accepted us for our faults. Now we have to accept it and learn to work past them.