I have a friend who tells me that he is a follower of Christ because he really thinks he doesn’t have any choice. Like the apostle Peter, who, when asked by Christ if he and the other disciples would leave, said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”, my friend says he knows that he has been chosen by Christ and has no where else to go.
I, on the other hand, don’t usually find myself in that camp. More often than not, I find myself wondering how I still believe after everything I’ve heard and seen, growing up in church and around religion. And there are times, like after browsing a christian bookstore or hearing another sermon that comes off more like an argument from ignorance, or having to endure another ‘praise and worship’ song, that it is hard not to be convinced that Christianity is nothing more than opium for the masses, a (sometimes) clever story created by and for the delusional.
While having lunch today with Randy, a pastor at my church, I mentioned to him that there are a couple of things that I keep coming back to in times like that. The first is that God is faithful, and the second is the hope that He has promised to make all things new, to set everything right. That is what I hold on to.
The late Madeleine L’Engle, after a lecture delivered in 2002, was asked during the Q&A time how she could believe in God, what the questioner thought she called “an easy fantasy”. He said that he was in such awe of the universe that “any idea of God that I’ve ever heard of seemed like such a limited, easy fantasy compared with the wonder that we find when we explore and think about the universe.” . L’Engle responded “I hope I never said that it was an easy fantasy; it is the hardest one in the world. If I believe in God, wholly and completely, for two minutes every seven or eight weeks, I’m doing well. This is not something that is easy, that we can hold on to every day and say yes. It is life-threateningly difficult. But it matters.”
Frederick Buechner once again articulates this better than I could hope to, in “The Return of Ansel Gibbs” (quoted by Philip Yancey in “Soul Survivor”).
“If you tell me Christian commitment is a kind of thing that has happened to you once and for all like some kind of spiritual plastic surgery, I say go to, go to, you’re either pulling the wool over your own eyes or trying to pull it over mine. Every morning you should wake up in your bed and ask yourself: “Can I believe it all again today?” No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day. If your answer’s always Yes, then you probably don’t know what believing means. At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you’re human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and…great laughter.”