A nephew of mine writes periodically, updating me on his fascinations and insights into everything from racing cars to time travel. Our latest email string brought up the subject of my surprising (to him) long-lasting conviction regarding the divinity of Jesus and his awesome promise/fulfillment of eternal life. Instead of being annoyed by it, or skeptical, my nephew is wonderfully supportive, and curious.
I explained that conviction comes from evidence. Theological fingerprints and historical ballistics. He asked how I could “know,” especially at a young age. I didn’t think 21 was so young, but many of today’s budded adults, apparently, find convictions of the young more flighty than permanent. He used the word “wary” to describe his typical assessment of 21 year old steadfast minds. Forty-five years later I’m just older, not any more certain.
My youthful origin of faith came from a similar wariness to that of my nephew. I explained to God, when I was 21, my reticence due to the very lack of evidence regarding a personal, communicative relationship that my nephew suggests is a common malady for folks at any adult age. I didn’t know who God was as 21. I asked for clarity, agreeing to be open to God’s voice, however that came to me.
In no time at all I experienced a communication only I would understand. That is, only something that I would believe as authentic. That is what is true for each of us. God communicates very personally, in a way where we will see the evidence. Oddly, few people allow God to be so free to do that.
It’s not brains, skill, luck, geography, politics, money, muscles, or microphones that helps us to allow God to relate to us. It’s not diversity or open-mindedness. I know it is not wisdom or religion, either. Allowing God to make himself known is more about honesty and courage than anything else. I know that, because dishonesty and cowardice brought me to a desire for a better me. I wasn’t selfless in my request, either. Asking God to speak to me smacks loudly of selfishness.
God doesn’t hold back his revelations until we are good boys and girls, men and women.
Nothing in these few paragraphs is new. Nothing said so far is startling. Faith is a gift. Faith, however, is not “believing in spite of the lack of evidence.” To some, that statement may be new. Faith is not agreeing to follow a silent, potentially non-existent God. That’s gambling.
I didn’t have faith when I asked God to make himself known to me. I wanted certainty, in a way that would seal the deal. I didn’t want to be a waffling worthless person. I needed a reason to be faithful, to a God that mattered.
Faith is following through in spite of the consequences that God may speak to me.
Now, of course, scriptures will probably be involved (if not altogether a necessity for most of us), but God’s ways of clarifying his existence and personal involvement in our tiny, insignificant lives will include lots of other stuff, too. All of this other stuff mounts up to the evidentiary pile that we can’t dispute, or cast off. For each of us that pile will be a different size. The stronger we are at flattening piles or pushing them aside, the larger the pile will probably need to be.
We’ll probably only accept certain parts of the pile in the beginning. That’s enough. No, really. That’s enough. But, it won’t be enough, if we’re honest and courageous.
Faith doesn’t begin when the evidence has mounted enough to drop us to our knees. That’s simply patent awareness. Faith begins when we accept the consequences of our relationship with a living, engaging, loving God. Faith begins when we begin listening to God’s undeniable participation in our every day life.
The entire thing for me has been logical because my faith has been based upon evidence. Perhaps there are those who God secretly expects to believe and know him without a whit about who he is. God did not expect that from me. (thank you, thank you, thank you ….)
I am subsequently and consistently more and more enlightened. It’s fabulous. I’m still a broken, sinful person, but decidedly more and more a better friend to God, a little less frightened and at peace, and a much better student of his Word. Honesty and curiosity will be the hallmark of my relationship with God for all eternity. I will never stop being enlightened. I am still very much in the dark, comparatively speaking. But, it’s enough.
But, honestly? I need more ….