Why I am (still) a Christian, part 2

I am a Christian because, from an early age, God called me to be a Christian. I was born into a Christian family so that I could receive the upbringing and the training in Scriptures and devotion to Jesus that I would need in order to serve him. The name “Jesus” is etched into the corners of my heart. Jesus was my icon for Love and my icon for God.

Many Christians have had a “born-again” experience. I did not experience this until I let go of what I thought was the only way to be a Christian. God died, and I was born again. That created the fertile ground God needed to really wake me up to the Power I had always been dealing with. I had been hoping it was true, believing it was true, getting glimpses of insight here and there, moments of feeling loved by God, senses of being guided at key turning points in my life. But my world view, with all of its limitations, constrained my ability to truly believe, because it included many things that my rational mind or love-impressed heart had trouble with: divine punishment in an everlasting hell for those who don’t believe; denial of evolution or at least an inability to square evolution with traditional evangelical theology; God as a person who is separate, outside of our Reality, the Creator but not the embodying Spirit. These were chipped away at, until, with the help of severe chronic illness and depression, my faith was wrenched as if forcibly from my hands and I was left not knowing who I was or what life was.

Then it was only a matter of days, weeks, and months for the Spirit to start swooping in with flashes of insight and moments of awakening. Gradually yet quickly it dawned on me that, yes, God has called me to be a Christian. My spiritual experiences—direct encounters with powerful manifestations of God’s presence—have grown exponentially in the last year and a half. They are pointing me to the fact that I was always on the right track. It’s just that I had a lot of baggage that was holding me back. For me, this baggage was very heavy and burdensome. For many other Christians, the pain of such baggage hasn’t reached the breaking point. It is entirely possible to officially give assent to some pretty quirky doctrines and yet still be filled with the Spirit and love people with a seemingly supernatural love. We all have blind spots that hold us back, yet God still uses us anyway!

That’s why I have far from given up on the church, even, if not especially, conservative expressions of Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is my heritage, my community, my culture. It has been the locale for my encounters with the divine for most of my life. Although I do not hold tightly to the doctrines like I used to do (in a literal, must-make-this-system-internally-consistent-at-all-costs sort of way), I still see a powerful ethos and expression of God’s Spirit that seems to only be possible when coupled with a strong sense of belief. Having the conviction that the power and presence we call God is actually real makes a huge difference in what you will be open to seeing and experiencing.

On the other hand, if you don’t really believe in your heart that it’s real, or you’re so used to saying you believe it without any sense of wonder or excitement, then your faith is as good as dead. And we sadly do see that in many churches as well. Usually it’s a mixture, a few bright lights mixed in with a sea of ashen faces. What is one to do? Let the light shine! Draw it out, encourage it, celebrate it, point to it, focus on it, let everything else fade. This, I believe, is the way transcendence works. To combat war, you don’t fight war. You celebrate peace! To combat bigotry, you don’t fight bigotry. You celebrate inclusion! To combat doubt, you don’t fight doubt. You celebrate faith! To combat blindness, you don’t fight blindness. You celebrate sight!

Not just in the church, but everywhere I look, this is my commitment: I will see the good, the true, and the beautiful. As I see it, and as I point others to it, we as humanity will eventually forget that there was anything else. As your eyes are opened, if you are a Christian, or a heartbroken Christian, or a “recovering Christian,” you may also see the goodness, truth, and beauty in your own religious heritage, like I am seeing. It will be like Jesus’ radiance on the Mount of Transfiguration. In those moments, Peter, James, and John saw Jesus for who he really was. They saw into the deeper dimension that surrounds them always. That dimension didn’t only exist in those brief moments on the hill. The hilltop experiences could now inform their way of life in the valley, where everything might otherwise appear mundane.

So for you Christians who might have read part 1 of this post, left with a feeling of banal flatness, thinking “Where’s the power?” I hope this has begun to show you that I have no agenda to rob you of your faith. On the contrary, I want you to see the truth! The power you serve is greater and more expansive and all-encompassing than you realize! It is of cosmic scale and importance. Christianity points to that cosmic scale, but it can never contain it, for it is a human religion on one single planet. When you put the horse before the cart as it should be, you’ll be able to see that God is bigger than you thought, and Christianity was way more true than you ever realized. The Good News is better than you think!

I know this post will probably raise more questions than it answers. What exactly do you believe? How do you read Jesus’ words here? Etc. About this, the words of Paul come to mind: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1 Corinthians 3:2) The Scriptures are like milk to us, and we as humanity are still infants in Christ. We must grow into maturity in the Spirit before we will begin to directly see the light of truth. At that point, the spiritual wisdom of the Bible will become an expression of our own experience. Until then (and it will always be “until then”, only at subsequent levels in the spiral of learning), we must tread lightly. We must be curious, we must ask for insight. We must stop practicing independence, as if God sent us these words from afar for us to figure out on our own and will return later to see if we got it all figured out right. That’s far from the Christian message. No, God is here now, and I pray for myself as well as for all of you:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
—Ephesians 1:17-18

There is hope for humanity, and Christianity needs to come into its own as a clear, undeniably positive expression of that hope.