So Sure, God exists. Now I believed it. I even believed that Jesus was God. Yet there was no rush of joy in this realization. This was not a happy moment. I was quite miserable in fact. God had intruded where he was not wanted, and now my life was a contradiction. All of the questions and hurt that had led me away from my faith were still burning inside, yet I could not deny that Jesus was God. Because of this, the phases of this four year journey might surprise you. They certainly don’t match any salvation narratives I have ever heard.
Phase 1: Hate God
When my journey began, I hated God. He let people suffer and did not rescue them. He called people to live to standards they could not achieve. More than anything, I could not make sense of hell. I could not make sense of God torturing people for eternity (More on this later). It was around this time that we started going to church again, and the conflict in my faith was evident. We would go for two weeks, then get frustrated and skip the next week, but by the fourth week we’d try again. I remember one week walking out in anger in the middle of the service during a song that I still do not like. I’m pretty sure we didn’t go back for a month.
Phase 2: Fear God
During this phase I began to make some headway philosophically. For example, some people draw a false dichotomy about God. They say that either God is good and loving and everything I want him to be, or he doesn’t exist. During this time I realized that the two things have nothing to do with one another. Even if God is a jerk to us, he is still God and there is nothing we can do but serve him. You cannot protest the Almighty. God can do whatever he wants, and demand whatever he wants. He’s God, so I had better pay attention.
Phase 3: Respect God
As I worked through my philosophical objections, I began to calm down emotionally. By this point we had already settled back into our church, and I had begun studying the Bible again. I felt like I was reading it with fresh eyes. The texture and depth of both God and his people were leaping out at me, both from the text and in our church community. All of this culminated in a realization: God is pretty cool. He is not indifferent and inactive, he’s doing stuff all the time. There may be a lot of crap going on in the world, but there is a lot of good too.
Throughout these phases there is a theme that has continued to define my faith: “Faith seeking understanding.” I believe first, but I am still working out the details. One thing that is difficult for many is that they do not want to accept Christianity until the big questions have been answered. The problem is that you may never get there. There are some questions that require faith and interaction with God in order to comprehend. I realize this seems like backward logic, because it seems like we are creating bias in our beliefs prior to examining the questions themselves. However, for me the answers came because the faith was there first. I’m not sure if I ever would have made it this far if I hadn’t first believed in God.
After this, there was one more phase that completed this process and sent our life onto a new trajectory. (Coming Tomorrow)