― C.S. Lewis
This is not a post I set out to write. On my way home last night, however, I was practicing some music for our Easter services at church, weeping and driving. (Don't worry, no gnashing of teeth was involved.) I was overwhelmed by how beautiful this life is and how fortunate I am to benefit from God's grace and at once I knew that here, at the beginning of this blog, is the time to profess my faith and to explain the round-about way I got here.
For much of my life, I was agnostic. I called myself "spiritual" but knew that I was far more enlightened than my peers and others who professed to believe in a higher power. I scoffed at their Bible, even going so far as to call it the "greatest novel ever written." I know now that my scorn broke the hearts of my Christian friends but they tolerated it, and me, far better than I had any right to deserve.
I had experienced a great deal of pain growing up and I reasoned that any "loving Father" wouldn't allow pain like that to happen to anyone. I knew better than to accept this "myth" of religion and, while it confused me that I knew extremely intelligent people who were firmly steeped in faith, I figured they would eventually uncover the error of their ways.
But over and over again, I was bombarded with the Christian message by people who loved me. I watched their lives unfolding and saw how they made God the center of everything, like the fulcrum of a wheel. They seemed passionate and I longed for that kind of spiritual certainty...but, no matter how I tried, I just couldn't accept it. The "magic" of it was too great for me to comprehend.
But then, a couple of things happened that would forever change me and it would open me up to the mysterious and offer a chance at faith:
- A tumor was discovered in my then seven-week-old youngest son. I had no idea where to begin, so I reached out to EVERYONE I knew and asked for prayers, positive energy...whatever. I was willing to look to anyone and anything. On the first day, we were told that the tumor was as large as a tennis ball and it would require surgery and quite possibly chemo. The next doctor we saw said that the tumor wasn't QUITE as large as they had thought and that chemo would almost certainly NOT be necessary. I knew that literally hundreds of people were praying for that tiny baby all over the world. On the day of the surgery, nuns gathered at my mother's church to pray as well as other friends and family. When the surgeon came out, he said the surgery was so INCREDIBLY easy. He said it was as if everything just opened up to him and he was easily able to get the entire tumor with no problem...it had been one of the easiest surgeries he had seen of that type.
- My marriage began to collapse. I was struggling emotionally and spiritually and I just did what I hadn't ever done before and what had never occurred to me as a solution: I went to church. I sat there, alone, Sunday after Sunday, hearing the music and the messages and I wept. I wept openly and profusely. I simply COULDN'T STOP CRYING. And, for the first time in my life, I began to pray to a God that I wasn't sure existed.
I was overwhelmed by what seemed very much like a miracle with my son. And I was conscious of a deep pull in my heart whenever I would go to church. But things still didn't seem to fit. How could I accept a truth without proof? It seemed crazy.
So I began to read. I read The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. I read many apologetics books. I read Biblical passages. I talked to people. I asked questions. I found Pascal's Wager intriguing.
1. God exists or He doesn't exist.
2. If you think He exists and you are RIGHT, you gain everything. If you think He exists and you are WRONG, you lose nothing.
3. If you think He doesn't exist and you are RIGHT, you lose nothing. If you think He doesn't exist and you are WRONG, you LOSE EVERYTHING.
So, really, there is only one premise where you lose everything. That made me think.
During one Sunday service, our pastor (in a move I had never seen before nor have I ever seen since, five or so years later) asked us to join together with people near us and simply have a time of prayer. I joined a circle of strangers and, as we locked hands, I began to sob silently. Tears streamed out of my eyes and snot dripped onto my clothing. They prayed for me openly then. I believe now that God was working on my heart while I was trying to reach Him through my brain.
And after about another six months or so, I sat in church and the pastor said, once again (as he does so often), that God's love was available and His mercy was free to all of us if we would only let Him in.
For the first time in my life, I thought, "Yes."
From then on, I have felt my heart change. I know it sounds hokey, but I really believe that I love more deeply and that I have more patience and wisdom than ever before. I see things more clearly and I am more apt to respond to people in love than ever before. And I believe this is because I have opened myself to His grace and mercy.
I took Pascal's Wager. And I'm pretty sure I'm winning.