This image of Christ has always been a favorite. From the Violet Burning’s “Strength” album (well worth a listen), I wanted to share it this Resurrection Weekend. It’s a beautiful representation of two words that have been coming to mind all day this Good Friday:
If I sum up the reason I believe in Him, it’s all wrapped up in those words.
He gave. And He gave to me.
Our pastor challenged us recently to write our testimony. This coincided with someone very dear to me not understanding why I base my existence on what they have decided is a baseless, fact-devoid fairy tale.
For weeks, I’ve been pondering anew why I believe what I believe.
I think that all Christ followers must be prepared to give an explanation for the reason they believe.
Here is mine.
I am not a Christian because somebody said, “Here—believe this,” and I wanted to fit in.
I am not a Christian because I’m copying American cultural practices (now fading).
I am not a Christian because it is what my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents thought about God.
(Some did. Some didn’t.)
I am not a Christian because anyone expected it of me.
I AM a Christian because someone—many someones—mentioned this Jesus and I was curious.
I am a Christian because my curiosity prompted me to seek answers. Unanswered questions have always driven me crazy. I had to know why something that made no sense to me seemed to be so real to other people.
I dug and prayed and questioned and doubted, and doubted and dug some more. I stretched out on the living room rug one night and asked my parents how they knew that God was real. They said they just knew; that when you know, you know.
Eighteen-year-old me thought that was a pretty lame answer.
I went to bed one night and startled awake in the wee hours to a darkness I’d never experienced. I could not see my hand in front of my face. I fumbled for the lamp and couldn’t find it. It was so blackly, eerily, densely dark, like being wrapped up in a cloak of smothering fear.
I felt what can only be described as a hand reaching up through my mattress, slipping effortlessly through my back, wrapping around my spine, firmly gripping onto the depths of my gut.
The hand began pulling me down into the mattress and I tried to rise up against it. But I was too weak and that hand was stronger than my room was black.
“God, I am not ready to go yet! Please don’t let this be it!” I pled.
The pulling stopped. The hand released and slipped away. I lay there, eyes staring wide into the inky darkness, seeing nothing, hearing only my racing heart and gasping breath.
I don’t remember falling back to sleep. I just know that the next day, I woke up shaken. Whatever that was, it was real.
In the brightness of daylight, I hesitated.
I wasn’t a bad person. I just liked doing things my own way. Was this whole “surrender” thing really required to be a Christian? What if all this love and peace stuff was just hogwash? What if every Christian I knew was actually deceived, giving up their best years of life for something that wasn’t even real? All of those smiles and tears and hugs and prayers at church could’ve been fake.
(Sometimes they are.)
That week, I drove to school. I drove to work. I showered, I ate food, I wrote papers and did projects. I pondered a lot on those long drives to and from the Art Institute of Atlanta.
Every night, I settled into my bed and prayed the hand wouldn’t return. And it never did.
A week later, alone in my bedroom on a cool April evening, as the breeze blew through my window and I listed to Silent Night (yes, in April—that song just always resonated with me) I prayed. I don’t remember the exact words. But I asked God to forgive me for my sins. I asked Jesus to come into my life. I asked Him to show me He was real. I promised that if I could just see His goodness for myself, I would believe.
I wanted so much to believe.
God honored that scared, odd little prayer of mine. A peace came over me, as gently as that April breeze. And life was never the same again.
I gave up so much, and none of it was instant. But over time….
I gave up insecurity for knowing who I am as a child of God.
I traded paralyzing fear for a peace that never made sense to me before.
(And if I’m honest, sometimes still doesn’t.)
I stopped chasing the approval of people who would only use me and cast me aside. Sometimes that left me lonely, and that still hurt. But I now had Someone to soothe that pain.
I had to give up feeling unloved because He seemed to get a real kick out of showing me how much I was actually loved. In fact, I am His beloved.
(We all get to be His beloved! How cool is that?)
It wasn’t all about giving things up, though. He gave me a lot, too.
I met the most awesome, geeky, creative, loving, generous man when experience had taught me that guys like that didn’t exist. And that crazy dude actually wanted to marry me!
I sent him to war, and he came home whole.
God gave us three beautiful sons that doctors said shouldn’t be, and three more babies that wait for us in heaven. And when I thought my heart might break if I never knew what it was like to mother a daughter, He connected me with the most precious little girl half a world away and let her call me “Mom.”
With my own eyes, I have seen Him heal. I have witnessed Him make something out of literally nothing. I have enjoyed His provision when it looked to me like there was nothing to be had.
How can any of this be?
I don’t know. I didn’t earn any of it. I don’t deserve any kind of love like this.
But God gave it anyway. God gave. And God gives!
So, no, I’m not a Christian because anyone made me do it, or led me there or forced it on me.
I’m a Christian simply because I tried life without Him and I’ve tried life with Him, and the latter is so infinitely better than the former that I cannot comprehend ever believing another way, ever.