Is God Real?

I didn’t grow up a Christian. Pagan might be more appropriate title. I thought Jesus was related to Santa and as far as I knew, he lived in the mythical world of leprechaun’s and Easter bunnies.

But if I’m honest, I’ve always known God. I just wondered if he knew me.

It started in high school with the Christian Club. Mildly curious, I snuck into the back of a meeting one day, but when I saw who gathered, I turned on my heels and fled. It was the goody-two shoe kids –the ones who smiled to my face and gossiped behind my back. I was pretty sure their beaming faces were not motivated by the love of baby Jesus, but were masking a snarky agenda. Beyond skeptical, I figured they were merely looking for a new sucker to clap and sing along so they could get a new patch to stitch on a shiny Jesus vest.

So I kept my distance –I played it safe.

In college, the whole Jesus phenomenon was catching on like wildfire, but once again I held back, despite being surrounded by a posse of friends all dying to drag me to the Harvest –whatever that was? But I watched those who claimed to follow Christ –like a hawk.

Secretly, I struggled with the idea of how someone could say a prayer to Jesus and then all their problems would be magically resolved. A + B = Easy Life. It seemed too simple and trite. Besides, I liked brooding, emotion and drama, and these happy Christians types annoyed me. I perceived phoniness in “my grandma died, my dog died and I ran out of money…but praise the Lord” rhetoric. I didn’t want to be anyone’s project and then there was my irrational fear of being hijacked by a cult of ghastly Sunday singers with tambourines.

I’m not musical.

But one day I ended up in church, because a guy I liked wanted to go, and it wasn’t the saccharin-y sweet crowd I expected. I didn’t have to check my intellect at the door or even sing if I chose not to. It wasn’t the Happily Ever After message –it was simple and straight forward and the words connected to my spirit.

It didn’t feel like a traditional church, but more like a movement. The people wore jeans and flip-flops and offered genuine smiles. The music was like nothing I’d heard before and formed a knot of emotion in my belly – it embraced me like a child holding out soft pudgy arms for a squeeze. And they offered to give me a free book –a big navy blue bible, which I cracked open that evening. For the first time, I tentatively approached Jesus one baby step at a time.

I was in my Jr. Year at UCLA studying history and political science with my head immersed in the postmodernists –reading Nietzsche, Foucault, and Heidegger right around the time I began this tentative dance with faith and hip Christians and wacky liberals. The cacophony of voices shouting for my attention blended into a dull roar in my head.

The two worlds of church and Godless academia could not have clashed more. Every day at school I was exposed to the belief that all truth was subjective and the study of history was not about exploring factual evidence, but rather acknowledging the perspective of certain cultures or a person throughout time.

In this scenario: NOTHING IS ABSOLUTE.

Many narratives of the same story (i.e. told by the soldier, the general, the historian and the token woman) gave credence to a historical account, but in a vacuum of certainty everything was up for reinterpretation. My paradigm for accepting knowledge was deeply shaken and subconsciously I began to question everything –not a good place to be when you’re already an over-thinker.

Postmodern thought breeds skepticism, tolerance, distrust, and disrespect for authority. In the absence of truth, faith becomes a childlike malaise that one needs to cure by throwing more knowledge at it. Reading excerpts of Nietzsche is hauntingly similar to the words of Solomon. Everything is meaningless under the sun.

But Nietzsche forgot the “Without God” part.

And that messed with me!

Postmodern thought is completely satisfied with leaving out the conclusion that nothing makes sense without God. To Postmodern teaching, nothing makes sense period!

I couldn’t sleep at night thinking my existence in life was a random accident.

I was twenty-two years old when I decided to hedge my bets on a carpenter from Nazareth. Each Sunday I drove seventy miles from West LA to Newport Beach, CA to attend Mariners Church to learn a little bit more of the person and the message of Jesus Christ. I might have been dragged there the first time but I came back because I heard something different and terrifying.

A STILL SMALL VOICE OF LOVE

I began to consider a life guided by one truth, one absolute, and one savior. Against all my faculties, my heart and mind waged war against the simplicity of the Gospel.

I had constructed a life built on achievement –do more, be more, shine the brightest (and hide the bad stuff) and this tore apart the very fabric of my foundation. I didn’t need a rescuer because I had it all figured out.

But late at night, in the recesses of my soul there was a ravaging fear that I was alone, unlovable, and unworthy.

But Jesus –not religion, or formulas, or a magic pill –changed everything.

Once exposed to the truth it chased me down. God pursued me. Even though the Bible contradicted all that I considered to be true about relativism, something within me responded when called.

I’ve been walking with God now for eighteen years and here is the ONE THING I KNOW TO BE TRUE –God’s love is radical and it’s for you and for me and the redemption of the world.

Tambourines are optional.

God’s word tells me I was created to rest and abide in a relationship with him finding value, meaning and mission. He tells me I am forgiven and loved and worth dying for.

But how do I translate the truth about this reckless love into a culture bombarded by strategic assaults on our very method of interpreting truth?

The postmodern culture or relativist pluralism that I encountered fifteen years ago in college has morphed into a similar but different animal after 9/11. The irrational idea that all opinions or views are equally valid is now juxtaposed with an emerging awareness of “being”.

Threatened with terrorism, a blatantly consumerist culture, the organic backlash of the Occupy movement, and a burgeoning environmental consciousness; modern thought has turned introspective and idealized.

While no one wants to live in dire poverty, our children yearn to live in a more enlightened state of consumption than we did. They are aware of social injustice and their place within a global paradigm. Diversity no longer means a scholarship in the NCAA, but it is the acknowledgment of the marginalized in society. Women, homosexuals, the oppressed, children in Uganda…these voices are being heard by a new generation.

Because of this massive shift, I believe the church therefore needs to adapt and catch up to the culture. It’s not that the message of Jesus needs to change, but maybe the methodology in which we articulate Christianity needs a makeover.

When we view Christianity as a movement and not an institution it changes everything. We don’t have to have all the answers or put God in a Sunday box. It means our faith is dynamic, evolving, and always in flux.

It means Christianity is like the love of a lifetime not a one night stand. It’s the high of racing down the aisle to marry my beloved and the crushing disappointment of day-to-day drudgery as life marches on. It’s the achievements met together, the shattered dreams unrealized and the weary acceptance as I realize conflict is inevitable. It’s looking into the eyes of my aging spouse and aching for something more –an intimacy dependent on the mysterious. It’s the brief moments when our souls make contact and God reveals himself like thunder and rain washing over my heart and I know I am his and he is mine.

Faith –just like love is fragile enough to be lost but strong enough to stand eternity on.

If indeed our faith in Christ is a constantly evolving paradigm, how do we, as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, walk on the rushing water of a raging river instead of planting ourselves in a stagnant pool?

These are the questions that plague me.

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Comments

  1. Love hearing your story, Sam! Great truths!

  2. you’re story made me laugh and cry and think as I compared your experiences with my own.

    God bless you on your journey…

    (s)?

    • Hi Matthew,
      Glad you liked it 🙂 And I love that I made you laugh…sorry about the crying though.
      Sam

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