God’s evidence

6 09 2008

Nothing brings out the weakness of a person’s faith quite like being compelled to bring someone else to faith. 

The year 1995 was a huge year for me.  It was my first year as an adult, and I finally had the opportunity that I had longed for since I was six years old.  I could get a job and find a way to get out on my own.  The problem, though, was that none of the fast food joints were hiring.

Yeah, now that’s a high aspiration.

However, I had gotten wind that a local kids camp was hiring counselors at a wage that could probably get them closed down for being under, way under, the minimum wage.  It was the only thing going, so I took it.  Seemed like everyone there was cut from the same mold.  They all had two things in common.  They all said they were there because they felt called by God, and they all seemed to have come out of a dark and sinful life…yesterday.  Well, not all of them confessed the latter, but almost all of them professed the former.  I would happen to be the only exception.  In a group setting they all outlined some positive and spiritual reason for being there, each of them, and when the turn was mine, I simply stated, “I’m just in it for the money.”  They roared with laughter.  In it for the money…yeah, right.

The rules for counselors were simple enough.  Follow the schedule.  Make sure the kids bathe, eat, drink and poop regularly (yes, several kids had to be told to poop, because they were making themselves sick by holding back).  A half hour after the kids were asleep attend a half-hour meeting.  A half hour before the kids awaken, attend another half-hour bible study.  Oh, and make absolutely sure every single one of them is a Christian before they leave camp.  Always be on time to…what’s that, you say?  Yes that’s right, make sure every single one of them is a believer in Christ.  You read it correctly.  That’s more than just a little bit of stress, being required to have someone else do something that only they can do, and it’s no small task, either.  Most of the kids had already accepted Jesus as their savior, which was a grand relief, and occasionally there was the kid who had not but already wanted to.  No stress there.  However, I began to doubt myself.  “Witnessing” had become just another job requirement.  I was no longer certain if Jesus was really the only way in to Heaven.  When put to the test, my faith seemed silly.  Oh, sure, I knew there was a God, and I knew I could never believe that silly lie that we had evolved from some dumb ape, et cetera, but the matter of the Jewish Messiah being the way, the truth and the life is very specific and can not be learned through general revelation.  I mean, here were these kids not debating me at all, just trusting me for the truth, and they were tearing down my faith little by little?  No, they were illuminating my weakness.  This goes to show what can happen to a person on too little sleep and too much stress.

Ultimately, I just had to tell God, “I’m just not that confident that Jesus has anything to do with you.”  I’m going to have to explain that one on the other side, I think.

Or, perhaps not.

Then came that fateful week when I got a kid who did not believe in Jesus and did not want to believe.  Yes, they kept records of each kid and his spiritual choices.  Yes, I was going to have to explain this one.  What an insane place, I thought, requiring people to proselytize and pushing kids to accept Jesus.  It was sheer madness!  Yet, wasn’t that the essence of what I believed?  Those who do not believe are condemned already, and we are to preach the gospel to all people.  It was my first year as an adult, and already I was beginning to turn from the faith.

It was the last night of that week, and the kids were dead tired from a week of bliss.  Everyone was dirty, sleepy and happy.  I sent everyone to bed, except for that one heathen child.  We sat in the dark night at a picnic table, with no one around but the crickets.  I took a deep breath and asked him “You said you don’t believe in Jesus.  Why not?”

He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Why should I?”

Crap.  I don’t know.  Maybe so we can say the prayer and go to bed?  Is that good enough for you?

I took a deep breath and looked away.  “Why won’t you?”

“I can’t just accept it.  I need proof,” he said, quite convinced.

Blast.  Okay, so what could I tell him?  I could go into depth about why the Big Bang was wrong, or the folly of Evolution.  I could spend hours talking about intelligent design and the evidence of God.  None of that necessitated a savior, and none of that debate could change a person’s heart.  It still can’t.  I didn’t even know if this kid had gone through that brainwashing yet.  He was just a kid, after all.  I had no idea what he thought the alternatives could possibly be.  Finally, I took what I thought was a cop-out solution.  I asked him if he wanted to pray that God would show him the proof he wanted.  At least, then, I could say I tried and be back in my warm sleeping bag and contemplate my own apostasy some other time.

He nodded his head, “yes.”

I kept it simple.  I don’t know how to pray those long-winded prayers that pastors and other spiritually-gifted individuals use.  I simply asked God to give him the proof that he wanted.

What happened next was not what I was expecting.  An almost electric, warm, numbing sensation touched the top of my head and slowly moved down to my shoulders.  I expected it to keep going down to my toes, but it diverted and went out to my hands, which were holding his.  My tongue was sloppy, and I could barely talk.  The feeling held me for a minute, and then it began to leave my head and out through my hands.  I opened my eyes and for the first time got a good look at him, eyes clenched, holding my hands in a death grip.  He felt it, too.  God had answered his prayer on the spot and given him the evidence he required.  He held on for a while longer, then opened his eyes and looked around, thoroughly bewildered, rubbing his hands as if to find the source of the power.  He didn’t say a word.  I don’t think he could have spoken if he wanted to.

What I did next is on my list of life’s regrets.  I didn’t ask him if he felt the power.  I didn’t lead him in a prayer to accept Christ.  I didn’t tell him that I felt it, too.  I mutely led him back to the teepee where we were staying, and he meekly followed, still rubbing his hands and looking awestruck.  I don’t know how he slept that night, but I did some staring at the ceiling.  I don’t know if he ultimately accepted that evidence, but I know only that I, now, have no excuse not to believe in Jesus.  I had to accept that this Jewish man from two millennia ago was exactly what he said he was.  I had to believe that he was God’s answer to a dieing world.  I had to believe.  I still do.

These days, when someone demands proof, I make no effort to meet their demands.  I know why I believe, and my evidence is the non-empirical sort that would never hold up in court.  I can’t use my evidence to convince others.  I can, however, pray that they will find it for themselves.  Do you believe my story?  It’s no skin off my nose if you don’t.  I just thought it would be wrong not to tell anyone.

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Doomed

2 09 2008

Less than a month old, and already doomed.  I’m not talking about a baby.  I’m talking about this blog.  I’ve been thinking about my abilities to maintain a one-way conversation with anyone.  I just don’t do it.  People…very kind people have tried determinedly to draw me out of myself and failed.  I don’t make eye contact.  I don’t do anything to encourage the continuance of discussion.  I don’t hate these people; in fact, I like them very much, but I have little desire to interact with them.  One might imagine, then, how impossible it would be for me to draw out myself for others to see.  It simply wouldn’t happen.

There was a time in my life when I would habitually spend two hours each night praying to God.  My parents lived on some rural rugged property with a little chapel on a hill.  Each night, I would climb that slope in the dark, chasing away who knows what wildlife that rustled in the blackness, and there, between an old wooden cross and that weathered little building, I would stare up at the sky and beg God to talk to me.  I had recently graduated from high school, and college had proven to be a cold and impersonal place.  I had no one to call a friend.  I knew that God could hear me.  He was someone that I could always talk to.  However, talking to someone who never talked back proved to be an unnatural and difficult task for me.  I told him so, too.  Eventually, I gave up and never returned to routine prayer.  I told God that I would be waiting for him to speak; I figured I had done enough talking and it was his turn.

Last year, in October, the Harris fire raged over that area for miles in every direction.  Several homes were lost around there, and it left my parents’ property a scorched and barren moonscape.  All of their smaller buildings were lost.  All that was left of them were the nails, fallen straight down from where they had been nailed, and the metal framing around the windows ran in rivulets down the hillside.  Three of their buildings survived.  The barn and the house had extensive clearing around them, so it’s easy to imagine how they survived, but no one knows why the little chapel remained, as it had no clearing, and it was as vulnerable to fire as any building could possibly be.  Yet, that patch of grass where I had been on my back every night remained untouched, from the cross to the chapel, though the bush that was growing against the chapel had since burned away.

One might think that I would have turned back to regular prayer.  The fact is, I’m just not a very good conversationalist.  Even more so, if I can not maintain such a relationship with God, then how can I do so with complete strangers?  Therefore, I say that this blog is doomed.

I can only hope that my faith is not.