The Thing No Christian Can Explain…

Just checked out an excellent post from Beyond Evangelical | The Blog of Frank Viola. He offered a list entitled:  Why I Am a Christian: 12 Reasons. It is a great read, and it got me thinking. I tried to express my thoughts there in a comment, and hope to do better here.

When we talk about religion many of my atheist and agnostic friends just shake their heads in wonder that I, someone with a seemingly good intellect, open mind, and loving heart could truly be satisfied by the Church. I have never been able to fully explain or explicate just why I believe. I can use any number of philosophical reasonings, and nifty explanations, but I never really been able to get to the heart of the matter. I often shrug my shoulders along with them and say, “at the end of the day I believe.”

Along these lines I often hear non-believers talk about how the hatred and follies of Westboro or Truett Cathy or whatever duplicitous Christian is currently trending on the webs keeps them from belief. How can you follow a Church that steadfastly refuses to actually follow the teachings of its leader, they ask. I totally get this line. In fact more than one night of sleep has been caused by the actions of Westboro, or Cathy or Falwell or the dude that walked up to me in front of the entire congregation (or what felt like it), and asked me in a loud voice if I was really worth what the Church was paying me (honest answer- yes, no, yes, no, maybe, yes grrrr, arrrghh).

I have long loved the words of writer and columnist John Fischer who once wrote in CCM Magazine (this was like 20 years ago and I am paraphrasing) that God often works in spite of us, not because of us. It is this faithfulness of our God who brings good out of evil, and exchanges beauty for ashes that has kept me around. We in the church are horribly messed-up people. We are (to quote musician Steve Tyler) losers broken at the foot of the cross. We hate. We spew. We blech noxious flumes all over our sanctuaries. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way for all the wrong reasons. One of my mentors used to say [repeatedly], “This is not a perfect church. I am not a perfect pastor.I if you are perfect, run away now because just  being around us will mess you up].

Yet God still shows up. God still moves. People are healed. The deaf hear. The blind see. The lame walk. The prisoners are set free. I mean this both in the real and metaphoric senses. True this does not happen as often as I would like, nor often when I would like; but it happens. When it does it is often a moment of serendipitous joy that moves me to tears (what can I say, despite what gets said about me I am truly a giant softee). Just when the night appears to be here to stay. Just when the winter appears the strongest. Just when I am yelling and cursing in ways  that would have made Job blush, the light comes and the warm breezes of spring hit the air.

I love the mind-numbing craziness familiar to the sci-fi and horror genres. One trope that never gets old is the hero that cannot exit a situation. They ran out of the scene, keep running in a straight line, but only find themselves returning the same scene they just left. it is frightening and confusing and frustrating to watch the hero confined to the unrelenting scenery; yet this seems to get at an important truth concerning my experience with the faith. I run and run and run and run some more; yet my path always doubles back to the cross. I cannot get away from it. That dastardly cross shadows my every step. It will not let me go. At times like those I find myself shaking my fist at the heavens and screaming some sort of variation on the “I can’t quit you”  line from Brokeback Mountain.

I can hear every Atheist in America muttering about my weakness. Yet that is exactly why I am and remain a Christian: I am weak, and I have found no remedy to that weakness other than the Sovereign God who brings joy in the morning, who exchanges beauty for ashes, who makes all things work together for good. This is the thing I cannot explain, and honestly I think that if I could it would only diminish the truth that under-girds my life: God exists and He is good. I can only pass on this my most-prayed prayer: “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.”


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