Turns out I’m making a series called Why I Believe in God. It was going to be the first post in my This I Believe series, but then I realized it might be my only post in that series, and then it turned out really long so it became a few parts on its own.
I’m just going to start with what is my absolutely strongest belief – the belief in a God that is Creator, Sustainer, Lover, and Empowerer.
This might be the only ‘Part’ of my This I Believe series that I write any time soon, and it is the most important to me. So here’s the basics. God loves and empowers people who seek him. The more we seek him, the more he empowers us. Following his lead always leads to better results, attitudes, growth, than not following. This is probably my only unshakeable belief, since I have tested it in every possible way and it has never failed me.
And how do I follow his lead? Prayer and meditation, reading and listening to other people who follow him, and finding what ‘resonates with my soul’. Maybe a cheesy expression, but it is quite accurate really. If my soul was the chamber of a musical instrument, then when I am hearing from God my soul sings. The closest philosophy I’ve found is that of Quaker founder George Fox who, after years of seeking answers from theologians and in the Bible felt like God told him that the only one who could ‘speak to his condition’ was Jesus. “God (or Christ) is come to teach His people Himself, by His power and Spirit in their hearts, and to bring people off from all the world’s ways and teachers, to His own free teaching, who had bought them, and was the Saviour of all them that believed in Him.”
That is all, that is the sum total of my ‘religion’. I seek God willingly, and follow his lead and I become a more loving, stable, productive, sane, forgiving, charitable person. When I don’t, I become a more bitchy, unhappy, selfish, insane, unforgiving, and miserable person. I learned many years ago that I am pretty much incapable of making my own way and having positive results. This was a blessing really, because many people are much better at life than me and it may take them years, decades, or maybe even forever to figure out that they would be better off surrendering to God. Fortunately for me, I am pretty much a total fuck-up on my own. Here’s how I lost my religion, angst, depression, anger, fury and hatred and found God.
I grew up in non-denominational Christian church and believed in God and Jesus and the whole shebang of conservative, fundamentalist evangelical Christianity as a child. I believe the first time I “asked Jesus into my heart” was in kindergarten at my private school that was affiliated with our church, where my parents worked. I continued to ask Jesus into my heart over and over again as I grew up because, you know, church camp, mission trips, backsliding, sin, angst, etc. Just to make sure.
I learned in church, Sunday School, and private school about the God of the Bible as interpreted through American conservative fundamentalist lens – a God who created humanity, then regretted it almost immediately, but then continued to put up with us hoping we would improve somehow. We were designed to live forever and worship him, but since we suck he can’t have us around him. When we didn’t improve he gave us a list of rules, perhaps thinking that would help, and some procedures to follow when we broke the rules that involved animal sacrifice to appease himself. We couldn’t handle that much responsibility so eventually he and/or his son came to earth as a human to be the ultimate sacrifice so that we did not have to burn in a fiery eternal torment forever, but rather could live with him in a mansion in heaven with streets of gold and such. There’s a catch though, you only get the mansion if you say a certain prayer and believe certain things. Most humans will end up in the furnace. But hey, at least he tried!
In the midst of all that growing up time, I had some really powerful experiences on my own with God. Many times in prayer, worship, or study on my own I felt the presence of God. A few experiences really stand out though. One time I was maybe 6 or 7 and wandering around the school/church campus while my parents worked and I made up a worship song, which I still remember to this day (it’s not good lol). I felt very close and connected with God at that time.
As a teenager in the midst of some of my angst I was still trying to connect with God, including with my friends. We were really into music and would often lead worship for youth group, and spent time singing worship songs together. I had some really spiritual experiences during a couple of those times as well, including one time that I swear I heard angels singing worship to God, and could not for the life of me remember the song afterward (I swear I wasn’t on drugs!)
Another time when I had turned my back completely on God (more on that later) I was wandering around farmers market with a friend, and she dragged me completely unwillingly and somewhat disgusted into a Christian bookstore. As I waited for her I picked up a cd of someone whose name I recognized as the singer of a band I’d liked as a younger teen (Scott Wenzel, Whitecross). I put it in to hear a sample and the song I heard struck a deep chord in my heart:
All my love to you I give
Inside your heart I long to live
All the brokenness I’m able to heal
Would you let me show you how I feel
I shout it in the mountain streams,
I give the birds love songs to sing
Sarah, I’ll never leave you alone,
You will never face a day on your own
Sarah, I’ll never leave you alone,
so open up, open up
your heart to love again
Are ya lonely, oh you look so sad,
It makes my heart ache ’cause I understand,
I wanna show you, Sarah, time hides the truth
I will wait ’cause I’ve chosen to love you…