Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Everlasting Struggle

This latest chapter of The Reason for God struck home quite resoundingly. Especially at this time in my life, with so much change imminent. Through all of high school, I knew what my goal was: do well so I can get into a good college. But now I don't know exactly what I want to do after college. And even more worrisome to me, I don't know what God wants me to do.

I feel a great pressure to choose the path that will lead me to the most renown in the world of science, where I can do great things, wonderful things. I feel like if I do not do this, I will fail. And surely none of this is bad; after all, I could do a lot of good that way. But is that my focus? Is that all I am aiming for or am I wanting to follow this path because God wants me to?

Keller says that "sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in relationship and service to God." And I wonder, is that what I'm doing? I would love to say, "Of course not!" Yet if I'm honest with myself, I know that there are many areas of my life where I have set my identity on something besides God, my career ambitions included. I cannot help but wish that it were easier. I know that God won't fail me. I know that He has big plans for me, and I need to step my "natural self" aside and let God take controls. Yet part of me, a large part, is too terrified to give up so easily.

Referencing Ernest Becker, Keller describes this as a "child's need for self-worth" as the "condition for his life" driving him to look for "cosmic significance." Now isn't that a tasty word? Cosmic significance. Don't we all want to be remembered? Don't we all want our lives to have an impact that will change the course of history, even in some small way, until the end of time? Therein lies our struggle. We are all scared to be forgotten, scared that if our careers are not successful enough, or our families don't do well enough, or if we aren't good enough friends, or known by enough people, we will be forgotten.

When I step back and look at this mindset, God is clearly not the center, and, as Keller says, "a life not centered on God leads to emptiness." If we don't look to God, we will eventually be forgotten in the throws of time. If we don't look to God, no amount of "success" will give us the security of really mattering in the course of history. But when we do look to God, we see that we won't be forgotten, that we already matter and always will, and that in the end, everything will be okay. No matter how grand or small our lives look from the outside, putting God at the center is the one and only thing that will fulfill us.

There begins the endless battle between our heart and soul. Our human hearts are scared to give up control, especially in every area, and so we fall into sin, because "sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God." The first Commandment, the most encompassing Commandment. Have no others gods. Put nothing before God. Do not give anything more significance, meaning, or power in your life than God.

I do this, and quite a lot. I put entertainment, recreation, work, food, exercise, my idea of "security," my pride, before God. I push Him off until tomorrow, later, next time, even though every bit of sense in me knows that I'm doing it wrong.

And such goes the eternal, perpetual struggle of humanity against ourselves.

Ni Hao Yall

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mere Words

It seems that lately I've encountered a large number of people who don't believe in God, atheists and agnostics, from YouTube to friends to acquaintances. Seeing the vast numbers of people out there who don't know the God I know makes my heart hurt, and really makes me feel a bit defeated. I feel no threat when people question or argue against my beliefs, but sometimes I just don't know how to respond. How do I lay it out rationally enough that those arguing against the logic of a God can see my side? What can I say to make someone care who really doesn't think it matters whether or not there is a God?

I want to be able to have beautiful, flawless rebuttals, with no logical gaps, that inspire such a profound awe of this deity that I'm describing, that the other person can't help but want to know Him.

But I can't do that. Maybe for some amazing writer, at just the right time, when filled with the Holy Spirit, to just the right person, that can happen. Maybe even me. But not every time I share my faith with someone.

I think a large part of the problem lies in the way we approach such topics as religion. Today we live in a science-filled, rational society where atheism and skepticism are becoming more normal, and often associated with higher thinking and intelligence. But this overlooks a massive part of who we are, inherently, as humans. Albert Camus explores this in The Stranger through the purely rational figure of Mersault. Camus shows that humans cannot exist and live with reason and logic as their sole resource to maneuver through life. In fact, nearly every other person besides Mersault himself is horrified, almost disgusted, at his purely rational perspective on life and death.

Although this is a fictional novel, few can say that they would act differently if they were the jury in Mersault's trial. Why? Because humans are inherently emotional. We can't help but feel pain at the idea of a parent dying and shock that Mersault could care so little. We all know that we feel and hurt and long for things beyond the realm of rational. In our most inner selves, we are not rational creatures. We care for others and we understand the difference between right and wrong beyond the scope of laws (and now I'm purposely not addressing the debate over what defines right and wrong because regardless of each person's personal morals, there is still some right and some wrong to everyone).

Why then do many people choose to ignore this when discussing the existence of God? If we love, hurt, care, feel passion and anger, hope and despair, surely there is something beyond logical explanation driving these feelings? To even begin to understand God, one has to approach the topic with their heart open, as well as their mind.

When I think of God, I don't first think of the factual, concrete aspects of God, such as the church, and miracles, and the beauty of the Earth, all of which point me to God. No, I think of something internal. A feeling that is more than a feeling. A knowledge that I am not alone that transcends a hope or belief. I know that He will always be there with me and I know that He is looking out for me, my friends and family, the world. I know because I have felt Him right there with me. When you feel God's presence, there is no denying it. He captures your heart and your soul like nothing possibly can besides God. He will leave you gasping in awe, tears streaming down your face, your heart close to exploding with joy and love and relief and passion and hope all at once. He will so consume you with His embrace that hours will pass and it will feel like a mere twenty minutes. He will bring you to your knees and show you that the love you feel, even towards the people you love more than anyone else, is nothing at all compared to the marvelous immensity of Love that He feels towards you.

Rational thought cannot explain those experiences. Logic cannot tell you how a person can feel so many things, so intensely, all at once. Sure, there is a science behind the chemicals that flood our body and the reasons why people cry at strong emotions. But that doesn't tell you why. Nothing can, but God.

I wish that my words would go out to all the people who don't know God and, at the very least, plant a tiny seed of who God is. If you don't know God, I really and truly hope that my simple thoughts might stir some of your own and maybe you will see the proof of God that so far transcends reason.