For too long, I've not been truly honest.
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Bible. I believe Christ died for my sins. I believe in Heaven and Hell. I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe that if I do it right, I'll go to Heaven when I die.
Why yes, actually. I do. I do! And I'm not ashamed of it, either.
It's hard for me to say these things out loud sometimes. It's not that I have doubts or don't believe. Quite the contrary. I do believe in Christianity. It's just awkward for me to "admit I'm a Christian" in secular company. It's frustrating to be "outed" in the company of friends who then stare at you, aghast, and say, "You? You believe in that stuff? But....but you don't seem like 'one of them.'" And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Am I "one of them"? Or not? Because you can't be both.
Sometimes I don't do the best job of living my faith out loud, let alone speaking it. I curse. A lot. I'm lazy and prideful and stubborn. I definitely don't pray like I should, attend church each Sunday, think before I speak (or type), or put others before myself. I'm really, really stubborn, and I like getting my way. Often. I try, but I fail at it each and everyday. I'm not exactly the best, most shining example of what a "Godly woman" should be.
With friends who don't believe, I keep my mouth shut. SURPRISING, I KNOW. Me? Who is widely opinionated on every other topic ever? Yes. I suppose that's because religion is such a sensitive topic. I've found you can't just storm the castle of unbelief with your Bible and your pitchfork and expect to transform and enlighten your friends. It's a big turnoff.
I'm often asked by friends who don't believe, "Why? Why bother?" Sometimes that's accompanied by "...because there's no proof!" or some other such statement, reminding me that they think it's all just a nice story, a way of telling people how to be good human beings. A way of scaring ancient societies into playing nice with each other. A way of exacting control over weak-minded individuals who are scared of the here-after.
So why believe? Why put myself out there and put my faith in someone I have never seen? Why believe in the invisible when the visible is around me each and everyday? It's simple, really.
Because I have seen God.
I've seen God in small children exploring their world and speaking honestly. I've seen God in teenagers passing out granola bars to Chicago's homeless, using a strength and honesty most adults will never have. I've seen God in my legs, when I walked away from a car accident that should have killed me. I've seen God in my daughter, who is a miracle I get to wake to each and everyday. I've felt God in the love my husband has for me, and in the selflessness he brings to our home each day. I see God everyday, even if I don't realize it when I see it.
Most of my friends don't believe at all. It's not really something that's affected our friendship since faith doesn't always come up in casual conversation. When it does, the topic is usually "The Church" and "Churchy People", and that's where a number of their frustrations and turn offs lie. I understand. I've been a member of a dozen different churches and no matter what--no matter how wonderful or full or empty and sad--churches always get it wrong. I like where I'm attending church these days, and I loved my college church. Both buildings and congregations have been integral parts of my faith formation. But still, churches--man made bodies--get it wrong. How can they not? Women and men are fallible. We all make mistakes, even if they're well-intentioned.
Church members get it wrong. Pastors and priests get it wrong. Casual Bible readers get it wrong. Bible scholars get it wrong. Politicians get it wrong. Average bloggers and blog readers get it wrong.
I disagree with most of the "moral majority" in this country. I don't consider myself anywhere close to the religious right. I voted for Obama. I am pro-life, but I believe in pro-choice. I don't think that Muslims are evil or that Jews are going to Hell. I like gay people and I don't believe they're all going to hell, either. I don't believe in any "gay agenda", and I'm pro-marriage for everyone, not just the heteros. I believe in science. I don't believe in using religion as a scare-tactic to scare voters and swing the population to the right, and I believe that when you do that, God gets pissed. I don't believe God wants us to be scared of Him, and I don't believe He's sitting up there, A-OK with people using His name to scare, shame, and threaten.
I believe. I go to church. I call myself a Christian. And yes, I still believe in all of the above. And I think--with the exception of the pro-choice thing--God's probably okay with that.
But so many of those people who get it wrong? Sometimes they also get it right.
How can I not believe when I've seen churches power together to rebuild a home for a member after he lost it in a tornado? How can I not believe when strangers provided a home-cooked meal for 30 college students each Sunday--often without a thank you? How can I not believe when someone quotes the Bible in a way that passages I've heard my entire life are suddenly made clear? How can I turn away from God when How can I deny the existence of something greater when I've been so richly blessed through no doing of my own? How can I look at my daughter and chalk her up to a happy accident of science? Even if I don't see the beautiful creation that I am, I can't deny that my daughter isn't made up of more than a meeting and division of cells.
There's a lot of crap in this world. There's a lot gone wrong everywhere you turn. There's a lot that can't be explained, and it's hard to look someone in the face and talk to them about your God, the one who's loving and kind and who fixes all things....especially when they've been dealt an awful, unfathomable situation. And sometimes, I just can't explain why I believe in Christ when faced with something like that.
But what I can do is live my life. I can continue to be an example, the best example I can be, of God's love and goodness. I can continue to improve on myself and continue to pray. I can continue to have faith, because I know what's waiting for me when my life is over. And maybe someday I won't have to answer when someone asks me why I believe, because just by looking at me, they'll know.