Today is my birthday. So today I'm going to talk about my belief in God, where it comes from in my life. I don't like to use the word "testimony" because that word is so commonly used as if it were a sort of sales technique, giving a testimonial as to how well the Product - Christianity - worked for you so that others will try it. That's not the point of this at all. I simply want, on this day that's important to me, to express myself about this thing that's foundational to my own life. And that's all-- no strings attached.
My parents went to church when I was very young, but later they stopped and became agnostics. I don't have any memories of meeting God in a church context at all before the age of 15. What I do remember, though, as a young child, is feeling that invisible Hands were reaching down to me in love. I remember asking my mother if she had ever felt this, and she said yes. I remember her singing to me, simple songs like Away in a Manger and Jesus Loves Me. I remember the pure, simple faith in her eyes, her voice. There was no coercion, no law, no hierarchy in my mother’s faith-- just love.
When I was a little older, my mother became convinced by intellectual arguments against Christianity and left the faith for a while. Years, later, she returned again to her earlier faith. She told me when I was grown up that she had continued to feel God's presence throughout her agnostic years. Every once in a while she would feel in her heart as if God were saying, “You’re being silly, you know. I’m still here.” In the end she listened to her heart.
However, by the time I was 8 or 9, both my parents were agnostic, and I was following firmly in my parent's beliefs-- or lack thereof. This ended abruptly when we visited Carlsbad Caverns when I was about 11. Looking at those huge caverns, so beautiful, which were there and had been beautiful before any humans even knew they were there, I had the sudden overwhelming conviction that there had to be a God. I can't explain it intellectually, really. It's just that it seemed absurd to me that something so awesomely, overwhelmingly beautiful was unintentionally so. I just knew that Someone had to have planned it, and Someone had to have enjoyed its secret beauty long before humans ever knew it was there. But that's as far as things went. I felt that there had to be a God. Whether it was the god of any particular religion, I had no idea.
When I was 15 my older sister came into my room one afternoon and said, "I've been studying and looking into it-- and I'm convinced that Jesus had to be who he said he was."
Well, I didn't know what to think-- but that shook me. My sister was someone I trusted, had always trusted implicitly. If she had come to this conclusion, then it was a reasonable viewpoint-- it couldn't just be nonsense. I had to find out for myself if there was something in it.
So I agreed to go to church with her. And when the service was over, there was an invitation to come to the front and be prayed for. My sister grabbed my hand (I wasn't at all sure I wanted to go, but I followed her), and we went to the altar. . .
And there was a Presence there. Unmistakable, overwhelming-- and It simply was there, being Itself, and what was I going to do about it?
There wasn't really a question of, "are you the same Being who used to reach down to me with invisible hands?" I knew it was. And though the Presence used no words (I still don't receive words, just impressions or deep"knowings" that I have to translate into words)-- if I could have translated what the Presence was communicating, it would have been "I Am."
Which, after all, is what was communicated to Moses so long ago.
Not that I thought about that. I didn't know the Bible. But I had met this Being at an altar in a Christian church, upon considering the option that Jesus might be who he had said he was (that is, the Son of God.) This was the same Being I had met as a child, here in this church. But I have never, then or now, been the type to rush headlong into anything. So I walked away, thinking about it. I still had a lot of questions about God and Christianity.
A week later, on Easter Sunday, I was back in church again. As we sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” I felt the Presence again. I said, silently, to the Presence, “But I still have all these questions!” The very air seemed charged with fire as I felt God ask me, “Will you trust Me? Even with all your questions?”
“Yes,” I whispered. And my heart was changed. There are no words to describe what that felt like, except that I was set free of myself-- and somehow found my real self at the same time.
Weeks and months later, as I began to research and examine the questions I still had, I found answers that satisfied. Perhaps you would say that I was biased, at that point, towards theistic answers-- and I suppose that's true. But I found that the basics of Christianity could make sense to my mind and not just my heart.
It was only later that I was drawn into a coercive, law-based form of Christianity of hierarchy, control and submission. But when I finally freed myself of that, there was my old faith-- the faith of my mother, the invisible Hands of my childhood, the faith of my 15-year-old self -- waiting for me still.
So here I am, 48 years old today. Here we are, me and God. I doubt, from time to time-- as anyone must, who does not insulate themselves to never talk to anyone outside their faith community-- but I can no longer isolate myself that way. So I listen to everyone I can, as I would want to be listened to-- it is part of doing to others as I would have done to me. And sometimes when they see no sense in my faith, it shakes me. But still I am drawn to Christ like a moth to a flame. Still the beauty of Christ and Christ’s story sings in my deepest heart. In the end, I can no more deny it than I can deny my own soul.