Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. -- 1 Peter 1:3-9
It was as natural as breathing. I didn't even think about what I was doing. I just started talking, so grateful that I wasn't alone on this journey.
I was driving down to Murfreesboro yesterday to check out a car or two. The lot was closed, but I wanted to see the vehicles anyway. No sales people bugging me is the best way to shop, in my opinion. My friend and co-worker, Natalie, is loaning me her Jeep. Since her husband is out of town for the week, she can drive the Honda and the Jeep would have just sat at their home or at the airport. Instead, I get to put some more miles on it.
I was in the middle of voicing my gratitude at not having to go this journey alone when it hit me, hard. I am alone in this car. No one is here with me. What if... what if God doesn't really exist? What if all that stuff Pastor Rick spoke of this morning -- all the stuff "The Da Vinci Code" says about Jesus, and about Christianity being built on lies -- what if its all true? And no one is really here with me, listening to me wax all grateful for their presence? What if the truth is, I'm all alone, period?
It came so hard, so fast, and felt so real I literally felt dizzy. Suddenly the warm, surrounded feeling I had was gone, replaced by cold stark aloneness.
I took a sip of my nearly full Chai Cream frappuccino hoping to buy my mind a little time to process this new reality. But it didn't bring the satisfaction it usually does. It only made me feel colder. A very unsettling thing in a soft-top Wrangler on a hot day. What the heck was going on?
I thought I was long past the doubting-God thing. He'd made His presence so real and powerful over the last few years. Times when I wanted to die just to shut up the pain in my soul, He was there. Right beside me. Sitting, or kneeling, holding my hand, caressing my face. I knew He was there. I could feel it with every fiber of my being. Even though I couldn't see Him. I thought I could never doubt His reality again.
Yet here I was. Alone. Talking to... myself? Had He ever existed? Had He ever been there with me? Even with my past experiences to draw on, I had nothing. The overwhelming reality of being Alone in that Jeep, being Alone in my life crashed in on me like a crash of Rhinos at 30 miles an hour. And I was flattened by it like so much brush.
Then I heard a whisper. "What if I'm not real?"
What if God isn't real? What does that mean for my life? As I thought through this overarching question, and all the other ones rising from deep within me -- I didn't even realize I was listening that closely to what Rick was saying, and yet somehow all I could remember hearing were the questions he said the book raised -- I realized I could only come to one conclusion.
If God isn't real, I'm insane.
I've heard voices that aren't my own. I've responded to one of those voices, made life-altering decisions based that voice and made radical choices in who I will become. I've based my character and my hopes of becoming more than I am on what this voice says. Most importantly, I've started believing who this voice says I am -- rather than who my own heart and eyes say I am every time I look in the mirror, observe my behavior or listen to my own thoughts.
If God doesn't exist, I'm hearing voices. And that means I'm insane and need to be locked up in a padded room with a pretty little white jacket as my main attire.
Speaking this realization into the air didn't have the effect a happily-ever-after story would have it. I was still Alone.
So I went back over everything again. And I realized something was missing in the first draft of my answer. The Truth is, I could very well be insane.
The Truth is, I choose to believe when my senses fail me. I choose to believe God is real, even though I cannot see Him or touch Him or sometimes even feel Him with my spirit. The Truth is, I choose to believe God is actively, personally, intimately involved in my life. I choose to believe He speaks to me, moves me in the direction that is best for me and ensures the best for me.
The Truth is, all we can truly know is what Is right now. The rest we have to believe. We cannot know our past, because it's gone and all that's left is subjective reflection. We cannot know the future, because it hasn't happened yet and all we have is our imagination. All we can do with the past and the future is believe. Believe what has happened really happened the way we remember -- or were told. Believe what will be will really be the way we imagine. But today. The right now of this moment. That, I can know. But only for this moment, then it too passes into the realm of believing.
In that moment yesterday I made a choice. One that I realize now I will have to make time and again. Until I die. I chose to believe. To believe my subjective reflections of the past, believe the stories I've been told about God and all that I've read in the Bible. I didn't feel it. I didn't have an emotional, experiential moment of revelation -- which is extremely disconcerting to this very post-modern girl. I crave those emotional experiences, those powerful times of feeling God's intimate presence! But, alas. None came. Still, I chose to believe.
My mind wandered a bit after making my declaration of belief. I was momentarily distracted by traffic and stupid drivers. Before I realized it, The Voice was back. Not the one that brought doubt, but the One that brought a familiar intimacy. He recommended getting over one lane, as the freeway entrance was coming up and reminded me that the far right lane turned into the on-ramp to 1-24, pointing it out to me as we approached.
And just like that, I was no longer Alone. If I ever truly had been.
In this I greatly rejoice, though now for a little while I may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that my faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.