Real and Alive
Most of my family are religious so going to Church has always been normal for me. It's often assumed that this sort of upbringing makes it more likely that someone will be religious later in life, but I found that as I began wondering why my family all trooped off to Church every Sunday, I started to resent what seemed like a unnecessary chore. I found it boring and when I got to secondary school and independence, I began to think of myself as agnostic about whether God existed. Outside of Church, it felt like reasons not to believe what the bible said about Jesus or in God were given from all sides, and I considered there to be plenty more important things to do on a Sunday morning than join in at church.
One time at a Christian festival which my family made an annual trip to, I was observing all these Christians praising God, which involved loud singing, dancing and generally embarrassing things that at that time in my life I despised! It struck me that there were some (normally!) very rational people there, they couldn't all believe something that wasn't true, or claim to know someone who doesn't exist, and if they were all hoodwinked, then they were the butt of a very cruel joke, which seemed unlikely. That wasn't a 'Damascus road' experience, but it began my journey towards Jesus. It struck me that finding out either way about whether Jesus was real or not was important. I began to read the Bible and found it really boring and hard to understand, as well as 'problematic' to my emerging feminist perspective. And yet I had a kind of dual experience going on where, intellectually, I was cringing at what seemed like wishful thinking and manipulation, and what my experiences were suggesting.
I witnessed people in very difficult times having a strength I just couldn't imagine anyone could muster from within themselves, and talking about how God had answered their prayers when I thought they ought to be angry (at what or whom I wasn't sure). I prayed lots that God, if He was there, would reveal what He wanted to say through the Bible to me. I guess the fact that I'm now studying Theology and loving it is evidence that He answered that prayer! Far from being fragile, boring or the stuff of wish fulfilment, I found that the Christian tradition was open to questioning and able to stand up to the scrutiny of my questions. The bible, that I had once thought to be a patriarchal, guilt-inflicting, book of fairy-tails, turned out not only to have one of the most rich and strong textual traditions of all ancient literature, but to speak to what I was feeling at just the right time.
Through the pages of the Bible and in life, Jesus basically came to meet me. He's been there in the 'mountain top' times and the times of grief in a way that is hard to explain, the Bible talks about peace beyond understanding. The idea that Christians invent him as a psychological coping mechanism or crutch seems fanciful to me now having known his presence. A lot of people who know me will tell you how much what seemed like my 'track' in life has altered since I started to follow Jesus. I've done things like lead the music at my church and preach which would have been out of the question for me before as a very introverted, shy person. I'm at university studying theology; two things I'd never have thought were for me before I started to follow Jesus. If you give him the steering wheel you have to go where he wants you to go.
Following Jesus as King is not always a 'happy' experience; it isn't always easy. The message of Jesus is to take up your cross and follow him and sometimes that is hard. But it is the best thing I could ever have done because of the way I now see myself, other people, and the world. I love how C.S Lewis said "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else". God brought me to a place where I can say I believe that Jesus is real, with me, and King, and the implications of this affect every aspect of my life. I know that I am loved by the Creator of the Universe and have all the evidence I need of that in the Bible and in my experience of Jesus. I know that every life is precious to God; even those who other people think are inadequate or unimportant. And I know the universe isn't blind, pitiless or indifferent; when we recognise beauty in it, or are heartbroken by evil, it is because God made us for a purpose. To be a Christian is to be 'in' on that purpose, and it's the greatest thing.