I’ve always placed a lot of confidence in my ability to understand the world. I did well at school and enjoyed learning, often reading popular science and philosophy books in my spare time, and having intellectual discussions about the world with friends and family. I’d be lying if I said I actually understood something like string theory, but I took comfort in the knowledge that there are people who do. As far as I was concerned, it was theoretically possible to learn everything about the world, albeit a little impractical!
On coming to Oxford, I continued to hold to this confidence in human knowledge, but was surprised to discover that several of the new friends I had made were Christians. Religion was something I had always dismissed, even sneered at. I saw it as a way of making excuses for things one doesn’t understand, which relies on some ‘god’ who can’t be seen or proven to exist, and some frankly ridiculous myths written thousands of years ago. So I was surprised that some of my peers – people whom I admire greatly – seemed not only to believe this nonsense, but also to base their whole lives around it! When one of them invited me to a Christian talk, I decided to go along and see what all the fuss was about.
As I went to more talks, read bits of the bible, and even went along to church, it became increasingly clear that my previous conception of Christianity was flawed. All of the Christians I met were kind, intelligent, normal people, and the more I looked into the historical evidence for the Bible, the more it seemed to make sense. Over the course of about a year I gradually learned what Christians believe about God and why, and I came to understand that it could all be true.
It just didn’t quite feel like it was though. I didn’t feel like I was quite ‘there’. Although I believed all the evidence and the arguments for God, I didn’t believe in God. And I wanted to, I really did! I could see the happiness and security Christians found in their faith, and the biblical outlook seemed such a good way to understand the world. I felt like if I could just understand a little bit more then everything would fall into place and I would be able to believe fully. If I could just have one more bit of evidence, one more reason, one more…
About a year ago, someone described faith in God to me with the analogy of crossing a bridge. ‘Believing’, they said, ‘is not necessarily the moment you reach the other side. It’s the moment you realise you’re not going to turn back’. When I eventually understood this, I realised that even though I might never reach that ‘other side’, I wasn’t going to turn around and give up. No amount of my own understanding would be enough for me to believe in God, I just had to trust Him. And so I did. And ironically, that decision to put my faith in God, the one choice that I didn’t base on my own understanding, is the decision I’ve been most sure was right in my life.
Even though I’ve now been a Christian for almost a year, I’m still learning how to trust God. I still find myself relying on my own understanding rather than His almost every day, and I expect I probably will for years to come. But I’ve learnt that God is very patient and very forgiving, and what’s more, He understands the world a lot better than I ever could.