I don’t remember ever doubting that, beyond the limits of the ensnaring, visible world, there is another reality that can only be accessed by those who speak the language of faith.
Genuine faith lies not only in the intellect, said Christian writer Louis Évely, adding that when we love someone “a thousand arguments do not amount to even one single proof, just as a thousand objections do not even raise one single doubt.”
In another amazing passage, analysing Jesus’ promise regarding the fact that anyone can come to know the origin of His teaching, the writer Ellen White said that, in understanding the truth, it is not the intellect that prevails, but the human willingness to know and fulfil the divine will.
Far from being an echo chamber for a “believe and do not doubt” kind of vision, these statements actually emphasize the role played by a heart open to divine revelation, in the process of moulding and consolidating one’s faith.
Each time I come across such statements, regardless of how familiar their message is, they always amaze me. Beyond any excuse, they reveal what the true seed of one’s unbelief might be. When you grow up surrounded by faith, it is easy to forget that intellectual adhesion to an absolute truth does not mean faith in the full sense of the word.
I do not remember ever having doubts about God’s existence or the Bible’s authenticity, which is relatively normal when faith is everything for the family you are born into (although not all who share this experience have the same conviction). This, however, does not mean that I simply inherited my faith, nor that the road from my parents’ convictions to building my own faith was always smooth. The biggest challenge was and still is, “the chasm between knowledge and experience,” the journey from religious convictions to the faith that transforms one’s life from the ground up.
Therefore, the first reason I believe is because I was born into a believing family, no matter how subjective and fragile a reason this may be. I am not excluding the possibility that, in the end, I would have come to the same convictions had the circumstances been completely different, but the truth is I did not have to go through this process.
Marin Sorescu’s lyrics (“I saw light on earth/And then I was born too”) might summarize the history of the birth of my faith. On dark nights, long before the sun would rise, the light always burned in my mother’s room. That space became a chain between the quiet shadows of the night and the brightness of an otherworldly kingdom whose language my mother seemed to master better and better with each hour she spent in prayer. For us, her children, God was never a strange, distant, or hard to recognize character. She had managed to bring His presence to life, and our faith that was only just beginning, found fertile ground in this natural osmosis between the invisible and visible worlds.
The second reason I believe is because I myself have heard, more and more clearly, the echo of God’s calling, through prayer and the Scriptures. I do not remember a time when the purpose of studying evidence on the Bible’s inspiration would have been to increase my faith. I do however know that what fascinated me from the beginning was the discovery that I too had access to that direct line to God, that He was not an entirely silent presence and that the Scriptures, although written thousands of years ago, were exactly the message that suited the needs and challenges of that particular day. In the quiet hours of the morning (the most favourable window of time I discovered for tuning in to Heaven’s frequency) I discovered, like the author Corrie ten Boom, that the Bible seemed as if it had been freshly written, as if the ink had not yet dried on its words, as if I were its sole and privileged recipient.
Thirdly, my failures to do what I knew was right, which were much more numerous than I would like to admit, were often a reason to build up my faith, rather than to tear it apart. They managed to shift my focus from my limitations to the almightiness of the only One who holds the antidote for the human inclination towards evil. Studying the not-so-far-removed history strengthened my conviction that the wildly acclaimed human goodness goes bankrupt both at an individual and a collective level. From the hell of the Nazi or Soviet concentration camps to the genocide in Rwanda or the drama of Rohingya Muslims that have involuntarily become stateless, I found much evidence that establishes a truth bitterly summarized by writer Czeslaw Milosz: In hard times, deeply human qualities become difficult to recognize, and socially desirable behaviours acquire the consistency of vapor.
The core of human rottenness is not only exposed by exceptional circumstances. It comes out of us daily, making the distinction between divine goodness and that which gives in at the first stings of suffering or opportunism even clearer. While our tendency is to bet everything on education and human effort, the Bible offers a solution for the sin that “is crouching at your door” (Genesis 4:7). This solution is much simpler and, at the same time, more complex than any other human plan: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Fourthly, I believe because I only find meaning in the world through a life vision sketched by Christianity. Each day I discover that the modern human’s toil to find meaning in his existence on his own—and to reinterpret death, by regarding it as a natural part of life—does not resonate with the longing for eternity that pulsates within me. I can understand the unforeseen, the injustice and the tragedy, that constantly insinuate themselves in the fabric of the world here and now better only when I choose to believe in the perfection of the initial Creation, in the drama that was staged by sin, and in the Sacrifice that makes the recovery of all we’ve lost possible. I do not have all the answers, but I am trying to better understand the essence of the Answer given at the cross: a God that allowed Himself to be pierced by all the splinters of human pain, becoming sin for me, so I can receive His righteousness, the only visa for life.
Lastly, I choose faith because I am certain that what I believe in can change the world, even if the perimeter of my world will always be a small one. Impressed by the tenderness with which an impressively tall young man treated a girl who was less than one meter tall, pastor Jesse Jackson was curious to learn their story. The two were siblings who had become orphans tragically early in life, and the young man, who played basketball, had given up a few scholarships to stay with his sister. The young basketball player simply said: “Those of us who God has made two meters tall, must take care of those who He has made only one.”
Without having tremendous faith (on the contrary, often struggling to reach the size of the mustard seed) and without seeing in the gift of faith anything else than proof of grace, I still believe that those who have learned how to breathe in two distinct worlds—the physical and the spiritual—have the duty to show the light of eternity to those who have placed all their bets on dust.
It is never easy because it is a process that requires more than words. It especially requires a genuine experience, so that the person who meets me has the revelation of a much more important encounter, the kind of encounter enthusiastically and surprisingly evoked by an old lawyer: “An extraordinary thing happened to me today: I saw Christ in a man!”