How did I begin to believe in You?
The first spark occurred more than 30 years ago. It was a rainy late autumn day. I had just finished my classes and was heading towards my violin class in another school building that was about a 10-15 minute walk away. I used to take that road three times a week and it always seemed long. That day it seemed that I would arrive too early, although I was walking as slowly as I could. I was already in second grade, but I had not come to like the instrument at all.
On the days I did not manage to study enough, my teacher would turn into a monster. It was one of those days… The night before, Fat-Pops, as I used to call him, came to visit us. He was a friend of my parents. He had told me about You and the angels. Fat-Pops was good at devising all kinds of stories, and I believed anything he told me. Those stories were, however, different. He sang me a song that he had learned when he was my age. He kept telling me I could trust You even though I was a child and even if I did not attend church.
He also taught me how to pray. This is why I had no time to practice and a rough class was now waiting for me. On my way there I kept hitting the violin hoping that it might get out of tune and, and, once in class, I might waste a few extra minutes on that. I would have liked to have had a fever, to cough. I even tried coughing a few times, but it didn’t come out well enough to do the trick.
I would have run anywhere, lest I once again experienced my teacher’s scolding. In the midst of my fears for what was about to happen, I suddenly remembered prayer. Thinking about Fat-Pops, I then asked You for my instrument lesson to be cancelled and I opened the school door, curious to see what was about to happen. I felt like a little magician. I went up the stairs and heard a violin sound coming from the classroom. Through the window I saw the teacher’s angry face.
I timidly knocked on the door and greeted him in a very quiet voice. I knew then, deep inside, that You do not exist. I would have cried a river, but that was not the time. I did not feel pain because You did not exist (I did not even know if You could exist). What I did not understand was why Fat-Pops had lied to me. The harsh voice of the professor interrupted my emotions: “We can’t have the class today. I’ll see you next week!”
I came out of the classroom amazed by Your existence. If you truly existed, I had just spoken to the God of the Universe! I knew Fat-Pops was no liar, but in that moment I truly knew You existed. Was that a mere coincidence, a normal part of life? A simple accident that had happened before without me praying? You had intervened in this normality and made it favorable to You, to give me enough reason to believe.
How is it that I know that You exist when I could have so easily chosen not to believe?
When it came to the subsequent questions of adolescence, I chose you over evolutionism, and it’s understandable. It was psychologically more comfortable to know that I was created than to believe I was a product of chance. And not just that. Between believing that You exist and believing that You don’t, it was more profitable for me to believe You do. I had the Sabbath as a weekly holiday, a group of friends, rules for a healthy life, moral principles to positively set me apart from others and, with a little bit of effort, I could even live forever!
Was this all there was to faith? A simple gain and loss analysis? What basis could I build it on? I then searched for evidence to justify my choice. I found enough evidence in science. I looked for historical evidence that would confirm You truly exist and I found them. I looked for You in nature and I saw You everywhere.
I did various tests and spiritual exercises. I memorized psalms, rehearsed promises and vehemently sought for their fulfillment. I fasted and prayed a lot to know for sure You exist and to constantly prove this existence.
As a duty to myself, I sometimes wondered if everything was nothing but a tale, self-delusion, and an idea helping me to maintain a balanced life. I believe I can come to love even a mere idea, but You turned all my ideas upside down.
Beyond all the experiences and answered prayers that initially helped me to believe, there are so many prayers that remain unanswered. You gradually taught me to let go of signs and the impatience to see Your promises come true. I was on the losing side when I chose to stand by You. I found so many scientific arguments against what I believed.
What helps me in my moments of crisis to still believe in You? What do I do on those occasions when You do not answer? When You are inexplicably silent? What makes me believe You exist when the mountains are still standing tall before me and the waters do not part as I would have them do? How is it that I still take the road You lay out in front of me when it is so hard and different from what I imagined?
It would somehow be easier to turn my back on You and say it’s just a tale, a self-delusion, a perception on the way things happen, a tradition or cultural inheritance. It would be easier to defy You and tell myself it was nothing but a great scam, to change course, to blame it all on coincidence, to talk about aligned or unaligned planets… But I can no longer deny it. I can’t even choose anymore. This is not me desperately clinging to a hope to make sure I don’t lose my mind in difficult times.
It’s an inner conviction that comes out of discovering You on a daily basis. You revealed Yourself to me in so many shapes to convince me You exist, only to then deny them all to prove to me You are not a mere repository of blessings. You dismantled all evidence to show me I do not need You just so I could have an easier life. And I now know You exist not by what You do, but by what You make me be. I have an entire arsenal of intelligent arguments I can use in various contexts to prove Your existence.
Some are easier to combat, others are more combat-proof. There is no counterargument for what I am when I am with You. The foundation of my faith is what You make me be. When I am with You I reach my true identity. I can no longer pretend, I can only come as I am. I would probably struggle with various attempts to be one way or another, to fit into certain patterns. I would arduously seek for meaning, but, without You, I would not be myself…
With You I get to know my way, my strengths. I get to turn my limitations into new challenges. When I am with You, I am in a continuous state of becoming. You revealed Yourself fully through my sons, so I would no longer have times of denial. The miracle of the nine months of maternity and the process of my children developing inside my womb made me renounce any attitude of unbelief… How is it that the heart starts beating? How does the embryo become a human?
Although it all happened inside my body, I had no control over it. Did I order for the eyes to open? Did I tell the baby: Hey, it’s time to get into the birth position now!
I am still wearing my cultural and social context glasses. I do not know You enough and You are not always predictable to me. I can say You are just, but Your justice is often contradictory. I can say You are love, but I do not always understand Your way of loving. You manifest Your kindness in subtle and ungraspable ways. Your creativity always surprises me.
You ask for a lot, and yet You ask for almost nothing. But I know You exist, because You meet with me every day. To know You exist is enough for me. Moreover, I feel like shouting “He exists!”