Why Do I Believe What I Believe?

Through a combination of my stubbornness, fears, striving, and doubt, I have done my fair share of questioning. One of my favorite quotes that someone shared with me that has stuck is: “Doubt is the soil of faith”. It’s given me a sigh of relief to know that it’s ok for me to dig around and challenge my faith a bit. My anxiety has gone through the roof at times over worry about how little I am and how overwhelming life seems to be; wanting to know the purpose behind it all. I’ve wanted proof to know that I’m safe and that there really is a big God that loves me.

Life is big. HUGE, really. I am truly amazed at how easy it is for us humans to live life without much thought to the greater meaning behind it or how the heck we even came to be. It’s just so natural to think about ourselves and creating as delightful a life as possible. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this struggle that I imagine many may not think about much at all. As one of my favorite friends Nikki told me when we were young, “you think too much!” Oh, how true that is!

So, with all of the wonderings I’ve had, it’s led me to think about why I believe and put my trust in the Jesus of the Bible. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s becoming less and less “cool” to be a Christian; Kelly Minter says in her women’s bible study called What Love Is, “I know it’s avant garde to hold nebulous beliefs that are open ended and that allow for pretty much whatever is comfortable for you and the people around you. But the Christian faith is preciously more defined than that. And this is actually wonderful news.” I want to be confident if there ever comes a time for me to defend my beliefs and most importantly, to know deeply why I’m safe in this big, big world.

Although I think I’m at a much more confident place in my faith, that doesn’t mean I don’t get waves of doubt that still come my way when something awful happens in life. That’s unavoidable. But it helps when I can recall the things that make the doubt less than the clear truths. Now, mind you these are not fancy pants, technically-written reasons like that of an apologist, but just rather some of my top reasons for relief in knowing there’s more to this life and what that means for me.

Here is my list of reasons why I believe what I believe:

1. Historical evidence of Jesus’ presence on Earth. Even non-Christians of the time (Thallus, 52AD and several others) wrote about this man from Nazareth that did miraculous things.

2. History that lines up with biblical recordings and the craziness of how many prophecies that have come to pass from the Old Testament.

3. The bible itself is an astounding book that weaves one greater story in it from start to finish. The way things line up like they do, it would be impossible for someone to make it up.

4. There is evil in this world. No one can deny the atrocities that have stormed the globe over the span of history. I don’t think you can have evil without good. There’s something bigger than us if we’re able to feel and act on both ends of this spectrum.

5. Every popular tv show with mediums/psychics, stories of witchcraft, etc. Although some is clearly just for show, I have no doubt some spooky revelations are going down, too. This makes me believe there’s a bigger war, so to speak, going on in an unseen world. It doesn’t make sense for us to dismiss a bigger creator or mystery if these things occur.

6. Miracles…the man who died and came back to share about it, the numerous healings or the almost-too-amazing-to-be -true stories from all over the world.

7. Muslims that have seen Jesus in their dreams or had their own unexplainable revelations that have led them to risk their lives and their families in order to devote their lives to Christ.

8. If I believe that Jesus really was alive and did some of the things that it’s historically proven he did, then that opens up a whole category of things I then can’t help but believe: he quoted the Old Testament and made numerous startling claims about who He is and why He came.

9. The apostles that followed Him, even after doing their fair share of doubting or denying before he was crucified, completely devoted their lives to declaring His name after Jesus was resurrected and revealed Himself to not only them, but hundreds of others. Many of these disciples died horrible deaths themselves and all the while continued to share the Good News of the Gospel until their last breath. Who does that unless they really, truly saw what they saw?

10. I am a mother. I’ve experienced the sheer joy of holding my babies. How is this possible if there is not a greater Being alive and active in this life? How does a creature like us, with the intricate details of our brain, emotions, moral compass already instilled, how are we possibly created without a Creator? If then there’s a Creator, then how can he possibly not be connected with all we know about the man Jesus that was certainly alive on our planet?

I’m sure there are a million more reasons, but these jump out to me and often soothe my fears. I came to the conclusion several years ago that I either believe it, or I don’t. The facts stack up pretty high and the arguments against faith in Christ are just too weak. It does seem to actually take more effort to disbelieve. The problem I think that’s plaguing us is that many are not giving it enough thought in order to make a real decision that’s not based solely on previous experiences (i.e. what you heard in your childhood, stereotypes of Christians, etc.) What do you believe happens after you die? Are you confident of why you believe it?

Do you believe in life after love?

Why I titled this post with a line from one of Cher’s songs, I’ll never know. It’s just what has been in my mind for a few days now as I’ve thought of this topic. Seeing that no one really consistently reads this blog except for my husband, I can get away with things like that. This post’s theme is a “religious” one, which may be why the song lyric came to mind; except with the word “death” as the last word. Get it? “Do you believe in life after death?” (sung like Cher) Is it now singing in your mind?

As I’ve shared before on my previous abortion post, I tend to shy away from hot topics and highly controversial issues on social media. Facebook can be an obnoxious collection of posts, articles, & comments that I really assume not many people pay attention to; especially when it argues your own beliefs, but sometimes I feel lead to add my two cents. I’m not scared to per say, but don’t want to give someone a reason not to like me (which I tend to care about more than I should).

A Facebook friend recently posted this article. It’s titled, “How Secular Family Values Stack Up” and focuses on a growing American demographic that include families raising kids without religion. The research shows that the children from these families generally have moral values intact and not any less than that of a religious-based family. This group demographic refer to themselves as “Nones” as they believe in “nothing in particular”. The article goes on to show that a significant number of these families are as close, if not closer, to their children and passionately provide moral direction and were goal-oriented. A reference to the “Golden Rule” was mentioned as one common, simple principle. All of that information makes complete sense and does not surprise me in the least. There are genuinely good, beautiful, and well-adjusted kids being raised by loving, supportive, and nurturing parents and they are coming from both secular and faith-based families. It’s a fact.

 It seems to me that America is becoming more nonreligious by the minute and less likely to cling to an often-considered archaic, legalistic, sometimes seemingly close-minded, systematic type of crutch like Christianity. To a lot of circles, Christianity in particular, is not appealing and certainly not on trend. Most Christians do not believe homosexuality is approved, are not fans of women’s right to choose abortion, and are not generally open-minded towards other religions of the world. Christianity seems to be at the bottom of an uphill battle with the ways in which it has been typecasted for so long. If you are open-minded and a free-thinker, why would you be weighed down by religion and furthermore, why would you raise your kids under the confines of such a belief system? It generally goes against what is roaring these days, and that is one’s freedom to express themselves and live for today. Seek happiness. YOLO mentality. I get that big time. Sometimes it seems super appealing to me to throw caution to the wind and do whatever the heck I want; to live life freely and not think of anything but the here and now. Not that a Christian lifestyle doesn’t allow freedom (because that is essentially what the Gospel does give), but it’s a different type of freedom.

A problem I see with the referenced article is that there is so much more to someone’s faith than just checking off the box of “religion”. I am personally a believer in Christ, but I came to that decision after much digging and doubt. I mentally debated a lot of the aforementioned issues on Christianity and my natural stubbornness encouraged me to not simply lie down and believe something just because it’s what I’m supposed to do. I hope to never raise my kids to just have a “religion”, but rather encourage them to think on all the evidence for and against a Creator and know why they believe what they believe. The article seems to dismiss the fact that a “Nones” family may be subconsciously encouraging their children to actually not be free-thinkers and open-minded, but rather the opposite, if “religion” (as it tends to be stereotyped) is dismissed as illogical or unworthy of researching. Which leads me to what I’ll be writing in my next post…why I believe what I believe.

Wherever you lie on the spectrum of faith, be anything but ignorant. Research and know what you believe (and give your children the gift of true open-mindedness to explore all avenues, no matter what you may declare as truth).

Abortion, abortion, abortion!

Abortion, abortion, abortion! There. I said it. I’m fascinated that this word, which my own vocabulary has been devoid of for many years (since it’s a hot topic), is now out and about and even posted on my Facebook page. I would have never thought I’d get the guts to publicly voice my changing opinion on the matter. But I have. I actually felt I had no choice. While growing up and becoming an adult, I would call myself pro-choice. I agreed with my mother, who has been very active and supportive of Planned Parenthood, that it was up to the individual woman what they do with their body. I didn’t think much further on it. In fact, I did not feel any of the emotional tugs when friends or others would use phrases like, “killing babies” or would support their local pregnancy centers. I was never against those programs because they did great things and loved young women going through difficult times, but I was not in support of them. To be quite honest, I did not want to be tied in with stereotypical “ultra-conservative Baptists” with their pro-life platform.

As I worked my way through my late twenties and early thirties, my faith in God formed and took root (not without great struggle as I crawled my way through hardship as noted on previous posts). I also gave birth to my son and began hearing more from Psalm 139. I never shifted to pro-life, but stayed neutral and what I thought was “open-minded”. However, during the summer of 2014, I had a personal event that altered my perspective of what goes on inside a woman’s pregnancy.  I made a trip to the ER while 17 weeks pregnant with complications. I remember being alone in the middle of the night and whispering to the little baby in my belly; hoping and praying for everything to be ok and dreading the idea of having to see my baby if I were to miscarry. I knew that it looked like a tiny growing human in my body and the idea of seeing it lifeless would have been overwhelming. Fast forward to 8 months ago when I gave birth to that sweet little girl that has brightened our life. I now reflect back to that night in the ER and realize that it was her in there; moving and growing. I had already given birth to my son 7 years ago, but this experience shed a new light on it for me.

Then the videos started coming out on Planned Parenthood. My first thought when I saw the headline was that it was probably an over-zealous pro-life group trying to smash abortion supporters. Then I watched. My stomach tightened and my heart fell because all I could think about was my little baby girl in my belly last summer. I couldn’t even watch the whole first video. I watched some of the videos to follow and heard myself saying, “What are we doing!?!” I want to cry out thinking about what is actually happening during an abortion. And I never saw it like that! How many people have been blind to the reality of what really happens? Yes, the selling of body parts seems a bit alarming and needs investigation, but there is more from this exposure that has much greater value and that is the light that has been turned on that has people (like me!) talking about abortion in a different way. Teenager? In college and don’t want to mess up life plans? Already have a couple kids and don’t want anymore or can’t afford it? No longer can we see it as an easy way out if it just doesn’t fit into our lifestyle. Blind to its realities, we act as though it’s no big deal!

You may be one that can relate to my previous view of abortion: “should be up to the woman”, “it’s not even a real baby”, etc. You may have been a bit grossed out by the first video, but have avoided the remaining videos and chalked it up as a distorted video by an crazy group of right-wingers. No matter what comes of the investigation on PP and regardless of whether they have been illegally selling the body parts, we have no choice but to see abortion as what it is: ripping up, sucking out, and destroying a tiny human life. Those are not eye-rolling, dramatic verbs I just used; they are fact. I just never knew it before and now I have no excuse. I will now pray for others to see it; that the blinders will also fall from their eyes and that this will cease to be common practice. I will also pray for the women (some of whom I know and could have easily been me, too) that have had abortions because now their own hearts may be feeling the heavy burden of that choice in a whole new way. If we have put our trust in Him, God forgives us, loves us, and has compassion on us. How do you play a part on this issue? What can you think, pray, or do?

The ever nagging question…Why?

Heartache is everywhere. Sometimes it seems like it’s lurking around the corner and one never knows when it’s going to hit. 2014 was a pretty good year for me and one I can look back on fondly for the most part (health, my brain not a complete mess, great school year for my son, work growth for my husband, new baby girl!). However, I can name several families who were hit by heartache and will feel the effects for a long time to come. Terrible tragic deaths have happened within my community and beyond. Just even hearing about them makes your stomach sink and stirs your heart with sympathy…or anger and frustration. Do you ever feel that way? Angry that something terrible happens and that someone is hurting like they are? Just in the past year I can think of families broken by suicide, murders, sickness, and tragic deaths. Why do these things happen?

As a Christian who does put hope in the fact that God is intimately aware of every single thing that happens in our individual lives, heartache tends to make me feel frustrated with God’s plan and have some doubt. I decided several years ago that I had to make the choice to either believe He is who He says He is, or not. I decided there are way too many examples of His activity in people’s lives and way too much historical evidence to believe otherwise. But, hurting hearts still make me uncertain as to what He’s doing and why. I want to know how someone tragically losing a child or spouse is ultimately better for having experienced it.

Philip Yancey has written a book called, “The Question That Never Goes Away: Why?” that I look forward to reading this year because it, as have other books by Yancey, addresses this ongoing struggle of pain in our world and trusting in a loving God. I do know there won’t be an ultimate answer that we’ve all been looking for because there isn’t one, but what it does do is remind us that everyone is struggling with this, whether that’s through personal experience, witnessing others’ hurts, or living fearful of heartache. I can relate to all three because I still question why my brain works the way it does as I struggle with anxiety, have seen and heard of many others deeply hurting, and worry about what heartache may be around the bend for me.

When heartache interrupts our lives (because most of us are busy trying to live the good life and makes things pleasant; “waiting for the weekend” mentality), it stops us and gives us the brief reality check on the preciousness of life and also serves as a reminder that we are NOT in charge. We do NOT ultimately decide whether we or our loved ones will take their next breath. Scary to consider? Stay with that feeling. If we are that helpless then we don’t also want to be hopeless. That’s where the hope of Christ enters in.

Where have you been??

Well, 2009 was the last time I posted and as Kathleen Kelly in my all-time favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail, would say, it was the last time I “sent this cosmic question out into the void”. To think of what I’ve done with my time between my last post and current is a bit of a blur. Oh, it’s been productive and busy for sure: I’ve been raising a sweet little boy (who is now 6), taught hundreds of middle school students, played with friends and family, traveled, etc. I have also continued to struggle and keep on keepin’ on.

Although I did not write much at all about it when I aimlessly began this blog, I have been in a battle. July of 2004 was the beginning of a fierce fight for my joy, peace, and logic. Today in 2014 I still battle for these same things, although I’ve developed some of my weaker “muscles” to defend myself. Life is not what I expected when I was thinking ahead while in college, earning a teaching degree, and falling in love. It did not include feeling like my brain was my worst enemy. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I struggle with irrational guilt, shame in who I am, and worry. It has been controlling and all-encompassing at times to where I look back now and have no clue how I managed to function through a work day. An interesting thing to me is how it looks to others. Most people have no idea that it would be consuming me at the time. I appear to “have it all together”. Most days of late I “do life” as I assume most do with juggling home, work, etc. Thank God, most days I’m not consumed with my struggle like I’ve been in the past, but it’s typically a low-level blandness that makes me feel not quite right. I always want to be “me”, but question and have a lot of uncertainly of who that really is. I’m not often comfortable in my own skin; questioning my thoughts and feelings is a regular occurrence. Uneasy. Fearful of what I might think next (irrational guilt or shame from a month ago or ten years ago). Jealousy and sadness are unwanted companions as I wish I had another’s brain. On second thought: maybe I’d just rather wish for the Scarecrow’s situation and be without a brain!

Tonight I sing the chorus to “It is Well With My Soul” in my mind. I am reminded of a study I did by Jennifer Rothschild and she found hope in the idea that it may not be well with my circumstances, but it is well with my soul. To find that peace about struggles is intriguing. Tonight has been one of those where I felt His nearness and a clarity that most days I’m craving and for which sometimes I’m begging. It is rare for me and thankfully I’ve been observant of it tonight and grateful. I felt a part of something. Hard to describe, but I felt that I belonged to this faith I believe and I sensed its Truth. I feel like I’ve been telling God for years now that I just want to live with purpose and on purpose instead of getting through my days or struggling to be in the present, so it was nice to get a glimpse tonight. Thanks, God. I end this collection of ramblings to encourage you to find thanksgiving for something in your world right now. It may not be just what you want or dreamed it would be, but there is good and He is good. I believe; Lord, help my unbelief. Until next time…