Leaving Skepticism Behind

Leaving Skepticism Behind

Ididn’t discover God until my mid-thirties. It was strange, I suppose. I was very happily settled in skepticism and had created my own little idea of how the world worked, death, and the like. I was exposed to Christian beliefs in the form of Sunday school and confirmation, but rarely did my family attend church or discuss spiritual matters. The stories and songs were fun, I suppose, but I quickly outgrew them for more practical beliefs. After all, I had seen nothing of God in my life, or so I thought at the time. By the time I was a teen I found confirmation classes to be dull and patriarchal and of very little interest. Sure, I went through the desperate times that every non-believer finds themselves in at some point in life- down on my knees and begging to a God I don’t believe in to please, just help me, just show me a sign if you’re really there. And like most non-believers I didn’t get the sign I wanted or expected so I went on not believing and I was fine with that.

In my late twenties I met and married a wonderful man despite the fact he was a Christian. I thought it could just be a non-issue. He was welcome to go to church on Sundays and I would simply sleep in. As kids came along at age 30, I was happy enough to hand over spiritual teaching to him as I had no issues with my kids being exposed to his beliefs and allowing them to make their own choices as they aged while I continued to sleep in on Sundays. I tried church a handful of times with mixed results usually ranging from boredom to rage. It was hard to sit through a service and listen to the Christian vernacular as an outsider.

All skeptics know there are two factors to Christian vernacular: cheese factor and offensiveness. There are the things that Christians say such as “bathed in the blood” or “thirsting for the word” or “Jesus is the reason for the season” and the like that are just plain cheesy. It’s hard to listen to some of these things still and not feel myself cringe or roll my eyes. I have a better understanding, a personal understanding often, of many of these phrases, but I think that though it is “normal” to us, it can be a way of edging out unbelievers- though completely unintentional I admit. So are many of the other phrases we use; phrases like “lost”, “unsaved”, and “hell-bound sinner”. These are just a few of the terms I remember hearing during services that would make me fume. As a skeptic I was not “lost”- how dare you! As a skeptic I hated the term “unsaved” or “hell-bound sinner”- as far as I could see it, what made you think that you had the right to consider yourself “saved” and me not? What made you think you were so damn righteous that you could just make the safe assumption you were going to heaven and I wasn’t? After all, I considered myself to be a generally “good person”.

However, there were times I would be listening to a hymn, not singing, and feel my eyes welling up with tears. God moving in my heart or just a simple jealousy to have this sort of blind faith in something better? I wasn’t sure at the time. Had I been pressed to answer then I suppose I would have chosen the latter. Now, well, now I know it was the former. After all, only God can change hearts and that is what he does, he changes us.

My husband and I had plenty of debates over a beer or two concerning spiritual beliefs. That year, the year I discovered my faith, I had been having a lot of emotions surging through me, periods of crying and deep emotions I could not explain. Now and again I would feel these stirrings in my heart and be overcome- it wasn’t the first time, but it was definitely more intense and prolonged than previously. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was God or my history of depression & my ongoing anxiety disorder acting up; after all, I was off my meds for the first time in a long time. I probably wasn’t the first or last to confuse mental illness and spiritual awakening. Those that have struggled with these issues can relate, I hope- This knowing that something inside of you isn’t quite right,. Whether it’s your med dosage or the Lord is a big difference; one that needs exploring. I came to my husband during one of these times sure that I would finally scare him away with my crazy. We talked a bit about God, but what he told me was that there were two things I needed to know: 1. This was my deal and he could help to support me and answer questions, but he would not pressure me or allow my skepticism to mentally affect him anymore. For too long he had allowed his hopes to rise and to be emotionally crushed when I inevitably went back to my dark hole of unbelief. He had realized that any conversion that might take place was really out of his hands. 2. That I really had nothing to lose by exploring Christianity. On one hand, I might become a believer and on the other I would more strongly understand why I wasn’t.

I didn’t know where to start. What book should I read? Who or what author should I allow to guide me? I wanted answers from all spectrums- in short, a full blown theology crash course. He suggested starting with the Bible- after all, what better book to start with than that. It made sense; simple and sweet. I made it far enough into Genesis where they start to talk about who begets who when I slammed it shut and realized that plan wasn’t going to work. So I went to a friend of mine, one of those sweet women who is invested in her church and manages to successfully homeschool her kids without killing them. I asked her for a book for someone who might be interested in hearing more but wasn’t ready for THE book. She lent me “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. I was skeptical- I had tried to watch the documentary version on Netflix about 2 years before and hadn’t been moved to even finish it. The book isn’t wonderfully written and captivating, but it blew me away. There was so much information that I had never heard or learned. There were so many good points I had never considered. It was the book that set me on the path I now find myself on.