Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Need to Believe

I’m a post-Enlightenment child. That means I was reared on a diet of logic, critical thinking, and skepticism. There is no reason on this earth that I should believe God exists, or that Jesus was God Incarnate.

But I do.

I have to.

I struggle with my faith every day of my life, largely because—in the light of each day—it seems so ridiculous to have faith at all. There are always the problems of evil and free will to get past, if you believe in a loving God. Tsunamis and cancer and child molesters all shake my faith.

And then there’s just the sheer improbability of it all—that a God who created this gigantic, and ever-expanding, universe would be the least bit interested in what insignificant little humans are doing on this one speck of dust in the cosmos.

But there is something….something that calls to me. It is not rational.

I have certain irrational fears—I’m guessing everyone does. When I was a child, I was convinced a monster would eat me if I left a hand hanging over the edge of the mattress. I’m 41 years old now and I still cannot go to sleep with my hand hanging over the side of the bed.

God is my irrational hope.

I’ve never been able to shake my belief in God—and Lord knows, I’ve tried. God is like some pesky little dog that follows me everywhere and worries the life out of me. Over time, I’ve grown quite fond of him, even if he is a nuisance.

It’s Jesus who’s been the problem.

The claims for Jesus are so fantastic that no truly rational person could accept them. God Incarnate. Savior of the world. Yeah, right.

I’ve remained a faithful member of the church because of my irrational hope in God, but I’ve struggled every week to make it through the Nicene Creed. My Enlightenment mind has rebelled mightily at the thought that God would come to Earth in ignorant human form. Why? What could possibly make the omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe want to come down here? Make him willing to live the limited life of a human being and suffer all the indignity and pain that go along with being human?

I didn’t even realize that I did believe those things until I was reading Harold Kushner’s book When Children ask about God : A Guide for Parents Who Don't Always Have All the Answers. I was finding his description of God to be strangely off-putting—and then I realized why. Jews don’t believe in the Incarnation.

The Incarnation is the Whole Enchilada for me. Without a belief that God understands what it means to be human, I might as well be an atheist.

So I need to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. That, somehow, he was able to translate the human experience back to God, and that this has enabled God to love me like a daughter instead of like a created object.

There is no rationality here. Just a deep, abiding hunger to be understood and loved. To feel that this life matters in some way, and to know that God himself feels our pain and sorrow as if it were his own.

Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.