I was raised in a Christian family. The phrase “the love of God” is something that I have heard my whole life. As a child, I seemed able to grasp this concept easily, without hesitation. Of course there is a God, this world and all of us couldn’t have come from nothing! And of course this God would love me – he MADE me! The idea of coming from someone bigger than me, just made sense and the fact that He would love what he himself made seemed obvious. However, as I grew up and encountered the realities and harshness of our world, this love started to feel distant, and to be brutally honest, like a bit of a fairytale.
As I struggled through depression, an eating disorder, postpartum with both my children, as I encountered more darkness, more ugliness, more pain, I became disillusioned with the concept of a loving ultimate creator. I longed to FEEL a deep unconditional love, not just cognitively accept the Bible’s many passages that are filled with declarations of God’s love. Where was this great love when I was hurting, when others were hurting? I started to feel compartmentalized. One part of me continued to believed in God, the other part of me began to grieve the loss of this profound love that I thought I had known; had felt. The stable foundation that I had built my life on began to crumble, leaving me uneasy and stumbling to find sure footing again.
I began to seek out information and ask A LOT of questions (my poor husband!). Maybe my childhood faith and feeling loved by God only made sense because of my context – my parents were Christians, my siblings were Christians, my extended family were Christians…I met my husband when I was 14, and HE was a Christian. I asked myself: if I were hearing about God’s love, and more specifically about Jesus’ loving sacrifice as an adult, would I believe it? I knew in my heart I wanted desperately to just believe it, while at the same time sucker punching myself for being so gullible! Of course it’s not true. Why would God choose to reveal his love in the way that he did (through the Old Testament and then through Jesus)? When you love someone, you show it! You can’t help it! If there was a God and he did indeed love me, couldn’t he just come down and say it?!
I continued living through this dichotomy (and sometimes still find it difficult to grasp) until I read an amazing book called: Who Is This Man? by author John Ortberg. It was a book that looked at the life and movement of Jesus Christ. Ortberg, who has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, delivers a very different type of look at Jesus. Instead of tackling the reader with theology (the study of the nature of God and religious beliefs) Ortberg looks at the life of Jesus, and the impact that his life and movement has had on our world. It isn’t devoid of theology, but instead highlights the ongoing movement of Jesus’ followers and why his impact is still felt today. He writes:
His (Jesus’) impact on the world is immense and non-accidental. From the Dark Ages to Post-Modernity he is the Man who won’t go away…His vision of life continues to haunt and challenge humanity… He has taught humans about dignity, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.
As I poured through the pages of the book, I was astounded at the impact that one man, from extremely humble, almost laughable beginnings has had on humanity. Though logically, I was still finding it difficult to believe in God, Jesus had captured my heart and was offering a world so different, so refreshing, so radical. I could turn my back on high theology, and an unattached God somewhere far out in the cosmos, but then… there was Jesus… I had been drawn in like so many others before me by the love of this man who claimed to be God’s son and who painted a world where God wanted to connect with each and every one of us out of a love so much bigger than we could ever imagine! THIS was the love that I had been looking for. A love so deep, so tall, so wide, that it would travel across all continents, span twenty centuries, resulting in 2 BILLION followers worldwide in our century alone.
So guess what I decided? God DOES love me, and he DID come down and say it!
Becoming Ordinary: Day 350
Note to readers: I don’t want to misrepresent my journey to Jesus, (and a stronger belief in God) as being attributed to a single book! There were MANY other books that I read around this time and lectures that I listened to that contributed both to my understanding of Jesus, and also to my more ‘cognitive’ conclusions about believing in the existence of God in a post modern world (CLICK HERE for some excellent resources that tackle this difficult but important subject).