When he was four, my Aunty and I took him to church on Easter Sunday. The service was fairly traditional, with lots of old school hymns and several hearty rounds of 'Christ is risen, He is risen indeed'. Towards the end of the service it was time for the Lord's Prayer. Being the dutiful Christians we all were, we bowed our heads and recited by heart:
'Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…'
At which point William leans over with a cheeky and slightly confused grin on his face and says:
'Who are you talking to??'
To be completely honest, I often ask myself the same question.
Sometimes I feel like God isn't there at all. It makes me squirm just writing that. This used to be my deepest, darkest secret. I thought my sins were bad, but this was such an overwhelming, deep, unforgivable failing that I couldn't admit it to anyone.
It's not just that I sometimes feel like I'm praying to a brick wall. Sometimes the whole concept of some great, unfathomable being watching over us seems completely ridiculous. I go through stages where I feel nothing and hear nothing. Sometimes I just feel so disconnected from it all.
Over the past couple of years I have had to redefine my understanding of 'faith'. I used to think faith was a feeling. I thought a strong faith meant feeling connected with God all the time. I thought faith required perfection. I had no clue what this mystical 'feeling connected' felt like, but I knew it was a fundamental requirement to earn the 'Christian' title. It looked to me like 'having faith' was almost like a higher state of being.
I've been learning that faith is not just a matter of heart, it's also a state of mind. Faith is a choice. Faith requires determination. Faith isn't just about being 'pumped' on God 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Faith is what kicks in when you don't feel anything at all. Having doubts isn't the same as not believing at all - it certainly doesn't mean you should give up.
For years I beat myself up for not being 'in-tune' with the spirit. I thought it was because I didn't have 'enough' faith. I've come to realise that in those times I showed faith by not giving up. In the times where I felt nothing at all, my faith kept telling me that there was something worth pursuing, even when I didn't fully believe it. My head kept propelling me forwards even when my heart wasn't quite convinced.
I have also been reminded that faith can't actually be measured. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we attempt to quantify and compare our faith. Who can really tell if one person's faith is 'stronger' than another's? Faith isn't a competition and it isn't something that can be judged based on appearances. And who has the right to decide when their faith is 'enough' anyway? I have found that you don't just reach the right 'level' of faith and then stay there - faith is constantly regenerating.
The underlying truth
For me, I have faith fundamentally because, whether I'm 'feeling it' or not, I believe God exists and I believe following Him is right. I also have faith because I have seen the huge difference God has made on my life. I definitely still have my ups and downs – a lot of downs, I'm a bit emo like that – but I have faith because I know that through Christ I have been transformed.
So that's my 'proof'. That's what keeps me believing when I feel like God isn't there. I'm not exactly a candidate for Christian of the Year, but I can be pretty stubborn. No matter what comes my way I am committed to following God as I walk through it, even when everything is going horribly wrong and I want to grab God by the scruff of the neck and shake Him. Whether I'm 'feeling it' or not, I am determined not to give up.
So, a personal message from me to life, the world, the dark side and the impending zombie-apocalypse:
Bring it on.
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html