Everyone has a unique faith journey. I’m not exactly eager to tell you about mine, but in case it helps someone, here goes.
When I was in second grade, I stole dimes from my mom’s dresser, so when my Sunday school teacher said we were all sinners, I knew I was one. She explained that Jesus died to pay for our sins so we could go to heaven someday, and I prayed to accept Jesus as my Savior. I was seven years old.
During my teens, I was active in my church youth group and tried to do everything right. I met my husband in college, we got married and had kids, and eventually, we followed our dream of becoming missionaries. After we raised support, we moved to Paris to study French. Looking back on that time, I see that I was full of pride about my so-called wholesome life. Me doubt Christianity? Never. Not me.
In Paris, I looked down from the top floor of the Centre Pompidou (which houses a library) at hundreds of pedestrians passing below and wondered how many had ever heard of Jesus. Could he really be the only way to know God? Wasn’t it arrogant of me to think my religion was the only true one? I quit reading my Bible and praying, except at meals.
At the end of the second semester, I took a French conversation class. One day the topic was religion. As I listened to the merits of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and New Age philosophy, none of them made sense. Although I wasn’t sure what I believed, I knew what I didn’t believe. To myself, I concluded I was an agnostic.
I felt free. No accounting to God, if there was one. No one to please but me. During lunch hours, I explored Paris bookshops, visited museums, and ate crêpes on street corners, where I practiced my French with vendors.
My joyful sense of freedom soon gave way to dissatisfaction. I was impatient with my kids and husband. Paris didn’t seem so charming anymore. In a city of seven million, I was a Nobody. When I shared my feelings with a veteran missionary, she brushed them aside as symptoms of culture shock.
I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t honest with my husband about what I was going through. How could an agnostic be a missionary? What would our supporters back home say? Returning to the States was not an option. I went to church, kept my mouth shut, and watched the Christians around me do nice things for my family and me. They seemed authentic, while I was a fraud.
Could the world have come into being without God? I used to look up at the sky through bare tree branches on my way home from class, wondering if we could ever know what life was all about and whether it mattered. I had no answers. If there were a God up there, he was certainly too vast and too remote to be concerned about us humans.
On a visit to a cathedral, I touched the cold hard stone of a sarcophagus and thought of the body buried inside who used to be a living, breathing, thinking person like me. Was this all there was to life? I put my questions on hold while we packed up to leave Europe.
We moved to the heart of Africa, settled in a tin-roofed house on the top of a hill in a picturesque village, and got to know our co-workers and their families. Life at Rwanguba was both exhilarating and hard. I lost myself in the tasks of survival, making sure we had food on the table, potable water, clean clothes, and kerosene for power outages.
We heard rumors of fighting in a remote village. My senses snapped to attention as I encountered men on our road carrying machetes. Our gardener lost his three-year-old boy to malaria. I had nightmares about dying that left me in a cold sweat, my heart racing. What would I do when my time came? Was there no hope? How could life be so cruel? The dreams didn’t let up.
One morning after a sleepless night, I cried out for help. “I can’t live like this. If you’re there, God, you’re going to have to change my thinking because I can’t. Please help me. I can’t believe in something unless I’m convinced it’s true.”
Nothing happened. “Even if Christianity weren’t true,” I said to my husband one evening, “it still has good family values.” He didn’t let that go by. “If it weren’t true, why would we want to believe it?” At weekly meetings, missionaries shared prayer requests and answers. I didn’t participate much, but when our kids came down with malaria and ran temps of 105, I prayed with all my heart, and was relieved and grateful when they recovered. Yet God remained a mystery.
One day, my first thought upon waking was that God loved me. Yes, I’d heard that all my life, but on that particular morning, his love surrounded me as never before. I can’t explain it, but I felt valued and safe. Instead of God saying, “I exist,” he had touched my heart. How could I have ever doubted? I was ashamed that I’d latched onto the world’s lies and gone my own way. I confessed everything I’d done, asked God to forgive me, and felt clean again. In time, I confided in my husband about my crisis of faith.
I was hungry for the Bible, and it seemed custom-made for me. A verse in Matthew 28 practically jumped off the page. Verse 17 says, “When they saw him [Jesus], they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Jesus’ followers doubted? That was me for sure. As I read the Bible I found answers to questions that had bugged me. While I don’t know all the answers, I’m convinced God does. His ways are different from mine, more comprehensive, nobler. Scripture resonates me with on so many levels. “This is great stuff!” I often tell my husband.
Since the day that God brought me back to himself, I’ve seen (and continue to see) changes in my attitude that I could never make by myself. For example, I used to insist on having things my own way fulltime, but now it’s only part time. Seriously, I like doing things for others that would’ve been hard in the old days, such as tailoring my cooking to fit the dietary needs of loved ones around the table, e.g. making chocolate-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, meat-free, and/or peanut-free dishes.
God showed me that I used to marginalize people. How arrogant of me! Now I believe that each and every person on earth is significant. Jesus says, “Come.” If people search for God, they’ll find him. What a promise! Because of what God did for me (and is doing on a daily basis), I like to talk about faith with skeptics.
One more thing – I’ve never had another nightmare about death. God gave me peace that’s beyond understanding. The best is yet to come.
To live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Philippians 1:21
Thanks for reading.
Posted on June 21, 2016