I have often been asked why I believe what I believe. How can I believe in someone that I cannot see? How I can I believe in a God who has had so much killing and violence done in His name? Why do I love God? How can I be part of a religion that can, often, be very legalistic and, in some cases, downright intolerant?
These are not easy questions to answer, especially for me. I am not a theological scholar. I am not a philosopher. I am a simple woman. I was raised in a family of believers. “Aha!” you might say, “It is your parents’ faith.” No, it is mine as well. I have struggled with it and rejoiced in it as well in my 27 years. I have had friends that thought I was an absolute freak and fool to believe in a God who became as a man and walked among us, suffered a blameless death as sacrifice for our wrongdoing, and rose again to speak peace and love and help and kindness. They looked at me goggle-eyed and shook their heads pityingly. I have even had some friends get almighty angry with me for believing what I do. Not because I had done anything to them but because of “the principle of the thing”. One of my conversations with someone that I met in grad school consisted of him looking at Ben and I and telling us point-blank, “If you’re going to tell me that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe what you believe, I don’t want anything to do with you.” I can tell you for a fact that neither of us has ever said that to someone. We want to live the message that we believe Christ brought – a message of faith, hope, love, and peace – but we will never beat you over the head bloody with it. Never. That is called legalism, children, and is generally frowned upon by most Quakers. I do not believe in burning “heretics” at the stake; I do not believe in shunning people because they do not believe as I do. However, if someone abuses me and despises me merely based on what I believe, it doesn’t mean that I have to stick around either, to be perfectly honest.
Someone once asked me, in the course of a Facebook game, “Why do you love God?” I had to sit and think long and hard about that before I wrote back an answer. Here is what I told him:
In all honesty, I am not sure that I can say that I ‘love’ God. I’m not sure if I can apply the idea of love (the way that humanity understands it) to God or not.
I believe in him, in his involvement in my life and those of my family and friends and I do my best to love and care for others. By all rights, I should not be here, should not have survived my birth. The circumstances surrounding that tell me, at the very least, that God has a plan for my life and that he must have loved me beyond condition because there isn’t anything special that separates me from other human beings in my importance or lack thereof. To believe in God and his sacrifice [and plan] for my life and my soul makes the most sense to me and brings me comfort. So I don’t know if I can say I ‘love’ God but I certainly believe and have faith in Him and what Jesus taught.
The idea of loving God is a hard one to vocalize. We humans are not used to the idea of getting something for nothing, of a free gift. All our lives, everything has cost something. Even human love and devotion can be deterred at times. But a love that gave instead of took, that forgives and doesn’t hold it against us? That’s a very difficult idea to take in. As a human being, I cannot sit here and tell you that I love God like I love my husband. I am in awe of God, yes, and I love the ideals of the message held in the Bible. Yes, I understand that the Bible as we read it now was voted upon and compiled by human beings. Yes, I know. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find something in there almost every time I read that encourages me, helps me, and guides me when I need it.
My faith is important to me, so very important. That does not mean that I do not question it, that I am a giant in faith. Goodness, no. I’m still learning, every day, what it means to believe and hope and love, not just God but the people around me. What it means to be patient, self-controlled, joyful, gentle. I am trying to live the good of my faith every day. For example, I want it to become natural habit to compliment rather than criticize, to answer patiently rather than let my temper get the best of me. I know that I failed at such things many, many times and will probably continue to do so even as I work on it. But, as I have said before, I’m pretty sure that I am not done yet.
Author’s Note: If I have offended anyone with this writing, I apologize. This was rattling around in my head all these past few hours of the morning and I try to listen to my gut when it tugs on things like this. Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.