I was struck by this post, called An Open Apology, which Joe also read in church this week. He essentially proposes that the best form of apologetics is apologizing – demonstrating that God is real by apologizing up front for the things people have done in his name, rather than by careful reasoning and arguments (which also have their place). I identify with this expression of faith much more than what the word evangelism is typically taken to mean.
I ‘ve been reading through Donald Miller’s much-accoladed Blue Like Jazz recently, and came across this quote:
I believe in God, and as I said before it feels so much more like something is causing me to believe than that I am stirring up belief. In fact, I would even say that when I started in faith I didn’t want to believe; my intellect wanted to disbelieve, but my soul, that deeper instinct, could no more stop believing in God than [my friend] Tony could stop being in love with his wife. There are things you choose to believe, and beliefs that choose you. This was one of the ones that chose me.
I like the distinction that there are types of belief that are intentional and types that are unintentional, whether through social conditioning and the like – which upon reflection may still fall into the first category of adopted beliefs, or simply the fact that they happen, like love. I feel like the last four years has been a shaking out of the beliefs I have chosen to adopt, more or less leaving only the ones that have chosen me, the ones that despite an extended series of poor circumstances and all the evidence a man would need to discard or significantly revise them have stuck around largely unchanged.
I can’t really explain it. The reason I’ve held to the conviction that God is real, and incredibly and consistently good, and interested and involved in my life isn’t because everyone around me has held the same belief, or that I didn’t have significant logical and circumstantial evidence contradicting it, or even the fear that I would be disappointing my family or many of my friends if I were to abandon it – rather it was more the sense that I would be disappointing God himself if I were to discard my faith, the awareness that despite all the above factors God had become no less real to me even through my lowest times, that there has continued to be someone who transcends the reality I experience and perceive and who still offers comfort, rest and inspiration to face what comes next.
It’s an interesting comparison as well between this unchosen belief and love. I don’t think love is an entirely unintentional process – perhaps some forms of it are, like having a crush or love for a child, but not the commitment-oriented, long-term sort that a fulfilling marriage requires. And even that kind involves continual decisions to stay in the process, make sacrifices and invest in the relationship. All this said, there is a persistence to love, a relentless belief that can’t be walked away from without painful self-convincing and heart-hardening, like trying to fall out of love with someone.
It’s again an interesting parallel. My faith is still around because I still love, and I still am loved. Turning around and walking away from it is turning around and walking away from love. I am or have recently been frustrated, confused, hurt, angry, even demoralized and depressed, but the love is still constant. I am aware of it on some days and unaware on others; I occasionally pursue it or often times leave it be. But it does not change. I don’t think it will ever go away.