What I Believe And Why
I believe in our freedom of choice, meaning, I love and respect everyone’s right to believe or not believe whatever we want, to worship our sense of God or spirit, or not, in the lawful way of our choice. For that reason alone, though there are many, I love the United States, our Constitution and our freedom of religion (not freedom from religion mind you… but that’s a whole other subject). If you’ve read this far I’m assuming that you genuinely, open-mindedly want to know what I believe, so I’m going to share it.
Also, as you read this I suggest opening yourself to revelation from something beyond the realm of the empirical, whatever that might mean. It is my experience that God loves a good challenge.
I have always believed in God but grew up hating going to church (I was raised United Methodist, which is a fine church, but I preferred sleeping in). I have also always felt in some way that there is a reason I am here, that there’s a purpose for my life. That point was made clear to me when I was 15 years old and on the first day of a three day bicycle trip with my best friend, Toby. We were both hit by a car going 60MPH. Toby literally died in my arms, while I was thrown clear with only minor injuries. Later that day the state trooper, knowing the details of the crash, said to me “Son, there is no reason you should be alive.” Paradoxically, to me that meant just the opposite.
About five years later I took a semester off of college and worked for Fairfax Lumber and Millwork in Springfield, VA, making windows and driving a forklift. Two of the guys I worked with were serious “born agains.” One, Keith Ratcliff, was an ordained minister and he and I would debate the great questions of Christianity to no end: creation vs evolution, abortion, Jesus the prophet vs Jesus the Savior, premarital sex, homosexuality, everything. We ended up debating to a draw but one thing always stuck with me: Once I understood his point, I knew how he could beat my argument had he simply chosen the right words. In the interest of winning I dared not tell him how, but in the spirit of intellectual honesty, I never forgot that his was the stronger side, the winning argument.
One day during our break Keith got to preaching about the greatness of God versus man, and he was so convincing I actually got scared – something got to me. I feared God might just take me right there on the drive home (silly, God doesn’t work that way, I know… but that’s what I was feeling). So I prayed a prayer that let me off the hook. I said, “God, if any of this stuff is real I’m obviously not ready to accept it… take me to where I can believe it (or refute it and move on).” That let me off the hook and I drove home just fine. I wouldn’t remember that prayer again for more than five years.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…
Four years later, during my last year of college, I was deeply in the process of breaking up with the only girl I’d ever been serious about. We’d been together for 1 1/2 years. Without getting too specific, one night some things happened which sent me into an emotional tailspin. I was lost, I was distraught, and there was no way out, no changing the things that had happened. Needless to say, though I desperately needed to, I could not sleep.
Just before sunrise, about to explode emotionally and still needing sleep, I remembered people saying “Give your problems to God, let him hold them.” This had seemed intellectually like a nice idea but I never thought of it as a real, tangible, immediate resource. When you’re desperate you’ll try anything, right? So I prayed to God (just God in general, no specific religion), saying that I couldn’t handle this and I asked him to hold it for me so I could sleep. Oddly enough it worked… and I got six hours of sleep and though it’s hard to explain exactly why, I sensed deep inside, undoubtedly, unshakably, this really was God’s doing. It made a surprisingly strong impression on me and I decided to meet with the only “cool” pastor I had known, a guy named Ed Rawls. Ed is an honest, down-to-earth, jovial man who grew up the childhood buddy of Sam Kinison… so he even knew comedy and we had something in common.
I told Ed what had happened and that what I had experienced was real. However, I also told him about my reservations… how I see all these totally bogus, greedy, self-righteous preachers on TV selling Jesus like a used car and I couldn’t buy into any of that. He heard me, even agreed with me and understood. He had a positive response about it which I’ll share if you email me. He gave me a few things to read and a lot of spiritual food for thought. Ed was very encouraging, didn’t preach at me, and I came away liking him that much more.
A few months later, Valentines day, 1986, much closer to our relationship being over, this girlfriend and I got together and saw the movie “The Color Purple.” Afterward we talked in her car and not only did she explain that she had begun seeing someone that “I just really need right now”- what a girlfriend line- she also told me that I was totally screwing up politically at this ski lodge where I played and she worked. She talked about how everyone was down on me and thought I was being a jerk. It may not seem like much here, but she basically cut everything I depended on in life right out from under me. I had nothing, no where to turn, no friends, no her… nothing. I have never felt so lost. For the first time ever, after she finished telling me something critical, though I’m usually not short on words, defenses and explanations, I had no reply. I sat there silently, stoic. From this I later learned that she knew something was wrong with me. I had nothing, and said nothing. I left.
Suic… (I can hardly type the word)
The drive back to my one-room apartment was about twenty minutes on a winding Shenandoah Valley road and in that horrible time I cried, I screamed, I have never hurt so badly. Then, like an angel of light, I saw a way out (though it frightens me now to even remember this). I considered and planned my suicide. I knew exactly how to do it, too… A shotgun. Leave nothing to chance.
By the end of the drive I was cried out and hoarse and while I had mostly talked myself out of suicide, I had no idea what to do. I had so much crap… intensity, pain, frustration and utter rage built up inside of me that instead of going inside and doing something really bad, I got out of my truck and just began running. It was 2AM on a brittle, clear, February night. I ran down my hill and up the next hill and stood in the middle of the road. It was then, truly at my wits’ end, that I prayed. I had nothing to lose. I said, “God or Jesus or whoever, if you’re real and ‘all this stuff’ (meaning Christianity and the bible) is real, that’s it… I’m here, come into my heart. I give up, I’m open to it. I’m broken, I have no where to turn, and if you’re real, I invite you in. Show me and I’ll live and believe in you 100%, I’m all in if you’ll show me.” It was such a real prayer, I meant it so seriously that I actually wondered if I would hear thunder or a voice or if a bush would start burning. Silly, but I didn’t know.
Nothing happened. Not a thing. So I walked back to my apartment. Cold, emotionally numb and having dismissed the idea of suicide I just went inside. My girlfriend called briefly and later I found out that she was calling to make sure I hadn’t killed myself. She knew how bad I was. Sooner or later I fell asleep.
The next morning I got up, showered, got dressed, and began driving to school. For the first time that morning I began remembering and considering all that had happened between this nearly ex-girlfriend and me. But something in me felt strange, or missing. Though nothing had physically changed, something was emotionally different. All the problems were still there and painfully real, but they, I don’t know, they seemed not to matter as much or in the same way. They almost didn’t matter at all, which got me really wondering. Thinking more about it I realized, “Wow, I actually feel good… well, not exactly good, more like… peace.” That was it, I felt a strange and unfathomable sense of peace. A peace I had never known, unbelievable peace, even in my storm of problems and pain. So I began testing it… I thought about all the things that ever bothered me, about dying, about anything bad; and while the problems were all still there, I still had this wonderful feeling of peace I really can’t describe. It was just wonderful and weird. Not a giddy, passing feeling of release, something profound and extra-worldly. It was like no matter what was wrong, in the long run it was alright, it was taken care of.
Then… only THEN, did I remember the later part of that night… my drive, my nearly really bad decision, my run up the hill and… oh yeah, that prayer. And it hit me… I believe my first words as a Christ Follower were, “Oh shit, it worked!” (I had a mouth back then). I then remembered the last sermon I had heard Ed Rawls deliver where he talked about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus appeared many times to the disciples, to over 500 different pagans and believers alike and one thing he said to them over and over again was, “Peace be to you. Peace be to you.” Not peace on earth, but God’s peace. That was it. I knew without the shadow of a doubt that was exactly what I now had.
Nothing about this experience or the knowing, understanding and life-change that came with it is even remotely provable in a laboratory. It is certainly not “reasonable.” Nor should it be, as I understand now, because that would preclude one of the most powerful forces on this planet: Faith. It is something that was shown and proven to me, personally, in my heart. Like it or not it was irrefutable. Over time it has proven itself again and again in countless and different ways. It really is the experience of a rebirth – re-birth of the spirit.
It comes around…
A while later, remembering years back to my prayer on that drive home from the millwork place – you know when I told God I wasn’t ready to accept any of this and asked him to take me to where I could? – I can now see step by step over the following four years, all the different events that happened to bring me to that place, the heart and mindset where I could accept Christ. Being a hardhead that meant ultimately me being on my knees. Many of the things that happened were not “good” but they worked together for an ultimate good in my life. I certainly realized none of it as they were happening. It is only in hindsight that I can see the significance and connection of these events separated by months and years.
So, I believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the Bible as the word of God, not because it makes sense to believe it – though I think it does – but because God reached through my pain into my heart and showed me; he redeemed me. He put a beautiful stranglehold on my heart that I cannot deny. Believe me, I am so tempted by and often guilty of so many different sins, most of which the world accepts as normal life practices, that if there were any way at all I could reason this away, if I could justify non-belief, or “a la carte” belief (meaning selective belief in just that which suits us), trust me, I would do it. I’m not that strong. However I tell you with all my heart, I cannot, with any intellectual, spiritual, or personal honesty, deny it. God has made that perfectly clear to me. He is real.
I am saddened to watch most TV preachers butcher and alter the bible for their own pocketbooks, and some of them are certifiable heretics. I am saddened further to see these misguided, sometimes evil goofballs running around with “God Hates Fags” signs and the like. Nothing could be further from God’s heart. Those people are voicing their own bigotry and anger, certainly not God’s love. How many souls are they saving like that? And how many are they driving farther away? I’ll tell you this definitively: God loves and delights in you, me, every one of us without exception. That’s a fact. There’s nothing you’ve done, and nothing you can do to make God love you less, or more.
So friends, I’ve never shared any of that in public, but I am now. That is my conversion experience. It is all true.
A Case For Christ…
Here’s something to consider. All of Christianity hinges completely on the person of Jesus. So, who is or was he? There are only four possibilities as to who Jesus was or is. He was either…