A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend.
N:“Do you believe that there is a God? And do you believe in God?”
Me:*surprised* “Yes, of course I do.” *wonders* “I thought you knew I was Catholic.”
N:“I did. But I know many Christians… and not all really believe in God. Some are Christians…well, for other reasons.”
Why do I believe? That is a question I’ve asked myself at various times in my life.
Like some love stories, I can’t remember when I started or how it began… I was in the middle of it before I realized. I was baptized at 6 yrs old, and it wasn’t my own decision then. I was taught about my faith in church and by my mother, and I had a typical child’s concept of God as this powerful and loving Being whom I should obey, and who would guide me to be a good person. Prayer was a practice which I did but don’t remember much of.
It was in secondary school that I developed a deeper personal relationship with God and began to seek greater knowledge and understanding of my faith. I am unashamed to say that it was pain that drove me to seek him. Those 4 years of my life was not a picnic even while they were wonderful years. I was surrounded by anger and bitterness at home, and encountered animosity, prejudice, disillusionment and betrayal in school. At that darkest period of my life, I felt truly alone. For the first time in my life, I realized that nobody, not my beloved mother, and not any friend, could protect me or give me the solace my battered heart was seeking.
Despite the difficult situation at home then, I had one bright guiding light. My mother. Emotionally bruised and battered herself, she kept directing my gaze towards her own source of life and strength – God. She told me not to look only to her, for she too was still learning, and stumbling. She told me to look to an even brighter light that would never dim, to an even greater teacher. And I began to seek him anew.
It’s true. He makes all things beautiful. The road did not become any easier to walk, but everything was different when I opened my heart to let him lead me. The very things that could have completely embittered and broken me became an avenue for God’s glorious love to enter my life. He healed me, and he gave me strength to love and to forgive when I could not. He left a shining handprint on my heart, and I remembered thinking even then, at 16 years old, that I didn’t think I could ever doubt God’s reality again because he had made himself known to me.
And yet, in the years that followed, I have walked and strayed… taking my God for granted, and shoving him everywhere except putting him in the center of my life. He was never absent from me, and I never broke my ties with him. But oh how easy it is to forget, and to be swept up once again by the million and one waves that buffet my life.
He is Truth. And he is Love. Being his disciple necessarily means the way of the cross. And like anybody else, I dislike pain and suffering and would be happy to avoid it if possible. And yet, when it comes to the crux and I am faced with a cross before me, I often find that I cannot, will not, turn away from it. I find myself speaking St. Peter’s words:
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God. – Jn 6:68-69
Yes, I have come to know him. That is why I believe. And I ask forgiveness from God and from all of you, my brothers and sisters, for the times when my life is a poor reflection of my faith. But regardless of your own stance regarding God, know that this is the guide I follow. And when I fail, or fall, please come and ask me, “Ann, do you believe in God?”