As someone who was raised Catholic and spent nearly 12 years as an adult Evangelical, there have been numerous times when I’ve struggled with having faith in God, let alone the existence of Jesus Christ. I had regularly attended Mass in my youth, though the circumstances surrounding my autistic brother’s high sensory difficulties made attending our local parish difficult to accomplish as a family unit. Paired with being frequently bullied in school by even those who attended the same church, I had eventually developed a resentment towards the Catholic Church for what I perceived as a form of systemic oppression. In light of my struggles, my parents had sent me to an Evangelical Bible Camp one summer in order to help me make new friends before entering high school.
While I made friendships that have lasted well into adulthood, it was there that I experienced a significant turning point in my journey of faith. After 2 years of attending events through this camp, I heard a sermon from a guest preacher who preached about the importance of forgiveness. I realized that if I could not forgive those from my school who had made my life miserable, how could I expect God to forgive me for the things I’ve done to others? I then made the decision to, as many Evangelicals would phrase it, accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.
Though I once considered the Evangelical church as my home, my experiences with certain Christian individuals who claimed to be my friend in one breath and wounded me in another instance (whether blatantly or in a passive-aggressive manner) have caused me to question whether or not I truly forgave those who have wounded me in the past, or whether I was ever actually saved. I’ve often tried to reconcile my frustrations with the Church through priding myself as someone who goes against the status quo of cultural Christianity. At times, in spite of having close friends, I have often felt like my extroverted ‘edginess’ has caused me to be isolated from everyone else, which has pushed me to explore other church communities and eventually become disillusioned with ‘Bible-based’ religious life.
I often hear people talk about embracing your inner self and becoming the best version of you. There really is a powerful sentiment behind the phrase, “I am master of my fate, I am captain of my soul!” But when I look inside myself, I don’t like what I see. I see someone who is broken, bitter, arrogant, occasionally dishonest and selfish. I see someone who struggles to forgive others for far less grave offenses than I’ve committed myself, has used relationships for my own benefit without reciprocation, and taken pleasure out of the misfortune of those I’ve held in contempt without giving any thought to their well-being. I’ve abused substance to numb the pain of my own fractured mind and spirit, only to wound others in the wake of my self-medication. I’ve told lies, omitted truths and twisted facts to avoid confrontation or inconvenience to my own agenda.
I also see someone who is deeply afraid of what others would think if they ever caught a mere glimpse of what lies beneath the surface. I see no positive outcome in reaching for my so-called ‘higher self’ other than to plead for it to open up to some form of divine assistance; because the more I look into the depths of my being, the more I realize I am but a mangled, distorted creature hard-wired to self-destruct. Rather than placing my hope in someone, like myself, who is set to fail, I need someone who is far greater than myself to work within me. The idea that someone like me could somehow be redeemed sounds appealing, yet simultaneously uncomfortable because part of me is complacent in my brokenness and amusing myself in my own private hell. The idea of being redeemed seems to involve the uncomfortable process of continually putting my old self to death in order to re-generate as a new person. Call it a rebirth, if you will.And this is where the question of who Jesus is comes in. The narrative of the Bible as well as other historical accounts of witnesses that claim His Resurrection is, in and of itself, the epitome of insanity. In what reality can a mere man be born from a virgin, turn water into wine, feed 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, walk on water, make the lame walk, bring sight back to the blind, heal lepers, and raise the dead? Any reasonable person would even look at Jesus’ Resurrection as a conspiracy theory akin to Elvis Presley faking his death to escape stardom, or even a denial of death’s finality and realism spawned from a widespread stage of grief. Perhaps if Jesus really did not truly rise from the dead, then He was just a mere revolutionary who was completely out of his mind — and this worldwide movement we call ‘Christianity’ is based on a mythological farce. Then, truly, death reigns victorious as humanity continues onward to endure many more tumultuous revolutions, if not years of nihilistic de-evolution.
I’ve wrestled with the notion that there might not even be a God, or whether a deity of such enormity would actually care about a mere particle like myself in the vastness of space. When people place so much emphasis on Jesus performing dramatic miracles, it’s difficult for me to apply such high hope on more ordinary things that show minimal progress — especially for those who suffer addictions, broken relationships, job loss or even less fortunate situations like finding a warm place to sleep on a cold night or where their next meal might come from. Sometimes I observe people who have had success careers, are exceedingly wealthy and live comfortable lives and I wonder, why would they need God when they seem to have everything they could ever hope for? Although it’s not possible for me to peek into a window to their souls, I’ve wondered if this is one of the reasons why there seem to be some high-profile celebrities who either spend their wealth away on vanity, partying, alcohol, drugs, sex, whereas others end up immersing themselves in philanthropy work. The latter seems to come to the realization of a void that exists in spite of having everything they could ever hope for, so they find fulfillment through utilizing their wealth to help others. I often wonder if this is a subtle way of the Spirit of Christ working through these people, as few and far between as they are. Some would say that the poor are not blessed because of their poverty, but because they know of their need for God (if He even cares for such things).
Likewise, in the midst of my internal pain and my spiritual loneliness, I feel like the character of Jesus Christ (whether or not He’s truly alive) resonates in people who are open to allowing the essence of His character to jump out of the pages of Scripture and worm into the depths of our hearts — like reading a novel where you fall in love with certain characters and their persona somehow captivates and influences you in ways that you wish you were like them in reality, even in the midst of their failures.
When Jesus was crucified and died, He appeared to have failed. But if He is truly God, then rising from the dead should be barely an inconvenience, and then these supposed miracles ought to defy our finite ability to reason. If there is hope in an afterlife or a Resurrection, or that a person like myself can be somehow transformed or redeemed, then I have nothing to lose. If all it takes is persevering in my chronic failure and having faith as tiny as a mustard seed, then I suppose there is enough grace to leave room for doubt over the things I can’t make sense of.