“This world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a Person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a Storyteller.”
I have been plugging away at this blogging thing for long enough now that I’ve begun to get a grip on what I’m doing. I didn’t know what I would write about, at first. Now, it feels clear that I’ll be majoring in a few clear-cut subjects:
With this much clear, I am now compelled to present my audience with an introduction, of sorts, to each of these things. What do I read? What do I write? What do I believe? And why?
I have decided to begin today with the subject of my faith, as what I believe is the foundation for everything else, for all that I do and am. It’s the beginning. And that’s usually a good place to start, right?
Some people might call me “religious”. I would never use that word. Not because it’s fundamentally inaccurate, but because it seems so dusty and antiquated. It conjures mental images of droning clerics, cushionless church pews, yawning congregants. Nothing about my faith is like that.
When I think about my faith, I am filled with the same kind of sensations and imagery that one might use to summon a Patronus charm. Joy. Beauty. Laughter. To me, my “religion” is like a wild orchid and a waterfall and a Van Gogh painting and a perfectly executed punchline, all rolled into one. It’s the first spoonful of ice-cream in the summer. It’s Beethoven’s piano concerto #5. It’s an unexpected note from a friend in your mailbox.
You could say that what I believe starts with beauty. When I look at a sunrise, its beauty does not strike me as a matter of opinion. When I see a tree in the golden height of autumn, its beauty is intrinsic, inherent. It exists apart from me and you.
So, I believe the world is beautiful. A work of art. And if the world is art, it’s only logical to conclude that someone is responsible (not just for its existence, but its beauty). If the world is art, there must be an artist who created it.
I could pontificate, but I rather like how N.D. Wilson puts it in his book, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl:
“If the world is fundamentally an accident, if in the beginning, there was no eternal personality, no eternal living being, merely super-hot, hyper-dense I AM matter (with no space and no universe outside itself), and if, wandering those hyper-dense, super tiny corridors of the Forever Matter, attending to its normal routine, there happened to be one little chemical that caught its toe and flopped into another very different chemical, and both of them said “Oh, crap,” in tiny voices and went deaf in the explosion, then when did the accident start making sense and why the hell do we have the Special Olympics?”
Of course, there is more than beauty to our world. There is ugliness, too. Heaps and heaps of it. It’s a fact we all have to reconcile with, at one point or another. Many people will cite the presence of darkness and evil in our world as evidence against a kind, loving Artist.
And yet to my mind, it’s less far-fetched to accept that evil could exist in a world created by Love than it is to believe that principles like charity, beauty, self-sacrifice could originate from a meaningless accident. Besides, if there is no Ultimate Love, there is no such thing as evil. Sans God, there is no moral infrastructure for the world. There’s no difference whatsoever between Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
I’m gonna stop on that line, though, because I’m no apologist and there are a million other resources already out there advocating for the existence of a Creator. My goal is not to defend my beliefs, merely to explain them (an impossible enough task on its own).
My conviction in the existence beauty flowers into that of love. Love is the ultimate reality. And we’re not talking Hallmark love, here. We’re talking about something fierce and wonderful. We’re talking about something that borderlines on foolish, on absurd. We’re talking about people voluntarily sacrificing their lives for the sake of others. People who forgive the unforgivable. People who choose poverty and filth over wealth and comfort. The most compelling argument will never convince me against the presence of love in the world.
And this is where the gospel comes in. It is what all the love and beauty out there are pointing to. The love and beauty are the evidence. The gospel is the answer to the question (whatever the question is).
Just as goodness has a point of origin (the Creator), so does the ugliness. It squirms in the pit of every human soul. No matter what our desires or intentions, ultimately we’re all broken, fallen, imperfect. The God who made us loves us anyway. His love is the anti-Hallmark kind, the picture that even the highest human form must mirror.
But there’s still a problem, because God doesn’t share our fallen state. He is whole, and holy. He is perfect. Perfection and imperfection cannot coexist. Orcs have no place in Lothlorien. Nothing that is not absolutely holy can abide in the eternal presence of the Creator. This isn’t some kind of pompous, arbitrary rule God made up. It’s the purest of facts. His holiness would burn the soiled soul like ants under a magnifying glass.
The meaning of life hinges on whether or not there’s another but. And there is. But…!
Because of His tender and passionate love for His children, because He desires our reconciliation to Him, because He wants to be closer to us than any earthly father can be, He made a way.
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
He sent his own Son to redeem the world. To share in our every heartache. To destroy the blot of sin inside us. To infect us with his holiness.
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.
It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.
Hebrews 2v14-18 (MSG)
I could get carried away here, so let’s just sum up what we’ve covered so far:
-The word is full of beauty, goodness, and love.
-The world is also blighted with evil and hate.
-Both the good and evil have sources.
-I accept and understand the Ultimate Love to be the God of the Bible. The darkness is mostly my fault (and yours, too. Sorry).
-Light and darkness cannot eternally coexist.
-God, in His love, has given us the antidote for sin and darkness, in the person of Christ, His son.
Having accepted all these points as absolute truth, I’ve also made the decision to take the Way my heavenly father provides, to accept the astounding grace He’s offered me. I’ve done nothing to deserve this gift, and nothing I ever do will make me any worthier. It is out of gratitude and love that I attempt to live my life as would best please Him.
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5v15 (NLV)
Or, to borrow a paraphrase from George MacDonald:
“He gives himself to us— shall we not give ourselves to Him? Shall we not gives ourselves to each other, whom He loves?”
This is what I believe. This is where I’m coming from. This is why I am who I am, why I do what I do, write what I write. There is plenty more to it, of course. But this is just one blog post. The nutshell, bare-bones version. Hopefully I have not failed utterly in the communication. If I have, at least I know my own weakness, and whence comes my strength:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.