My Faith Journey: Swing
I don’t think there is just belief and unbelief. These distinctions are too easy. I think that faith falls on some sort of spectrum and so much of discussing spirituality is talking to people where they are on that spectrum. For instance, I think there is a difference between someone who doesn’t really believe in God but says a prayer sometimes and a person who doesn’t think that any kind of diety exists. These two people are going to be at very different places when approaching spirituality. Similarly, I think there is a difference between someone who rejects God and is mad at him than someone who leans toward there not being a god, but isn’t really sure. The first rejects God but is mad at something. But the second leaves it open to possibility but hasn’t been convinced. There is a spectrum that goes from Extreme non-belief to Extreme belief. In the middle is agnostic or indifference and there are shades of belief running up and down the spectrum.
I think that when I was in my research phase I was moving further and further to the left, toward extreme unbelief. It was an educated (sort of) lack of belief. I had my sources, logic, reasons and thinkers to back me up. Eventually however, I began discussing these things with someone smarter and better educated in these things than I was. He had answers to my hard question and perspective that I didn’t have as a senior in high school and gradually my belief began to move back toward the center.
Slowly but surely I read and learned and listened my way back toward the center of the spectrum. Many of my questions were being answered, fears quelled and ideas altered. Until one night I found myself sitting on a river bank and thinking about what my beliefs were. I was back to believing there could be a God. I believed that Jesus was a real person. If there was a God, then he could do whatever he wanted, including have a son who walked around on earth. If he did have a son who walked around on earth, then he would probably want to tell people about his dad, God. And through a long sort of logical wrestling match in my mind I had a small, but important revelation: I was on the right side of center.
If the left of center was shades of disbelief and the right was shades of belief, I had entered the belief side. I am not sure where that happened, when it happened, but I was somehow on this side now. Weird. That was a very strange feeling.
So, what now? If I am on the side of belief and I think that those things (God, God doing anything he wants, including having a son) are possible, then what does that mean for my life? I had already toned down my anti-God rhetoric, I wasn’t doing anything crazy in high school so there were basically no life-style changes to be made, so what? If I was willing to admit the possibility and I could believe that these things were possible, then I needed to pursue this possibility.
I stood up and looked at my friend Clint who was there with me and said, “Alright, I should get baptized.” The next morning I was.
And once I came out of the water, you know where my faith level was? The same place.
Being baptized didn’t move me from basic belief to extreme belief. It didn’t answer my questions. It didn’t bring a whole new understanding that I never had before. I still had doubts. I still had questions, but at that point I made a committment to myself and to everyone there that I was going after the possible. It was the public and personal acknowledgement that there had been a shift from the left side to the right side of the spectrum and that I was moving in a more belief oriented direction.
Often times people baptize someone and then let go. As if the game was won in the water. That’s not the case though. Had I not had a community of people who came around and helped me along that pathway I would still be where I was in the water: just barely past center. I would still be confused, lost and consistently unsure and shaky in my faith. Or perhaps I would have backslid into unbelief where I was more firmly rooted.
Luckily, however, I was surrounded. Because as is often the case when walking in new-belief territory you are easily knocked off path and off course by the smallest things. Like many others before me, the next steps would be shaky and at times, it would feel like I was walking through an earth quake.
Next comes the Wilderness.