Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm A Believer!

Well, I've finally decided to do it. I've decided to call myself a Christian. What, you say? You weren't already a Christian? Well, yes and no.

As I've written before, I was raised in a nominally Christian home. My family celebrated all the "Christian" holidays and abided by superficially Biblical morals. But neither of my parents modeled real Christian living to my siblings and me, and neither took us to church (our Grandmother did). Despite my religiously deficient upbringing I managed to emerge from childhood believing in the orthodox fundamentals of the Christian faith, and I retain that belief to this day. Yet, for several years I've been reluctant to call myself a Christian. Why? A few reasons.

First, I hesitated to call myself a Christian because I've never had the kind of "conversion experience" that Christians so often talk about. I prayed the sinner's prayer and asked Jesus into my heart when I was 15, and nothing happened. I didn't feel God's presense. My life didn't suddenly change. I wasn't instantly freed from bad habits. In short, I didn't have that "conversion experience" which supposedly proves you're saved. Therefore, I didn't feel right calling myself a Christian when I wasn't sure I actually was one, i.e. saved.

Second, I hesitated to call myself a Christian because I was afraid of giving the faith a bad name. I'm a human being, flawed like any other. I know there are forces out there who love to use any failing of a professed Christian to denounce the faith. I didn't want to openly say I'm a Christian and then get caught doing something unChristlike, thereby making all Christians look bad and dishonoring my Savior. I couldn't see a way out of that predicament so I stopped saying I was a Christian.

Third, I hesitated to call myself a Christian because I don't understand every aspect of the faith. I do understand the fundamentals of orthodoxy that I said I believe in, but Christianity is deeper than that. The fundamentals are the "milk" of the faith, as Paul put it, not the meat. I understand some of the "meat" of the faith, but understanding it all is still beyond me. I didn't want to appear ignorant about my religion if I were ever asked a hard question, so I played it safe by avoiding the "Christian" label.

But then something happened to change my mind: I got breast cancer.

Television preacher John Hagee once said that adversity is God's university, and I can attest that that's true. When I felt that telltale lump in my breast this past March, that was my enrollment into that divine school. And it's been a beneficial and enriching course. Having breast cancer hasn't been easy but going through this valley of disease has brought me to a place with God that I would never have gotten to otherwise.

While fighting cancer I've seen God work miracles for me. Not big, spectacular ones but small, personal ones that spoke to me in the way I needed it most. The most meaningful miracle I've experienced is receiving God's strength to deal with my illness. While I was waiting for the results of my biopsy I was sure I'd freak out if they came back positive, but I didn't and I know that was God. He gave me His strength which kept me calm, positive, and unafraid. That's been a huge blessing for me and I'm very grateful for it.

As I've gotten closer to the Lord during my trials I've learned the worries I outlined above don't matter. God isn't looking for me to be perfect, to have full spiritual knowledge, or to live in a constant state of spiritual ecstasy. Rather, He just wants me to trust Him. As I do that, God will lead me to the people and sources that will help me grow in faith, knowledge, and even "perfection". I don't have to worry that I might embarrass my Savior or appear ignorant of my faith. God is close to me and He will guide me through any akward moments. Because of that, I feel I'm finally "in the fold", so to speak. Jesus is the shepherd and I'm one of His sheep. I'm a Christian. I'm a believer, and I'm blessed.