A week or so ago, I was tagged in a Facebook post asking me to share why I am still a Christian (#whyimstillabeliever). I must admit that it instantly made me afraid to share. Not so much because I am ashamed, but because my thoughts are always so jumbled when it comes to those sorts of questions. I have a hard time explaining truthfully, and clearly. Like most stories of faith, mine is ever-changing and slightly messy.
I grew up in church and never really knew the feeling of being without Christ. I had no idea that I was not a Christian until someone (probably at church) told me so. I was all good with the God thing and the believing thing and the being loved thing. My “salvation prayer” was more of a full surrender prayer to me. I was only eight, so I remember the moment only vaguely. I decided to pray on my knees one night before bed. I had no intention of asking for forgiveness, but I did. Then I continued in a teary-eyed mess telling Jesus that I would absolutely follow Him for the rest of my life. That’s the part I most remember: declaring over and over that I had to follow Him. I needed him, not only for forgiveness, but for guidance the rest of my life. I was determined to be dedicated.
I was the type of youth that never strayed. I followed Jesus, not out obligation, but because I sensed a deep need within myself. I had no desire for parties or much of anything that was “secular.” In fact, I rarely listened to anything other than Christian music (I am forever grateful to my best friend for making sure that I had at least some knowledge of other music choices. I still listen to many of those songs from our Friday Night Mix CD).
Somehow in youth group, I never felt like it was quite where I belonged. I loved (and still love!) my precious church girls, but I remember us gathering in each other’s living rooms or in my little red car and talking about how we wanted to learn so much more. We were ready to go deeper in our faith. I participated in the adult Bible studies and even wrote some of my own in the sanctuary of my bedroom. I never felt like the typical teenager. I was told in high school that guys would not date me because they were intimidated by my faith, but they all thought I was kind. No joke, I was told that I was the type of girl a guy marries, not the kind they date in high school. Needless to say, I was so ready to be with people like me. The ones who wanted Jesus, needed Jesus more than anything else.
Enter college. I finally found my people. I met so many incredible people who were head-over-heels in love with Jesus. They changed my life and my idea of community and discipleship. Those years led to a crazy amount of growth in my faith and my understanding of God. I was finally studying what I loved in my Christian Studies major and I was surrounded by people that were passionate about the same things. I am forever grateful to the professors and friends that made college such a sweet time in my life, and I am so sorry for being horrible at staying in contact. Please forgive me.
There was one friend in particular that I believe confirmed my believe and helped me continue in faith. She died five years ago yesterday. It was her twenty-first birthday.
Ariane was the type of person that had so much passion, it was contagious! She was never the best student or cared very much about being the highest-ranked academic. Truthfully, she never needed that to believe in Jesus. She just needed Him.
The morning of her death, I sat with her at our school’s chapel service. We laughed with each other and enjoyed listening to the row of guys behind us sing “Happy Birthday.” She was as joyful as always, excited for this new year of life.
A mere three hours later, she was dead.
I am forever grateful that I was not in the classroom when she passed out. Instead, I’m left with a fond memory of sitting together, just the two of us, enjoying the morning.
I find it compelling that most of these #whyimstillabeliever stories include grief or heartbreak. I think that is incredibly telling of our need for healing beyond ourselves. In grief, we find that we cannot pull ourselves out. We need something, someone apart from us. When we are broken and most vulnerable, we are more willing to accept what we do not understand logically.
I find it hard to answer the question of why I’m still a believer. Honestly, I hate pat answers. Always have. I find it hard to believe there’s an easy answer to such deep questions. I’m afraid my answer will be too simple for some, maybe even too simple for my own liking.
The truth is, I’m still a believer because there’s just something about Jesus. His radical love, his ability to sit with the hurting and broken, his compassion, his teachings, his healing. It all compels me to draw near to Him.
I’m sorry to say that I have never been convinced by apologetics or my Sunday school teachers. I do not mean to offend. The simple fact is that I am at my best when I am following Jesus with abandon.
If you were hoping for my deep, logical response, you must be sorely disappointed. I have never been great at debate or convincing. I do not think fast enough for that. Which is why I write.
Yet I am convinced that trying to figure out God and why we must believe in Him somehow misses the point. There is a mystery to God and it draws me to Him all the more. So I still believe.
Share your story with me in the comments below. I would love to hear about why you’re still a believer or why you struggle to believe. I get it. Our journeys are messy and often confusing. I’m totally with you.