Confessions of a Jesus-Doubter
Lately I have been doubting the worth of my relationship with God. Let’s be real here; we all have periods of doubt where we question whether or our faith in Jesus Christ is really worth all of the struggles that accompany that confession of faith.
Because of this doubt, my prayer life and just general feeling of intimacy with Jesus has suffered. I’ve been going through the motions of my faith, attending church and chapel and praying when necessary, but mostly doing so out of pure routine.
Honestly, I have been bored with Christ. Living the life that is expected of Christians has seemed so exhausting and has left me wanting to be defiant more and more. I lost the wonder of the cross and the power behind the Scriptures I spend every day studying for school.
Today, I had the opportunity to regain that wonder.
I decided to take World Religions class this semester to eliminate some of my ignorance of other religions and because Dr. Yoder is one of my favorites, so I’d take just about any of his classes. We went on a field trip today, which took up my entire Saturday (literally…11 hours). Needless to say, I was not particularly looking forward to sacrificing my weekly shift of work and an entire non-school day to a school activity. I pictured myself being stuck in a whole bunch of weird church services put on in different languages to gods I don’t even believe in and struggling to stay awake.
Boy was I wrong!
We started the day off visiting a Hindu Temple far into New Jersey, where we were taken in small groups on a tour through the temple. My eyes were glued to the dozens of statues of gods throughout the temple, my nose was irritated by the strong smell of incense permeating the room, and my ears were straining to understand my tour guide’s accent amidst the huge crowds of Hindus chanting prayers to their gods. I received explanations for why women need to put red dots between their eyebrows and wear full-body garbs, how the dozens of statues are manifestations of one god, and the specific sacrifices the people need to make in order to obtain favor from the god(s). I was flabbergasted that the Hindus were able to not only remember them all but to also feel a spiritual connection with these statues.
Next we visited the Islamic Society of Central Jersey where we had the privilege of learning from the local Islamic high school students and discourse openly about the differences in our faith. I learned about the teens’ plans for their college educations, their future marriages, their hopes to pilgrimage to Mecca, their feelings about the month of fasting during Ramadan, their favorite verses from the Koran, and heard their hilarious jokes about Muslim culture. I questioned them about what it’s like to live without assurance of salvation and eternity in heaven and they questioned me about the need for Jesus to die on the cross and my motivation for doing good works. They respectfully questioned me on my beliefs and I was challenged to dig deeper in the Bible and in my heart to determine why I believe what I believe. The kindness, respect, and friendship we exchanged warmed my heart, and yet saddened me at the same time. The differences in our faith are really not as extreme as I had anticipated, and they are so close, and yet so far away, from true salvation.
The final destination of the day (other than the ridiculously spicy Indian dinner Dr. Yoder watched me suffer through) was a Buddhist Monastery in Bensalem. Here, we met a sassy and quotable monk who answered all our answers with a small nod of the head, a vibrant, “Of course!” and a condensed answer to our question. When asked if he knew about Jesus or Christianity, he replied, “Only what I learned in Dracula.” (Still scratching my head in confusion about that joke.) I learned his views about reincarnation (where Dustin was regretfully told he could not reincarnate as a tiger), his adventures outside the monastery (which only included trips to buy “woods” at Home Depot), and his frequent phone calls with his mother on his iPhone (how does a Buddhist monk have an iPhone and I don’t?!?!). Although I spent nearly this whole trip laughing, I was nonetheless pondering how unsettling it would be to have to focus so much energy making sure all your actions were pure in order to avoid being condemned to hell for making one mistake.
I spent this one day wearing a scarf on my head, walking around barefoot out of respect, separating between men and women, watching tedious and repetitive prayers and chants, and resisting the urge to evangelize, and I am exhausted. I can’t imagine having the amount of faith and yet uncertainty these individuals live with each and every day.
They have to walk clockwise in order to avoid angering the gods. They need to take chaperones on their dates and get permission from their parents. They need to pray 5x a day in the same exact way facing the correct direction and fast for 30 days straight in order to be a good person. They need to ensure the last thing they do before they die is a good deed done with good motives to avoid going to hell despite how many good deeds they may have done prior. They need to bring offerings and sacrifices to their gods to prove their worth. They need to be in certain places at certain times and follow strict rules and regulations in order to be saved.
All I need to do is love God and love others. God asks nothing of me except to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. I don’t need to wear certain clothes, go specific places, speak exact words, or face a specific direction in order for my great God to hear and love me. God is merciful and accepts me back into his loving arms when I fail him time and time again. I don’t need to appease his wrath, because he poured it onto his Son and cloaked me in righteousness instead.
I have it so easy, and God requires so little of me. I have no right to complain about spending time with my First Love or get bored with the truths of the Bible through the Father and Son and Spirit. God’s relentless and full love for me should excite me to no end and inspire me to live my life for him. God is so amazing, and I never want to lose sight of the cross and doubt the purpose of my salvation.