Sunday, 6 November 2016

Son, this is why I still believe.

Son, one day you will have doubts. You will think twice about your faith, your belief. You will be tempted to put it aside for the assurance of human reason and for the certainty of scientific demonstration. You will look at the world around you and ask, “But that’s all there is right? What’s more than this?” You will be tempted to believe that man has the answer, they know what they are doing. You will ask yourself, “Isn’t science the new coda of hope, secularism the trusted redemption for mankind, and materialism the only measure of reality?

If you do, I do not blame you son. Your doubts are natural. Your questionings are just you trying to be you and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I dare say even your frustration towards the silence of omnipotence in the midst of mindless sufferings and prevalent evil is readily understandable. So, don’t fight it.

Don’t let the fanatics tell you otherwise. Don’t let them pigeonhole you. Don’t let them corner you with their spiritualized featherweight thinking. Trust me, it’s for your own good that you question, you tear things apart and you explore deeper even at the risk of losing your way sometimes.

Son, it is not the losing-your-way that you should be afraid of. It is being cocksure about all things that should terrify you. The last thing your dad wants you to be is an unthinking person, that is, someone who accepts things as they are without any serious reflection. Or someone who flows with the moonshine of religiosity and ritualistic hypocrisy.

The bottom-line is this, always resist the gravitational pull to end up being a digit in the chart, a dot in the crowd or a leaf being tossed and turned in a mindless tide. God didn’t make you that way just so that you end up being turned into an empty depository of someone else’s religious propaganda.

At this point, you may stop me there and ask, “Didn’t you just mention God in that sentence, dad? Isn’t that confirmation bias there? Are you preaching to me? Yes, I did son. I did mention God because your dad still believes in God. But no, I am not preaching to you – God knows I myself need preaching to sometimes. That’s definitely not my intention. But I guess the bias is palpable. You’re my son after all.

But putting preaching and bias aside, let me remind you that in your life, you are not without people of great faith readily available for you. They would definitely do a better job than me telling you about their faith, their deeds and their hope in God. Your grandfather is a pastor, a master explicator of the gospel, a humble servant of the Most High. Your grandmother faithfully leads in the way of the Lord, living up to the high calling of her Savior. And your uncles and aunts are all more than capable to tell you why they believe and how it has changed their life.

If you want to know the deeper things of the gospel, the wondrous transformation their eyes have behold, and the beginning and the end of time, you can do no better than to look to them for guidance and inspiration.

In that case, are you being pretentious dad? Are you guilty of early childhood indoctrination?

Well, son, no man is an island. Neither is the man’s son (an island on his own). You are no doubt brought up in a Christian home with Christian teachings all around you. Bible stories are a staple here. We go to Church every Sunday. We pray for you, for your health, and your exams. We even say grace together. So, some observers may say that early childhood indoctrination is a euphemism here for demanding that you conform – at least that’s the impression.

But having somehow indicted myself there, I would still have to be honest with you and tell you why I believe. As you should be aware by now, daddy never forces you to believe – our upbringing and environment notwithstanding. I don’t know about your mother, bless her darling heart (whom I love dearly), but daddy always keeps religion away from you as best as he knows how. He just doesn’t believe in borrowed beliefs.

Son, you have to own it, that is, your beliefs. It has to come from you. What you choose from conviction stays with you, but what is forced upon you by indoctrination oppresses you. It becomes borrowed beliefs.

To be honest, I do not force you to believe because I am not too sure myself of so many things happening and not happening in this world. Here is just a sample of my laundry list of doubts:-

Why is there suffering under the watchful eye of a loving God? Why does evil seem to reign and good seem to suffer? Why is hope so darn evasive and delusional at times? Why does science seem to make more sense than the Bible? Why is God silent when he should be talking and talking over the pulpit when he should be acting and acting in one way when he should be acting in another? Why do preachers who claim to represent God act and live their life as if they are only representing themselves and no one else? And why is death so painful and living so hard at times?

You see son, I can’t present you with the perfect answers for all those questions, which you will inevitably ask in due course if you take my advice seriously to be a thinking person, and not blindly following the crowd.

But let me end with why I still believe and here’s the irony. Daddy still believes in the very same way that he still doubts, that is, his belief arises very much from ignorance as he is somehow certain. His mind just doesn’t comprehend, and for him, your daddy, this tug of doubt/faith war is always ongoing. Ultimately, faith wins but not without some doubts occasionally being thrown into the inflammatory mix.

The fact is that the weight of consideration that tilts the balance in favour of faith is the grace of Calvary. It is Calvary that befuddles daddy’s mind completely and this bewilderment paradoxically points me to believe. Earlier, daddy had his laundry list of doubts. Here is his laundry list of faith or bewilderment:-

Why would Jesus even bother? Why would He suffer unspeakably for a death so unbefitting of Him? Why didn’t He come as a king and turn the world over to Himself without all that fuss, all that pain, all that humiliation? Why does He even want to do it in such a grotesque manner when He could just perform some magic tricks in the sky once in a while to convert the world en masse? Who is this man who claims He is God and who was so “self-assured” about His teachings about being the way, the truth and the life?

Well son, likewise I do not have the perfect answers for all that. However, daddy has this theory that God may just have all the answers. But He had deliberately withheld most of them because He believes that actions speak louder than words, or in this case, questions speak louder than answers. So, not surprisingly, those questions led daddy to probe further and he realized that the grace of Calvary speaks for itself.

Son, I urge you to put aside the Godhood of Jesus, and judge him as a man with the same struggles as other men. He was as fragile and vulnerable as them. He was as distressed and scared as them. He was as helpless and broken as them. Yet, He never back away from what He was called to do. He met all challenges to the end.  He had his moments of weakness but He turned them into pivots of strength because He was driven by a love that this world cannot comprehend. In other words, He embodied this love with his selfless sacrifice even to his death.

Of course, you may say that many before and after Jesus had given their life for love, and some of them even did it in ways most unspeakable. But son, when I said about the grace of Calvary, this is what I mean. Jesus did not just offer Himself at Calvary. He did it in a way that you cannot simply dismiss it as just another love story or self-sacrificial fable. He did not do it to be a hero or for some front-page cover story of some sort. He did it as a Savior, as an answer to all our existential questionings, torments and yearnings.

Here is a man who had led an exemplary life, He broke all tradition of his day to teach, share and eat with social outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, the poor and the downtrodden. He taught in a way that stunned and transformed the crowd, even His enemies were brought to begrudging admiration, He lived with an astonishing faithfulness to the call of obedience, and He denounced all earthly titles, riches and attention to be a servant to all for the sake of telling us that there is in fact another way to living our life that will never disappoint, that is, a way of meaning and purpose that is completely contrary to what the world has to offer.

CS Lewis once wrote this, “Others said, “This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go.” He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He said, “No man can reach absolute reality except through me. Try to retain your own life, and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away, and you will be saved…Finally, do not be afraid. I have overcome the whole universe.””

Jesus' intention was never to be king, ruler and lord of the world. His kingdom is thankfully not of this world. His kingship is to reign in our hearts. And trust me son, if you want real, enduring change, don’t look elsewhere for inspiration, impetus or instructions. Look within. Look into your heart. If the heart is not moved son, the world can move for all I care, the man will not be transformed. Never.

And Jesus knew that, He knew it intimately. He died to show us the way. He knew that our heart is not beyond redemption. He knew that nothing can satisfy the heart, neither perfect theory nor perfect logic. Only perfect love can transform because love never fails. This may sound mushy to you, but trust me, as a 46-year-old married man with children and a throbbing sense of disillusionment about the many utopian-like theories of man, I have learned not to resist that power of love. I have learned to allow it to overcome me.

Son, have you not heard that no one knows what the heart of a bad man is like, but one knows with absolute certainty what the heart of a good man is like and it is terrible? (so said Ivan Turgenev). And a Russian Nobel Laureate (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) added: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds; and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Look around you son. Look at the world as it stands today. Evil is not someone with red overall skin, a pitchfork and a serpentine tail. At the risk of being politically incorrect, evil is a man who wants to change the world for good only to discover what he had always wanted all along, that is, to change it for himself, and himself only. And with that self-serving drive, that nefarious scheme, he employs the best of rhetorical persuasions to justify the worst of theatrical decimation.

That is why Jesus is so different my dear. In living, He demonstrated a love that is out of this world. In teaching, He inverted traditions, customs and the culture of His time. In leading, He led by example, serving others, pursuing justice, inspiring the poor, healing and feeding the masses, and proclaiming a freedom that no theory of man can ever hope to liberate. And in His death, He promised hope, offered forgiveness, loved without end, and extended an invitation to all regardless of race, culture or creed.

Son, the grace of Calvary is neither a sale pitch, a presidential address nor a spectacle with floodlights and pyrotechnics in the sky to shock and awe. No son. The grace of Calvary is about an unassuming life exemplified that spares not a thought for Himself to embrace a calling that gives all of Himself to those He loved unconditionally.

So, that is why daddy believes. He sees no other way. He sees it as the only fulfillment that is beyond the promises of this world. The grace of Calvary talks about a contentment that this world cannot offer.

Is this then the perfect evidence for the existence of God?  No son. It is not. I can’t say it is. But for daddy, it is the best evidence of the sacrifice of love from a man who once roamed this earth, who once led a rebellion of the heart, who once turned the authorities inside out, who once rejected what the world has to offer, who once promised us that a certain eternity awaits, and who once claimed that He is God. Cheerz.

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