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This post was going to be titled “The Argument” but I decided that dedicating an entire post to the argument which preceded my change of belief would not accurately portray the little significance it had in the grand scheme of things. The argument which ensued between myself and the guy I met online (whom I will refer to as “Michael”) almost immediately after I stated that I was a Christian was not very unique. We spat fire back and forth on all the standard topics, neither of us being bothered in the least by the arguments presented by the other. In the end we concluded that there was no point in arguing and it would be best to move on to other topics. This worked a few times but the topic kept coming back. At one point I challenged his acclaimed open-mindedness by inviting him to come to church with me, which he did (ironically the only non-Christian I’ve invited to church who actually went).
Through all this discussion, it became clear to me that at that point in my life my Christianity wasn’t very meaningful to me. I believed it because nothing else made sense and I didn’t know of any reason why I wouldn’t believe it, but I didn’t really “feel” it. I thought that this was a perfect opportunity for me to revive my faith. Maybe these challenges were exactly what I needed. Maybe God was just being extremely creative in answering my prayers by sending a random atheist to help me through some of my problems and challenge me on my faith, forcing me to remind myself of the reasons for believing it in the first place and becoming stronger for it. Either way, I knew that something needed to be done. I felt like I was doing some serious fence-sitting in regard to my faith and I decided that this was the time for me to choose a side. Here’s the message I sent Michael on October 21st, 2010:
Today I’ve been in a very tranquil, reflective, moderately poetic mood. Thinking about where I now find myself, the battle behind me and the battle in front of me. Thinking about what really matters to me and what doesn’t, what I want to put up a fight for and what I’m willing to let go of.
I’m here sort of just “reflecting at you.” I find it helps me to sort out what I’m thinking if I write it out, and I’m able to write it out most coherently if I’m directing it toward someone else. It may be a little long-winded, so feel free to skim or take a nap in between. Also, beware of metaphors and poetic language. I tend to use them when I’m in this reflective mood.
The place where I find myself is a place of choice, which I suppose technically is always the place I am. I think that in the last few years, though, I’ve been avoiding a lot of them. I don’t answer with “yes” or “no.” It’s always “sure,” or “I don’t know yet.” As a result of this, I’ve lost a lot of my sense of direction. I’m not sure what I value anymore. The last few months have been excruciating. I found myself floundering, relying heavily on the opinions of others to affirm my value, unsure of my abilities, unsure of what I thought/believed/valued. But I suppose all this you already know.
Today while I was “working,” I was reflecting on what it is that I value most. Through conversations with you I’ve been able to see more clearly what my priorities have been and what I would like them to be. I’ve been thinking about my own reactions to things, the way that I fight certain things that I know I need to give in to and give in to certain things I know I should fight against. It’s peculiar to me what some of those things are. Each day I am surprised again at what I find within myself, the intuitive and inexplicable understanding of what I need to let go of and what I need to hold on to.
You created for me a very nice problem in this regard. When we first started communicating, it didn’t take me very long to begin admiring your character and intelligence. Since I am in the age and stage of thinking about who I might see myself being a companion to for life, I thought in that direction, weighing the pros and cons, compatibilities and incompatibilities etc etc as I believe is a natural thing to do (unless I’m just crazy). Your character proved true over and over and I came to have a level of admiration, respect, and trust for you. Naturally, I would be inclined to place you within my “list of potentials.” But that is not what I did. I told you early on that I wasn’t interested in a relationship. This was because, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, you are not a Christ follower.
Reflecting on this decision has forced me to consider what my status as a “Christ follower” really does mean to me. Why do I hold so tightly to this belief? What am I really willing to sacrifice for it? What is the nature of the doubts I have in this regard? Are these beliefs like my pride, something that I hold on to for security but know I need to let go of despite the pain or are they something something of infinite value that I need to hold on to, whatever the cost?
Again, conversation with you has made this a great deal clearer to me. All that you do and stand for points in an unavoidable, inexplicable, and sometimes just downright uncanny way to the message of Christ, and as I sort through those things within myself in need of disposing of and those worth holding on to it becomes clearer and clearer that my faith is something that I would be an absolute fool to let go of.
But I still find myself in a place of choice. It occurred to me today that, although I may be stubbornly holding on to my Christian belief, my commitment is weak. As it stands, I am a Christian because no other world view makes more sense to me. It’s pathetic. Like saying “I chose you because out of all the pathetic excuses for humans, you were the least so.” Negative affirmation. Doesn’t mean a lot. So I see myself standing at a triple-forked road. My options are A) lose my faith. Why should I believe something just for the sake of believing something? Why would I sacrifice for something that really doesn’t mean a lot to me? B) continue in mediocrity. Why would I make a definite decision when doing things half-way helps me to ‘get along with everyone’ and doesn’t require all that much work or sacrifice? C) go all in. Why would I call myself a “Christ follower” when really I’m too afraid to commit myself to what that really entails? Why would I neglect the unshakable understanding that this is the choice that I need to make?
So I’m standing here and reflecting, counting the costs, weighing my options. Am I ready to say that I would literally lay my life down for my faith? Am I ready to allow people to look at me like I’m an uneducated, uncultured, gullible fool? Am I ready to love these people, all people, with the love of Christ even if it means the death of my pride every day? Am I ready to love people enough that I can’t help but tell them about Christ and how they can possibly enter a relationship with him, not shying away with a “well whatever works for you, I wouldn’t want to impose?” Am I ready to surrender every aspect of my life to Christ, past, present, and future, leaving nothing behind for myself? Because that is what it means to be a Christ follower.
This is what I am sorting through. There’s is an inexplicable, unshakable assurance of what I need to decide, but I know that this is a decision that I’ll really need to think through before I go through with it. I need to know what I’m getting in to. I’m not doing this half-way anymore. Either I’m all in or I’m out.
After I sent this message I told Michael that he wouldn’t be hearing from me for the next few days while I sorted this out. I wanted to know for sure that my choice was right, that it wasn’t based on biases (as much as is possible of course). My next posts will be about the 2-3 weeks of insanity that followed this choice.