Friday, April 22, 2011

Is God Only in Stories?

that happened a long time ago?
Is He living a long way off?
Or is He a part of our everyday life
so I can feel He is here right now?
If you include Him in our happy times,
ask for His help in troubled times,
let Him be real,
let Him be close,
then I'll not have to search for Him
when I am grown.
From Listen to my Feelings
by Ruth Reardon

My son and I have been having this conversation recently.  He is nineteen and questioning everything about life and our world.  He wants proof, verification.  I remember being nineteen and having the same questions and concerns.  I remember a conversation we had around the dinner table one Sunday during my first year of college.  (I know it was Sunday because we were eating in the dining room and the dining room was saved for Sundays, holidays or birthdays).  I had questioned my father about the then candidate for president, Ronald Reagan.  How did we know that he would do all that he claimed he would do if elected?  My younger brother went further and asked how we knew this wasn't the greatest 'part' he'd ever played.  My father was appalled that we could even ask the question, but that's what teenagers do.  They question.  They demand answers, especially to questions that don't have definitive answers.

So we pressed even further.  How could we be certain that any of our leaders weren't just actors?  This was not all that long after Watergate and Richard Nixon.  If teenagers questioned before, and they did, they really questioned everything after that.  My brother's question:  How did we know that Billy Graham or any of the other religious leaders weren't playing a part, weren't doing exactly what Nixon and his buddies did?  I thought my dad might actually blow a fuse and I can't tell you exactly what his response was but I remember that he was aghast that we would even consider asking the question.  "Everyone 'knew' that Billy Graham was a man of God."

I remember thinking that we were right to question and not accept on blind faith that which was presented to us.  Unfortunately, we had learned our lessons the hard way from our leaders that assuming that they were always to be trusted was foolish and fool-hearty.  Now, I have to be honest and tell you that, at that time I had watched Billy Graham only minimally when visiting my grandmother who watched him religiously (pardon the pun) whenever he was on television.  To me he was like all other ministers except for some reason he had a large-enough following to be on television.  He must have something special because presidents called him to their office.  His name was easily recognized by almost everyone.  There were other evangelists, but his name was far better known than most others.  It was only a few years later that Jimmy Swaggert had his fall from grace.  It seemed that our point had been made.  How do you know that God is real, that he's not just in stories?

That's been a few years ago now (if you ask my son WAY more than a few), and I've learned a lot since those youthful days.  I've learned that God has been and always will be here.  He was there when we were questioning.  He's been there when our children were born.  He is here now as the tables have turned and I am being questioned by my son.  You see, the difference today is that I can see evidence of Him in my life, working and keeping us both safe, every day.  I can feel him here and when I become still and really listen, I can hear Him talking to me, guiding and directing me.  It's only when I move away from Him that there is distance between us.

I remember when my son was nine or ten years old, overhearing a conversation he was having with my aunt about how much he enjoyed listening to Joel Osteen on television on Sunday evenings.  I was amazed, first of all because he was supposed to be asleep in his room at that time, but also because I had no idea that he would watch anything like that on television.  He talked about how Joel helped God to be real for him. 

I have no doubt that my son will follow his own path back to God one day soon.  It will be his journey full of trials and errors and faith and hope.  Just like his mother and his uncle, he will decide for himself that God is absolutely real and not just in stories and one day, hopefully not too soon, he will be answering questions from his children about knowing God.

Blessings to you all on this Good Friday! 

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