Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Story of Faith

If I had to choose a defining moment in my life, it would be April 17, 1996 around 6 a.m.

The moment I held proof in my arms that God exists. 

This is what's on my mind today as we celebrate the Christmas season - the birth of Jesus Christ. You may have heard this story - I've told it on occasion but I wanted to share it again. (and yes, I know I have very close friends who don't believe but read along anyway:) 

The backstory:

Until that moment on a cold April day, I didn't believe in God.

Oh but I believed in Hell. 

I was about 10 or 11 the first time I went to church. A friend invited me to Sunday school and promised they'd have ice cream. Well then....count me in! We went and played games and the guy talked about a man named Abraham, a woman named Ruth, blah blah blah.....just get me to the ice cream. 

I went several times over the years to that Baptist Church (half my friends went there). I went just enough times to scare me into believing that I was surely going to hell. I listened to rock music, wanted to kiss a boy, and had thought mean things about my little sister. I didn't believe in God but thanks to that church, I certainly believed in Hell. 

And then there was the Catholic Church in town. It was beautiful, majestic, and seemed to hold powers inside its walls. The other half of my friends went there. I was jealous of the blessed palm fronds that they hung above their bed. I wanted palm fronds. I wanted the ash mark on my forehead. So I went. I listened to him talk about crucifixion and resurrection and being saved. 

And I smiled and trembled with excitement as I broke the rules and walked up to take communion. It was against all the rules and it felt really good. As I stood in line, I wondered if the priest would know. If he could detect that I hadn't been through the secret ceremony that would make me worthy of receiving the little cracker and the drop of wine. I wondered if I'd burst into flames. Again, I didn't really believe in God but I definitely believed something greater would punish me. 

And then, my friends explained confession to me. And it seemed silly. Unbelievable. I have parents and I could tell you that simply "confessing" your wrong-doings would certainly NOT just wash your sins away. And while I'd only been to church periodically, I was definitely learning that there were a LONG list of sins and even at 12, I was a sinner!!

Then I'd lay awake at night wondering how if there was nothing, there could be something and that something would create everything. Yeah, right. Nope, not a believer. 

And then I lost a few friends. And watched a few friends go through horrific things. And then felt the pain as I went through some terrible things. And I watched good people die and bad people live. And I'd wonder if there was a God why he didn't answer the three or four prayers I'd said in my lifetime. 

I rarely gave God another thought unless I was arguing with my religious friends...making fun of them. 

The rest of the story:
After hours of labor, the moment had come. It was April 17th in the early morning when the doctor told me I had a boy. They placed Marcus in my arms and I looked down into the eyes of this little being that had just come from me. I made some kind of motherly noise from deep within as I marveled at it and I remember his little blue eyes meeting mine. 

And my very first thought I remember with perfect clarity was....

"There really is a God!!" 

And for days, weeks, even now, I marvel at His magic. There's no way it could be explained by science alone. There's magic in the world and while I know the science behind it, there are some things that must have just a little piece of magic. 

Now I've never embraced "religion" or church. I despise the rules that seem to have no basis. I dislike the "ceremony" that doesn't seem rooted in anything that matters. And I really don't like the judgmental attitudes.

And I'm glad I finally know God without the fear of Hell.

So I celebrate Jesus' birth this holiday season. And the joy, magic, and hope that He brings to my life. Merry Christmas!

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