Posted by: 15shekels | August 21, 2009

Do you take the non-believers?

Part II: what if I don’t believe?

“I believe the faithful fell, didn’t know their way back
So far away from home, but brother we’re not alone
And I promise to climb back up here to you
Waiting for this message coming through…
Do you take the non-believers? ‘Cause I’m a non-believer…”
–La Rocca, “Non-believer”

Speaking of sweet paradoxes, here we meet the self-proclaimed non-believer … as he addresses God. I remember it — that soaring hope crushed under doubt and skepticism. We want so badly for the fairy tale to be true. But no matter how hard we squeeze our brains, we just can’t produce trust and belief. The angst is most acute, I think, when we feel that we used to believe, and then somehow lost it. And why wouldn’t we think that way, when we learn about Jesus and Santa Claus in one breath? Of course when one card falls the whole house will collapse. What makes Jesus different? How do we know Christianity isn’t a fable created to keep us warm at night?

“I believe the faithful fell, didn’t know their way back…”

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” -Psalm 13

“Where were you when everything was falling apart? all my days were spent by the telephone that never rang, and all I needed was a call that never came…” -The Fray, “You Found Me”

We all have different barriers to belief. Perhaps we can’t believe in a God who doesn’t remove pain from our lives. Perhaps we can’t believe in a God who supposedly came to earth as a man and performed miracles. Perhaps we think the concept of a saving God has sprung out of our love of fairy tales and adventure stories (we never consider that our love of fairy tales and adventure stories may have sprung out of dormant knowledge of the ultimate story, of Jesus the ultimate hero). But despite these barriers, we are intrigued. Perhaps in a moment of weakness we let a tearful prayer slip out. Whatever the reason, we have the non-believer who catches himself talking to God, the non-believer who wants to believe. And the non-believer looks at the barriers to belief and either throws up his hands in defeat, or resolves to conquer them.

“…And I promise to climb back up here to you…”

Yet when we try to climb to God, we are like babies trying to climb up a parent’s leg into their arms. We can’t do it. Our sin and our doubt pushes us back onto the ground.

We forget that we are in fact infants, and can only cry out for our parent. We forget that belief isn’t an achievement, it is a gift. As I discussed in the previous post, we can strengthen belief by reading the Bible, studying the evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. I promise it will stand up to the closest scrutiny. But belief is a gift. And belief is produced by the Holy Spirit, not by us. When we cry out, God the parent leans down and scoops us up. La Rocca’s doomed resolution to climb back up is followed in the same breath by surrender: “waiting for this message coming through.”

So I guess the short answer is: no, God doesn’t take the non-believers, at least not as non-believers. But just as Jesus turned 5 loaves of bread into hundreds, and water into wine, He (who died to show us the way back into a relationship with God) will turn our non-belief into belief, if we ask Him to.

In other words, we don’t have to wait until we have conquered our doubts and strengthened our belief to come to God. Instead we can cry out in full honesty- “Do you take the non-believers? ‘Cause I’m a non-believer…” We can cry out to God, even if we think there’s only a 1% chance He exists to hear us. “Help me with my unbelief!” What do you have to lose, really? If He isn’t there, nothing will happen. If you don’t expect an answer, what are you afraid of?

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'” -Luke 15:3-6

…And I can tell you from experience, the view is a lot clearer from up on the shepherd’s shoulders…

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