Triggered by my son's 20th birthday, I'm still thinking about how different I am now from the young woman who gave birth to her first child then. With all her old dreams in tow. With her rigid picture of what a Christian mother and a Christian family should be and should look like. My faith was real and deep then, but it is so much more so now. I have been thinking about the difference.
My faith feels much more sound now. I've been disabused of many illusions. Of the false sense that faith would insulate me from suffering somehow, instead of guide and sustain me through it. I'm not jaded exactly, and not bitter, because I choose not to be. I am much less strident and demanding. Much more at peace and settled on the inside, and more 'grim' in the sense of being determined, and capable of following faith through to the end. I'm much more strong, not easily shaken. I can endure much, if I must--and sometimes one must. Because now I know, not only theoretically but in real, lived experience, that Christ is with me so completely. This is something I feel all the time. There is a togetherness on the inside of me--he is in me and I am in him, until the two become intertwined. I can no longer really tell where one ends and the other begins.
To a few that could sound blasphemous. I do not mean that I am equal to God or god-like in any sense. What I mean is that he has shared himself with me, has chosen to join himself to me: Probably only a teeny tiny bit of himself, only as much as I can stand. But I feel him with me all the time. I sense his thoughts and his emotions about the various things I face. I am no longer operating as "just me", a person alone trying to her best to call out to a god who exists somewhere "out there."
Those who know me know that I live this out in a halting and imperfect way. I certainly demonstrate many sinful traits, like impatience, intolerance of others, basic selfishness, and the like. As the Bible says, we have this treasure in earthen vessels. We are jars of rough, ugly clay, containing within a treasure of priceless, incomparable beauty. For now, the two things exist side by side. Someday we will be all beauty. For now Christ dwells in me, but I am still in this body, in this flesh, which is prone to sin. But there is so much grace in Christ. He knows exactly what I am, and yet he accepts me and chooses to dwell in me anyway. The Bible tells us there is no condemnation in Christ--only perfect love, which casts out all fear, and covers a multitude of sins.
I know more about the end, and where I am headed. The incredible beauty and reward and relief of heaven. The justice that will, in time, come. It makes a difference to know that, when we suffer evil down here on earth.
I know that what looks like the case is often not the case. And that people are a thousand times more complex than they seem on the outside. And that the effective grace of God is mysteriously and thoroughly working in and through every single thing that happens, even the darkest, most evil things, though this is often unseeable and unknowable to us. We get little glimpses though. We get to taste and see, a little. And that is enough to go on.
The joy and the love of God is so deep, so pure, and so absolute, in the end it will bubble up and burst through every other thing. The wonder is that he chooses to share his joy with us, when we are so tiny, so barely capable of understanding, receiving, and acting upon it. That God invites us in to this joy, that he wants to share himself and his life with us, is staggeringly amazing. Why does he do it??? Simply because he is good, and he loves us with the tender, unbreakable love of a parent. As a parent, we can understand a little. Even when our children disappoint us terribly, or say and do things that are downright cruel, we still love them. So God has made a way for us to come back, to share his home with us, to experience his love and joy. At unthinkable cost to himself. We can hardly grasp the cost.
Yet he paid it gladly, and would pay it again. This is what we celebrate at Eastertime.
I wish more people could see that the Christian religion is not the oppressive, ridiculous thing we have often made it out to be. It is instead a routeway to freedom and joy.
So much freedom, to be and do whatever God made us to be and do, it is absolutely terrifying, really. Perhaps that is the real deterrent underneath the other objections people voice about coming to God.