On the eve of Conversations That Matter, I have dipped into a self-reflective state.
A bit of background first. Conversations that Matter (CTM) is something our team has adopted to, you guessed it, have conversations that matter. About truth. About life. About the tough stuff. It gives us a safe space to delve into topics that normally wouldn’t be breached in a classroom or brought up in normal conversation. It allows us to question what is often assumed.
It is also an instrumental part of my faith story.
CTM almost always starts with a question. And if I’ve taken anything away from my college experience, it is that asking good questions is absolutely essential to living a radical life, getting to know people on a deeper level, and discovering truth, whatever you might believe that to be.
In fact, that was the very first thing I heard on my very first day at Westmont College. A speaker at orientation told us wide-eyed freshmen that college was all about asking good questions, working to answer those questions, and then figuring out how to ask even better questions.
Who would’ve thought that something I learned on my first day would be something I’ve kept with me all these years? And it’s gotten me pretty dang far.
As an atheist, I was ALWAYS the one to ask the tricky, the uncomfortable, the slightly-pushy questions to challenge the Christian faith. I asked the questions that people would rather avoid, or the ones that hadn’t even crossed their minds. I took pride in absolutely owning that role at CTM. I was stubborn and strong-willed and determined to prove Christianity wrong. I wanted so desperately for my way of living to work…
Turns out that if you ask enough questions, the truth will catch up to you in the end. And it will be undeniable.
So… back to my self-reflective state.
I often wonder what I would tell my non-believing self this time last year? Would my atheist-self find my God-loving-self obnoxious and pretentious and full of sh*t?
Maybe. There is definitely a high possibility that my past-self would tell my present-self to shove it.
However, I actually don’t think I would tell myself anything. In typical Lauren fashion, I would ask two very important questions.
1) Why do you believe that God exists?
2) Why do you believe IN God?
I wouldn’t blame you if you said these questions seem oddly similar, because they do. But read between the lines, and like me, you’ll realize there’s a world of difference between the two.
Let me explain.
1) I believe God exists because I have personally experienced His presence. No amount of logical reasoning could convince me of God’s existence – evident because even after four years of analyzing the Christian faith, I had come out an atheist and not a Christian. So there’s that. Instead, I had to be “won over” both intellectually and emotionally. (Well, technically I had to be defeated intellectually, but that’s another story for another time). Truth hit me square in the face, and boy did I feel it. Like I said, it was undeniable. But it took four years of nonstop questioning, engaging in tough conversations, and listening HARD to people who cared about me.
2) But believing that God exists doesn’t necessitate that you believe IN Him. Sure, admitting His existence is no small feat, but choosing to let Him enter your life, and putting your faith in Him – that, my friends, is something else entirely. I believe IN God because, quite simply, I can’t freakin’ do it on my own. I just can’t. And so many times this year, when I’ve felt like I was at my breaking point (think on the edge of a metaphorical cliff people) I gave it all to God. Well, actually I kind of angrily threw it in His face, but you get the point. And He swooped in to cover my ass and pick up the pieces. I don’t know WHAT I would be without Him at this point.
Actually, I do.
I would be a prideful, broken, overly-analytical, cynical, self-deprecating perfectionist who believes wholeheartedly that love is conditional. I would be less than tolerable and have a pretty damn ugly personality. However, with God, I can still be broken, but I am also loved. And redeemed. And so much more capable of loving others UN-conditionally. I can wrestle with my imperfections and screw-ups with a much quieter judgmental voice in my head. I believe in God because I have to.
And so, I leave you with this. Ask questions. In all aspects of life. Be curious. In a world that would rather be divided and seems to relish alternative truths, asking good questions generates understanding, empathy and connection. Be willing to engage, and embrace, the tough stuff.