I struggle. I am full of doubt. I am critical. Why am I still a Christian?
Michael Han // May 18, 2022, 12:58 am
"Christianity offers more than second chances, it offers the grace of a Life once lived, a story once told, and a Cross once borne," writes Michael Han. Photo by Cottonbro on Pexels.
Why am I still a Christian?
There have been some who asked me that question. Just a handful of people who know me, intimately, and for a long time.
They know I am full of doubt. They know I am stubbornly critical. They know I read more un- and anti-biblical books from militant atheists than I read the Bible. They know I am struggling with God more than I struggle with the devil.
People ask: “Isn’t it easier to just take a break from the faith and go sort things out?”
They ask: “Why bother, Mike?
“Isn’t it easier to just take a break from the faith and go sort things out? Take a sabbatical – the Church doesn’t need someone who puts her down more often than lifts her up.“
I can go on and on about my hypocrisy, my pride, my jealousy, my greed and so on.
Most damning of all is the way I defend atheists, decry the Church, shine a dim light on her pastoral leadership and their hypocrisy, and even stand with gays for the treatment they have been receiving by those who are supposed to love their neighbours as themselves.
Well, to be honest, for the past few years, especially after I took up some leadership role in my church, I have been asking myself the same question: “Why am I still Christian?”
A journey over a lifetime
At times, I can’t put my finger on the answer. Nor can I can defend my faith as robustly as I am called to do so in 2 Timothy.
That said, I am still an idealist at heart, and an old one at that.
Let me be clear. Age matters. Experience counts. The years and decades do add up.
The young idealist struggles more with his/her impulses, the old idealist tempers it. The young idealist sees visions and dreams dreams, the old idealist lives through them and knows that they are not all it’s hyped up to be.
And you seldom catch the young idealist saying: “I am disappointed (or angry) with God”. But the old idealist tells it as it is: “God, I am disappointed with You. You could do better.”
The young idealist sees visions and dreams dreams, the old idealist lives through them.
Although the old idealist sometimes longs for the enthusiasm of the young idealist, that thought is however dispelled away with a chuckle because it often leads to filling up the head with pride more than the heart with gratitude and humility.
At times, our zeal burns us up and takes us down. We start with the spirit and end in the flesh. For how do we rein in a mammoth or a fishhook a whale?
But let me also be clear that I am not despising youth. The beauty of youth will never die. Whenever I see my son and daughters, I see the sterling hope of the future. I am just being selective with my distinction (between a young idealist and an old one), for age can harden hearts too. It can ossify the soul.
A balance or moderation in all things is the way to a holy life, that is, one where redemption saves the soul in a continually overcoming lifetime journey. I guess that is another subject for another day.
Light for the path
Anyway, I bring this up because it is relevant to why I am still a Christian. Jesus says He is the Light, and that carries much significance for me. Light lights up the way – even in the darkest pathway of life, and even if it is just one infinitesimal tiny step ahead.
To me, that is grounded idealism of a Life that has shown the Way, the Truth and, well, the Light.
Every lesson learned is a lesson of growth. Every lesson denied is a lesson to be experienced until it becomes a lesson learned.
His life matters, and it mattered enough for billions to have heard of Him and to have been transformed by Him – even today.
That light is an ideal of hope, and it makes my valleys accessible. Imagine groping in sheer darkness, not knowing your next step. What then is faith or hope good for if the next step is a step into another abyss because you have no light to guide the way? What are bright colours good for if you don’t have the light to bring it to life?
That light is internal, and its glow is personal. It’s intimate nurturance and responsibility. It is where the internal meets the eternal. And yes, I pay for my fall, just as I rejoice in my rise. That is what Christianity means to me: It is an invitation into a narrative, and the story unfolds the way it unfolds for me to draw lessons from.
Every lesson learned is a lesson of growth. Every lesson denied is a lesson to be experienced again and again, until it becomes a lesson learned.
A God who illuminates and redeems
Christianity offers more than second chances, it offers the grace of a Life once lived, a story once told, and a Cross once borne.
Christianity offers the vision of a God who is able to fulfil the deepest longings of the human heart.
It’s not a redemption brochure, printed on glitzy paper and handed to you by a smiling advertiser. It is redemption fought and won by a Life freely offered to the bloody hands of revenge.
For far from a lottery strike, like the prosperity preacher would preach about, it is a Life coping with trauma, and from there, overcoming without the drama.
Indeed, in that long shadow before the light that casts it, Augustine was right when he said Christianity offers the vision of a God who was able to fulfil the deepest longings of the human heart: “For You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
Let me end with this thought by social activist and French philosopher Simone Weil:
“If I light an electric torch at night out of doors, I don’t judge its power by looking at the bulb, but by seeing how many objects it lights up. The brightness of a source of light is appreciated by the illumination it projects upon non-luminous objects. The value of a religious or, more generally, a spiritual way of life is appreciated by the amount of illumination thrown upon the things of the world.”
Augustine was right: “For You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
When the firemen who were working day and night to rescue those trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Centres after the 9/11 attacks were asked what kept them going amidst the chaos and screams, they replied: “Look at the rescued.”
That is where the illumination is, a life delivered; a life saved; a life – even if it’s only one soul – guided to safety.
The truth is, our bulb is cracked in many places. At times, it refuses to shine. It is tired. It is jaded. But, when we do shine, through the cracks, the flaws, it gives light, however dim, to a soul crying for hope, a human touch and connection. Even in its dimmest, it is still the brightest at its darkest.
And that is what Simone meant by “a spiritual way of life is appreciated by the amount of illumination thrown upon the things of the world”.
For if we choose to see that illumination, how it has made the difference, at least for that moment, we would appreciate the life that shines, even in all its brokenness, and in turn, deeply appreciate the source of that Light that has never stopped shining for all.
That is the hope of Christianity, it’s shining ideal, and the reason I am still a Christian.
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