This week marked my spiritual anniversary. By this, I mean the date which I acknowledge as the day I came to faith. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to celebrate it in any tangible way, though I know some do with their own spiritual events. I can’t even say for sure that the date I recognize, June 6, is actually the actual date that I truly became a Christian. I look to this date because it marks an important and memorable spiritual experience for me.
It was twelve years ago. I was lying on the roof of my childhood home, the house I lived in for the first 21 years of my life. I stared at the stars while praying to God. Looking at the sky, I had a realization of how big the universe is. That is, I understood that it was bigger than I could possibly imagine. I was absolutely humbled by the thought. I felt small and insignificant because I realized that, in the grand scheme of things, I am small and insignificant. Any impact I could have on the world would be limited to this small blue speck that’s hurling through a space so much bigger than itself.
Despite realizing how inconsequential my existence was and is, I knew for certain in that moment that I was truly loved by the God who designed and created everything, including the enormous sky I was pondering. I had a strong awareness of His presence. I felt sincere, childlike faith.
When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man, that you care for him?”
Psalm 8:3-4 (ESV)
Perhaps this sentiment may seem trite to some. Even for myself, there are times that cynicism creeps into my thinking, leading to an unfortunate agreement with these individuals. However, when I recall an event such as this (and the others like it throughout my life), really thinking about what happened and the feeling I had at the time, my cynicism dissipates. It has to. This moment was real, and the other similar moments throughout my life were likewise real. My sensation of God’s presence was certain. My faith at that point was pure and genuine.
Apologetics is the branch of theology that deals with proving Christianity. It’s an entire field of study that includes logic, reason, and proofs. There’s a lot to it, to say the least. I’ve studied it a bit, both inside and outside of the classroom. It comes in handy a lot when having discussions about things of faith. Such debates come up from time to time, and I mostly welcome them. I see it as a good intellectual exercise to talk about and defend the things I believe while listening to the arguments of those who see things differently than I do.
One subject in these discussions that is not up for debate, though, is that of experience. I understand what I believe and why I believe it, based primarily on the historical evidence for Christianity, the Bible, et al. Yet my beliefs don’t rely solely on things of the past. There are instances I point to in my life where I had evidence of God’s being real to me. The evening of stargazing and prayer on my roof is one of them. One can attempt to argue the finer points of history and theology, but personal experience is ultimately unassailable. It is subjective, to be sure, but that’s the point. We all, as humans, have some level of belief in something, Christianity or otherwise. For each of us, our belief is subjective, at least to some extent. Such is the nature of faith.
When I have doubts about God or my faith, in addition to historical evidence, it’s these moments from my past, those in which I knew of God’s existence, that I look to for assurance. No one can challenge these because no one can tell me I didn’t feel what I know I felt.
I admit to experiencing a bit of wavering at the moment, as the season of my life in which I currently write this has me in a different place with regard to my faith. I’m obviously not the same 19-year-old who was filled with awe while looking at the stars. It’s not that I don’t still have faith and belief, but as I’ve grown older, I do admit that some of the luster of faith has been lost. Life has come in and done its best to beat down and damage my faith. In some instances, I admit that the world has had a level of success when it comes to destroying my faith. That cynicism I mentioned occasionally rears its ugly head.
I’m saddened by this, though it isn’t an indictment of God or of Christianity. Also, thankfully, these feelings aren’t overly frequent or all-encompassing. Moreover, rather than viewing this as purely negative, I see it as both the maturation of my faith and evidence for it. If my belief wasn’t real, I wouldn’t feel anything when I consider my waning amazement. I wouldn’t regularly long for a renewal of the childlike wonderment I once felt. I certainly wouldn’t do everything to hold onto that feeling in the instances I have it.
Furthermore, an event such as the evening described above would mean nothing to me. I’d likely view it as merely an example of childish foolishness. Instead, I see this as a moment in time in which I had communion with the Living God, the One who created the universe that so awed me that evening all those years ago. And so, rather than repudiating this memory, I long for it to come about again in another form.
I see this desire as evidence of persistent faith. For that, I am grateful, so I’ll acknowledge this anniversary with joy.
A pilgrimage is an intensely personal journey, but it is not one that a pilgrim undertakes alone. I don’t want to ‘talk’ into a vacuum. I want to hear other voices, too. What I’m trying to say is, I want feedback! Have I spoken something to you? Is there something you think I should know? Do you have a question about something I said? Please leave a comment below or contact me at Pilgrim.Brett@gmail.com.
Also, follow me on the Pilgrim Shelter Facebook page to stay up to date on any new releases and for information about future posts. Thanks for reading!