When I was a young man I was beset with dogs yammering at my soul and wanted to find some relief; dogs of uncertainty and doubt, of self-denial and confusion; dogs of anger and bitterness, regret and a gnawing despair. After the heady days of youthful possibilities I faced a future of limited alternatives. I went looking for answers. In a moment of what I considered at the time to be rare idiocy I called upon God, if He even existed, to show me the way.
Much to my surprise, He showed up. What is that like? Well it is like walking through a sedate and cultured park with all these yapping dogs at your heels and you shout out for help and a lion shows up. All the lion has to do is roar and the dogs run for the hills. But there you are, in a sedate and cultured park face to face with a lion. Not, as C.S. Lewis would say, a “tame” lion, but a wild and astonishingly real lion, awesome in a way that makes you both fearful and honoured by his presence.
Just his presence (Beside you? Inside you? It is hard to tell at such a moment) changes you; makes you aware of a reality far more vast that you have ever imagined, and you are changed. In that timeless second you are changed for all time. Those without faith have no idea of the power of that encounter. You could torture me and I could no more renounce the experience of it than I could consciously stop my heart from beating. That incident was over 30 years ago, and yet it is fresh and clear in my memory as the words I am typing at this moment. That encounter has driven me into the most amazing adventure of life and sustained me through a thousand obstacles.
I do not deny that my particular “brand” of faith – Evangelical Protestant Christianity – has its problems. But I would hold that all of its problems come from the fact that imperfect people like me are trying to come to grips with a reality and a truth that far outstrips our capacity to understand or implement it. I sincerely apologize if I or anyone who has held a like precious faith has hurt or insulted you in their ignorance and incomplete understanding.
But despite our faults, the reality and the truth remain. They are out there. God Himself is out there. And the truly astonishing thing is that He actually wants to meet us: stupid, broken, angry, dysfunctional people, who like myself are so full of their own self-importance they cannot see the universe in front of them. God wants to meet you. But don’t go looking for that encounter lightly, because it will change you irrevocably, and you may not want to be changed.