At the time that it was suggested that I write my answer to the question Does God Exist?, I was reading a novel called Death of a Writer written by Michael Collins. It happens that the plot is about an author who writes the story of a college professor who tempts God into revealing himself by murdering a young girl. The coincidence of the novel and the request to know more about my own beliefs is not a small one, and the characters portrayed sent my mind in motion long before I put pen to paper.
The simple truth is that unlike many who are introduced to the Christian faith, I have not blindly followed God all my life. While I was born into a conservative Baptist family, baptized by the age of 9 and spent every summer memorizing scripture at Christian classes and Bible camp, I didn’t really “get” God until I was out of High School and living on my own with a divorce under my belt and several non-Christian skeletons hanging in my closet.
I went through a phase, a decade or more in length, when I tried to force God to reveal himself to me. If only I had some tangible proof that He was real, I promised to be a devout Christian the rest of my life. Although I never murdered anyone like the characters in Michael Collins’ novel, I am just as guilty of thinking that if God really did exist then smite and burning bushes would be far more commonplace. After all, how does God exist in tandem with a world that is so cold and unyielding?
My faith crept up on me after my divorce when I was buried under a heap of depression and self-doubt. Under the watchful (and judgmental) gaze of family, the difficulty of finding work in a lagging economy of a small town, my things packed up in a couple of suitcases and a few boxes like a fleeing refugee and no sight to the end of the madness of sleepless nights and emotional dead-ends, I felt desperate and lost. Financially, emotionally and socially drained I came to the end of my rope and stayed there for weeks, fraying the ends nervously while I contemplated whether to jump or climb back into the comfortable misery of a bad marriage.
It is always in our darkest hour that we find the answer to the question Does God Exist either by being lifted up by Him in hope and faith or being judged and persecuted by Him for our wrongdoings. (Yes, unlike many, I do believe He has an opinion on what we’ve been up to while we’ve been ignoring Him.) Luckily in my case it was the former, but it took a lot of burying my head in the sand before I learned to pay attention to it.
The moment my faith returned was a hot day in early July. I was staying with my great-grandparents while looking for work, and after applying for every job listed in the want ads across 3 towns for two months I hadn’t gotten a single call for an interview. I was down to less than $20 in my checking account, I remember this because I had tried to pull cash from an ATM and “Insufficient Funds” flashed and burned into my memory forever. I had lost my friends and felt alienated from the support of family. My great-grandparents were ready for me to move my things out of their guest room although I had nowhere to move them to, and my only companion (my dog) had come down with some sort of skin issue that I couldn’t afford to have checked out or corrected.
I cried for several days, nonstop, buried in a bed that wanted to oust me. Unable to sleep or eat because of my shot nerves and anxiety ridden thoughts. Finally, in the middle of the night on a Thursday I broke down and cried out, “God, I can’t do this any more! Please help me!” For the first time in my life, it didn’t feel silly to talk to God (or sob to him, as was the case). I quickly began to feel more relaxed, my calm returned, my tears subsided and I was able to sleep soundly for the first time in weeks. The next morning, at precisely 8 AM, the phone rang. It was a call back for an interview for one of the nearby jobs I had applied for the week I started looking for work. It was only part-time, but it was something, and I was ecstatic. I went to the interview and was offered the job. I silently thanked God for the blessing of this small opportunity. As I drove away from the interview, my cell phone rang. It was a call back from another office I had also applied at weeks before, for a full-time position that ended up being one of the highest paid positions in the County. I accepted the second job and began work immediately.
From that point on, my life changed. As I pondered the question Does God Exist, I learned that God listens, and works miracles every day, through the actions of others. And as I began learning to listen to God, I learned that He doesn’t just give – He expects you to return the favor. I suddenly found myself being urged to commit random acts of kindness for others, something I had a very limited capacity for previously. Suddenly all those scriptures I memorized as a child started to make sense, the question Does God Exist began to be answered over and over again, and I began to see for the first time the strands of God’s Love that connect everything and everyone.
Suddenly I realized that the reason God has stopped using plagues and burning bushes in response to our questioning of his existence and capability is that we are all so plugged in and tuned-out that we probably wouldn’t notice those Old Testament signals anyway. When plagues exist, we don’t become introspective to try to see what chain of events may have caused them, instead we appeal to modern medicine to find a cure and then discount the miracle of one being found to someone in the medical field “just doing their job”. When people believe that they are receiving guidance or messages from God, we don’t hesitate to usher them off to therapy and dull their senses with a myriad of capsules and tablets. When plants and animals evolve to adapt to our increasingly invasive existence, we drop the credit to Darwin instead of looking at it from the perspective of intuitive growth and design.
The simple truth is that God can be seen everywhere if one cares to look for Him. He listens and watches our every movement not as an adolescent boy watches over an ant farm, but as a parent watches over the growth of a child. And when we ask for help, provided we mean it in earnest and are willing to act on His reply, he offers us opportunities that we are not expecting. He continues to amaze me as each day passes, and I am thankful that I discovered the answer to Does God Exist when I did.