A beautiful spring day, tea at a friend's, great conversation. Some of my favorite things wrapped up together. Later, as I really should have been getting home, my friend's husband came home from work, and the conversation continued. Somehow the conversation wandered to books written by people who, even weeping and gnashing their teeth, turned their backs on faith. Articulate, honest people who looked around at this world and began to question why a life of faith didn't seem to make a difference in people's behavior and attitudes. They saw Christians every bit as petty, mean and even cruel as non-Christians. Christian divorce rate isn't substantially lower than that of non-believers, and abuse, neglect, all kinds of malicious and lascivious behavior are also rife in the church. Oddly, the truth of this doesn't bother me. I mean, I know what raw material God has to work with in these much beloved Creatures He made on the sixth day. I know what I'm capable of, what ugliness is contained within my flesh. And I know I'm not alone in such filth. We are, after all, Adam's sons, Eve's daughters. So the question I asked my friends, the one begging to be asked is, "How are you different than you would have been without Christ?"
One of my friends said that he's considered this before, and thinks he wouldn't have been much different.; His father was a moral, honest man of integrity and my friend thinks he would have followed in his father's footsteps. But I can see clearly the huge gap between what I am and what I might have been if I hadn't thrown off my fishing nets of non-belief and followed Him. I look backwards and know. Without Him, the rampant insecurities of my mother, the manipulating control of my grandmother, the pettiness of my own self would have combined to choke out healthy relationships. I look at what might have been and see a Grand Canyon distance between that self and this Holy-Spirit indwelt one.
One of the worst seasons of my life was my first foray into graduate school. I'd come home from the university town where I'd gotten my undergraduate degree as close to a broken reed as one still standing upright can be. A broken engagement had shattered everything I thought was true. I'd thought I'd heard God telling me that man was His plan for me, and I was clearly wrong. Dead wrong. So as I enrolled in the graduate English program at WSU, I decided to try the now unconscionable-- living without considering God. And I have to tell you, it was an empty, terrible time. Living without Him turned out to be more impossible than living without that man. And if you knew me then, you know how impossible it seemed to live without that person. But the blankness of life without God was intolerable to me. Looking back, it feels like long season of hibernation, but I don't really think it was very long. Sooner, rather than later, I was pulled back into relationship with Him. And I think it was like sinking into reality for me. The most real thing in existence for me is Someone who I cannot see, might not even hear. But even my bones know is TRUE.
It didn't matter then if He made a difference in my life. It didn't matter if I was happier, more moral or at peace or anything else people say they're searching for. It only mattered that He was. It's because He is that my allegiance was due Him. It didn't matter if He ever did another thing for me.
I still feel that way. It occurred to me last night that at the moment my relationship with Him is a little like being in a room with a two-way mirror. I look toward that wall and only see myself reflected. Some deserts are like this, you know. But what I believe, what I stake my life on isn't what I see in the mirror, but that there is Someone--the ONE--on the other side of that wall, who sees me clearly and hears me when I offer my puny, uncertain prayers. He is and He's standing there, and His attention is on me. On each of us.
And I know that there are moments, when I press closely enough to that mirror that for a moment I see past the end of my nose, past my blemishes and flab, and there He is. In all His glory, all His beauty, all His magnificant brokenness, and He's looking at me.