One of the most common questions that I'm asked when I tell people about my faith and the choices I've made as a result is, 'What if you're wrong?' 'What if there is no God?'
'What if when you die, you just end up as wormfood?'
'What if you're waiting to have sex and it turns out there is no God?!?! You're wasting years of potential sex time!!' [This particular perspective seems to be common among young men that I know.]
And yet it isn't something that scares or worries me. It would do if I felt that my faith was some sort of eternal pension scheme where I invest all my life here in the hope of a better one elsewhere; if I felt that following God limited my life or forbade me from living it to the full.
But it doesn't. For me, the Christian journey answers the most important question we all ask, 'What does it mean to human? To be alive?'
When understood like that, the choices I make have become weirdly natural. I've begun to enjoy mercy, grace, compassion … and even abstinance. Because they're not driven by fear, shame or guilt, they're driven by an understanding of myself and others that makes sense of this weird world in which we live.
Sometimes people ask me another question … 'If I could prove to you that Christianity was wrong, would you reject it?'
I honestly don't know. In that moment (and in moments when it seems like God is nowhere to be found), I find myself like Puddleglum the Marshwiggle in CS Lewis' The Silver Chair. He and three others have descended from Narnia into an underground kingdom run by a cruel witch. Their time there and a potion she has concocted has made them all doubt Narnia, made them begin to believe that the Underworld is the only world that they have ever known. They try to describe the sun to the witch but she says that they are like imaginative children playing a game.
'You saw a lamp so you imagined a bigger, brighter lamp and called it the sun. It's cute … but it's childish.'
What about Aslan? They try to describe him but she responds again,
'You saw a cat so you imagine a bigger and more powerful one. It's time to grow up and abandon these childish games.'
Puddleglum's friends begin to lose themselves in her words, to accept her version of reality, to give up on the world they were made for. But not Puddleglum. As hopelessness begins to take hold, he stamps his foot into the fire to remember who he is and where he's from. Shocked back into reality, he comes out with his gem:
“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. Even so, suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world that licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."
At the best of times, my faith is a guiding light, a passionate pursuit of a good and gracious God. At the worst, when dawn seems like it will never come and the beauty seems to have been sucked out of the world and I can't answer confusing and painful questions, it is faith the size of a Marshwiggle, 'setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the Overland.'
So if you came to me tomorrow and could prove that my faith was not true, that I was wrong to believe … I'm not sure I would. Not while it leads me to living and loving well. Not when it causes me to see the divine spark in even the most challenging people. Not while it helps me see beauty and hope in a world that so often lacks it.
Because, as Phyllis Tickle's young friend says, it's so beautiful it has to be true … whether it actually happened or not.
[Picture found on Google Image - Drawn by Jeffrey Murray]