I grew up going to Sunday school ever Sunday, memorizing verses, memorizing catechism,
singing making a joyful noise in the choir, participating in dramatizations and skits, and listening to my parents read the BIG Storybook Bible every night after dinner.
I can recall the well-known stories of Creation all the way to the lesser-known stories like the one about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. There was a time when I could recite by memory John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world…”
I listened, memorized, and believed without question because it’s what I was supposed to do. Adults were telling me stories and telling me they were complete, literal truth.
As way leads on to way, I grew up. I moved out of my small, sheltered town, and I met people who were not one of the two religions that I knew: Reformed or Christian Reformed. I was even roommates with a couple Catholics. I know. Crazy.
Even though I pulled away from going to church, I never lost interest in religion. It fascinates me. Not just Christianity, but all religion. Where it comes from and how it is tied up in tradition, oral and written history, and politics.
When it seemed like God had left us–when Cortney’s dad died, we lost babies, and all the other loss and sickness–I leaned heavily on anything that seemed to “disprove” the stories of the Bible.
In college, I took a History of Christianity class. It was incredibly interesting. I tried to talk to my parents about it. I thought they would find it super interesting since they were so devout. But when I started bringing up the idea that perhaps the authors of the Bible weren’t telling literal stories about global floods and people-swallowing whales, my dad flipped out on me.
My dad wouldn’t discuss; he would only tell me I was wrong and that I wasn’t allowed to talk that way in his house.
I was stunned into silence, and I became less willing to talk about Jesus or church with my family. I became convinced that they would judge anything that didn’t fall into the realm of their literal understanding of the Bible.
(Years later, my dad’s reaction to my brother’s news that his girlfriend was pregnant would reveal just how ingrained it was in my dad’s character to being like Jesus, and my heart would change. But that’s another story).
The more I wrestled with what I knew to be true because of research and study and science, the more it seemed that I didn’t fit into any church. I just couldn’t believe something that was disproved over and over. I could not simply say, “I know actual science says something different, but I believe the earth and everything on it was created in seven 24-hour days as we know it.”
I believe God created science to make this world the beautiful marvel it is, but I don’t think it was exactly the way it was written in the Bible.
Even typing that makes me feel a little sacrilegious. I mean, you’re not supposed to say “I don’t believe what the Bible says,” right?
I don’t think a guy named Jonas got swallowed by a whale.
I don’t think there was a Garden of Eden.
I don’t think there was a flood and a guy named Noah put two of every single animal in the wold on a boat.
I do think these are important stories, and I believe the stories…without believing the stories. Does that make sense?
I believe it’s important to do as we are called to do or else things won’t go right.
I believe the world isn’t perfect because there are shitty things like cancer and hunger and poverty.
I believe that God is saddened by the shitty things we do to each other that cause things like cancer, and hunger and poverty, and that he won’t punish the whole for the bad of a few.
We are currently in the season of Lent where we wait and prepare ourselves for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I both believe and wonder. I have so many questions.
I know what I am supposed to believe blindly, but like Thomas, I need to see the nail marks on his hands and the sword wound in his side. I believe, but my academic, logical side shouts for something to hold on to–something that tells me this is all true.
And I think that like Thomas, that is Ok. That questioning for the purpose of wanting to understand and believe is Ok.
As of April 19, I will be an official published author! You can pre-order the book, Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss, to which I am honored to be a contributing author.