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Monday, November 20, 2023

God and me: How I found my faith again

I wish that I could tell you, faithful readers (all two of you) that my spiritual life is one that has been a beautiful one.  A life that has somehow escaped all trouble and heartbreak.  This month is the twenty-seventh anniversary of my first coming to having faith in Christ.  And you would think that all of that time would have resulted in... well, something beyond losing that faith and having to go through agony over and over again.

Yeah, you might think that.  And you would be horribly wrong.

I well remember the first ten days or so after my salvation.  The joy that I felt, at having confronted something that had been holding me back and beating that (or so I thought at the time).  And then it was like I plunged headlong into darkness that I still have a hard time believing is really there, waiting to swallow us whole.

Nobody told me that the Christian life is going to be like this.  If they had, I might have seriously reconsidered whether this was the life for me.  Thankfully, God put really amazing people into my sphere of things, who counseled me and encouraged me and discipled me.  I have not forgotten them, though it seems the years have taken their toll on some things.  But I digress.

To channel toward brevity, I will sum it up thusly: my spiritual life has been one disaster after another.

Being attacked spiritually (there is no other way to put it).  Then the manic depression that arose a few months after graduating from college.  The destroyed marriage.  The failure to have any sense of life worth living, losing my parents and then losing another relationship that I had hopes for... all of these things and more took their toll.  To be honest I don't know why I've stuck with the label of being a "Christian".

Identity means something to me.  If I am something then I can say that I am.  If I'm not, I will readily deny that is part of me.  "Christian" is something that for whatever reason I was reluctant to let go of.  It did identify me, even if I failed in my part to identify with it.

So let me sum up, again: this past year has been a very difficult one for me.  I had to leave a job that I loved dearly because of how bad the economy has sucked away at my resources.  I went to work at another job, one that paid immensely more.  That however lasted a week and a half: medication I take made it extremely difficult to have fine finger movement at a fast pace (yeah, even though I type at about 60-70 words a minute).  From there I was employed for two months at a manufacturing plant and that job I lost because of reasons that, well, there was an out-of-court settlement that I'm legally bound to not go into.  Then came the substitute teaching job that lasted all of two days, after I was accused of teaching chemistry students how to make high explosives.  I then found work at a supermarket.  After THAT I found work again, this time for three days (let's just say that my nervousness about the environment got the better of me).

So that's, what... five jobs I've had in the span of twelve months?

Then there were situations that arose during this time.  The worst has been a few weeks ago when Tammy, my miniature dachshund, hurt her back.  She required veterinary care and medication.  She's also been firmly instructed to NOT jump up and down from furniture anymore (an instruction I am trying hard to enforce).  Thankfully she is soon going to have a set of ramps tailor-made to her specifications that will let her climb up and down from the sofa and bed.

Oh, there were resources to draw from.  There was an inheritance I got from my late aunt's estate.  And the settlement.  But otherwise I have been clinging by my fingernails, trying to hold on.  And had it not been for God sending some very precious friends to assist, Tammy and I would likely not have a roof over our heads and food to eat.

Factor in that my mental health has had its ups and down throughout this time.  I'm not having the worst of the depressive or manic episodes, thankfully.  But they still come unbidden when I need them the least.  This past weekend, I went through a minor depressive episode.  It manifested itself in a number of ways.  Here it is Monday morning and I'm feeling much better.

I guess all this is a roundabout way of saying something that I've heard before in my life, but in the past few weeks and months have discovered its veracity first-hand: you don't know how much you really have, until you have nothing.

I am probably the most destitute person in my particular sphere of friends.  Actually, I know that I am.  And yet right now I feel more blessed and THANKFUL than I ever have in my entire life.  I do have amazing friends.  I have Tammy.  There is shelter.  There is food and there is gas (though I am keeping my driving about to a bare minimum).  There is always the promise of new and maybe even better employment...

 And most of all, I have my faith again.

And I hope and pray and even truly believe that it will stick with me this time.

The past few weeks, I've found that I'm not questioning God anymore, or at least as much.  I've seen Him provide for our needs way too much than to doubt Him.  Have felt a peace that I have not known since those very earliest days of being a Christian.

I'm not just saying that.  A lot of my friends have noticed it, too.

What changed?  Did I somehow in spite of my weaknesses become some kind of "Super-Believer"?

No, I don't believe that I did.  I'm still just me, Chris Knight: failure in all the worst ways and general loser at life.

But I did change something up, and I believe it has made all the difference there can be.

What happened?

I changed how I pray.

In my prayer life I'm now talking, really talking, to God as if He were a person.  Because He is a person.  The most important person, even.

All my life I've seen God as if He were an unapproachable force of supernatural nature, that must be appeased absolutely or else.  And I guess He is that, still.

But it finally struck me that God, in every aspect of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - has made Himself available to us.  We only need reach out and speak to Him.

I'm not ready to say what it was that finally impressed that upon me.  It's actually something pretty trivial.  But it made me stop and reconsider how I pray.

So I began talking to God, not in an all-holy and overly-ritual kind of way.  But just talking to Him.  Asking Him to please hear me.  Telling Him what was happening in my life.  Telling Him my concerns.

For maybe the very first time I found myself not praying for things I don't have, like a family of my own (something I'm still hopeful for though I turn fifty in a few months).  Instead I was laying before Him my very present needs.  Things that needed to be addressed though I had no idea how that was going to happen.

I believe that God listened to me.

And I believe that God answered those prayers.

Like I said, Tammy and I are doing okay for right now.  Things could be MUCH better: I'm still desperate for employment.  But I've seen God at work and for the first time, I'm not doubting that He is behind that.  I'm not doubting that He does love and care for me, lumps and all.

If I'm to be honest, I can't really tell you the width and breadth of how much I have grown spiritually in the course of these past several months.  But I have grown, enormously.  And I hope that it's real and not a figment of my imagination.  Because I've found myself more thankful to God than I've ever been in my entire life and... I seriously hope it lasts.

Why am I writing this?  Well, I guess I felt led to, for one thing.

But I would be writing this anyway.  Because maybe if it has worked for me, maybe it will work for anyone.  Maybe even you, too.

Try talking to God.  It doesn't have to be in "holy prayer mode", for lack of a better term.  Just speak calmly with Him.  Lay out your heart to Him.  Tell Him what is troubling you.  Share with Him your needs.  Those are not necessarily your "wants", but what you require in the present.  Ask Him to provide for you, even if you can't see how that is remotely possible.  Ask Him to increase your faith, even if that especially seems impossible.

Doing that has changed my life in Christ.  Dramatically and drastically.  Perhaps it will change yours, also

And if you ever need a listening ear or just want to tell me how it's going with you, feel free to write to me at theknightshift@gmail.com.  I'm always happy to hear from someone who isn't telling me that payment is due, *laughing out loud*



Stosh said...

Beautifully written Chris. Thank you for composing this.