Just a warning, these devotionals are going to start out looking like a feel-good story. Then stuff is going to get real. Buckle the seatbelt!
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
…story carried forward from yesterday…
One of the people sharing the vacation house with us was a man who, for the sake of protecting his real identity, I’m going to call Jim. Jim and I both happened to be night owls and found ourselves sitting together on the back deck at night long after everyone else retreated to bed. As I said yesterday, we spent our first conversation just learning the basic details of each other’s lives: where we live, what we do for work, etc. When I told him that I was a pastor from Richmond, VA he perked up a bit.
Jim was incredibly conversationally generous. He was not condescending or insulting in any way, but was legitimately curious as to how a person could believe in God. I told him what I tell most people who ask me this: I do not have a good argument to make about whether or not God exists. I can reflect on my life and find a variety of places to which I can point and say, “There, I think that is God.” I do not think my experiences prove anything, but I believe, for whatever reason, that I have discovered God (or God has revealed himself to me, or some such thing as this) and that leads me to understand my life in light of the fact that I believe God exists.
Jim did not find this convincing and I did not expect him to because I was not trying to convince him of anything. For his part, he pointed to his own life experiences and various manifestations of evil in the world and said that for this reason God must not exist. He interprets his circumstances in light of the fact that he does not believe in either the existence or presence of a god of any kind. It was my turn not to be convinced but, then again, he did not expect me to be.
The beauty of this conversation, from my perspective, is that we could listen to each other and share without needing the other person to change in order to continue to engage in conversation and continue the process of becoming friends. I know how few people are even willing to talk to a pastor about their lack of belief in God and so I found Jim to be incredibly gracious to me. Based on his tone early in the conversation, I believe he expected me to be aggressive about trying to persuade him to take on my way of seeing the world. When that did not happen, he also relaxed. I can’t know this, but I hope what he felt in that moment was the same grace I felt he was extending to me.
More on this tomorrow.