As a callow eighth grader in small-town Illinois, I joined other classmates at a congregation in Elburn, Illinois to be confirmed as a member of a Christian church. Up to that point in life all my decisions about faith and God had been made by circumstance, not choice.
Yet I largely appreciated Sunday mornings at the Second Presbyterian Church in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When I returned to visit that building after thirty years away, I was so moved by the sight of those blue-hued stained glass windows that tears welled up in my eyes.
In high school I joined Campus Life, the evangelical youth organization staffed mostly by Wheaton College kids looking to share their love for Christ with kids just a little younger than they. I was a difficult student for them because I kept asking questions they could not answer in anything other than the confessional language they’d been taught. Plus I learned they did not believe in the theory of evolution. I found that naive and disturbing, because I had no problem viewing God as a spiritual force in the universe without anchoring the testament of love to a literal translation of scripture.
I’ve always thought that love was real and strong enough on its own to stand up to all sorts of material scrutiny. Hell, even the rock songs I listened to in high school and college recognized the fact that love would stop at nothing. You can’t control the damn stuff. It just is.
I’m not sure that I’ve exactly felt love for God, per se. More like grace appreciated. I find this world a largely wondrous place. I’ve had moments of absolutely overwhelming wonder at certain points in my life. I’ve also prayed and had things happen that were inexplicably linked to my needs at that moment.
Even as a competitive person, I’ve never prayed to God to help me win a race or anything of that sort. That’s my business. I figure God could not give a shit whether I win or lose at sports. That goes for everyone as far as I can see. Those people pointing fingers at the sky to Thank God for their victory may have their reasons, but God helping them win is not one of them.
Because that would be a grand breach of free will. The universe is clearly a random and unrestricted place. Despite biblical claims to the contrary, I don’t see evidence of God intervening supernaturally to throw weather around or cause earthquakes because gay people are having sex. Instead I see the impact of love and the lack of it, all around us.
Thus I find it far more useful and in keeping with the Kingdom of God to turn to one another after a race or workout and look people in the eye while saying the words, “How are you doing?”
That is the real journey with God we’re all supposed to abide. The Lord’s Prayer says as much. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Compete hard. Appreciate the grace of being able to do it. Then appreciate that grace by giving it to someone else. It’s the best thing you can do today, and forever.