No Walk in the Park
But beauty and need do not make something true. I longed for the Bible to be true, but the intellectual evidence was still insufficient.
So I plunged headlong into apologetics, devouring debates and books from many perspectives. I read the Qur'an and Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion. I went through The Skeptic's Annotated Bible and looked up Christian rebuttals to apparent contradictions. But nothing compared to the rich tradition of Christian intellect. I'd argued with my peers, but I'd never investigated the works of the masters: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Pascal, and Lewis. When I finally did, the only reasonable course of action was to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But my head and my heart suddenly switched places. Though I began to know the evidence for the Scriptures, my head full of answers, I began to feel distant from the story that had brought me to tears a month prior. When reading through the Passion narrative on retreat on Cape Cod in the spring, I remained utterly unmoved. I went out to pray.
I walked to a pond surrounded by trees and began praying by the water's edge. I felt disconnected from God, from the friends I'd begun to hold dear, from my body itself. I begged God to make it all click, as a test for me to know that he was there. After an hour with no progress, I started to walk.
Following the pond to a stream, I began climbing through the surrounding thicket to see if I could reach the ocean a little ways down. I kept pausing, thinking, Do I want to go back? I left all my stuff behind. But each time, I renewed my steps, believing that I couldn't quit until I'd made it to the end. I wouldn't forgive myself if I just gave up and went back to where I'd started. I had some sense of direction of where I needed to go, but I didn't know how to get there.
I climbed over branches and under bushes, sometimes going in the opposite direction for a while when the bramble grew too thick. I treaded lightly through marshes only to have the mud swallow my leg up to the knee. After pulling myself out, I started walking through the stream, since I figured I couldn't get any dirtier, and the ground seemed to be most trustworthy along the middle of the river where the water had worn the path. So I followed it until the last light of day was waning.
I quickly realized that my journey through the briar patch was an apt metaphor. I'm trying to get somewhere, but I'm not sure how to get there. There's no clear path, so I must proceed by trusting my instincts. I might even go off in the opposite direction for a little while. In the end, I may arrive right back where I started. But that's okay too, because I'll get there with a clearer head and everything will be waiting for me when I'm done. It won't be easy. Sometimes I'll get mired in the mud, or caught up in thorns. But I'll make it through, though not without a few cuts.
If I wanted to continue forward in this investigation, I couldn't let it be just an intellectual journey. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). I could know the truth only if I pursued obedience first.