I was raised in a “believing” household. By believers I mean we were not atheist, we believed in God. We didn’t know Him very well, just that He is and that there is nothing or no one higher than Him. I endured Mass once a week even though the majority of the “service” was in Latin, a language completely foreign to me. The sermons were in English, during which I fidgeted through the non-relatable, unmemorable words and insufferable boredom. Then we got visiting priests with accents so thick you’d swear they were talking with marbles in their mouths. If it wasn’t for fear of reprisal from my parents, I would have gone and played on the playgrounds. Which I did. Mentally that is.
I had no idea what this longing was that seemed ever-present, yet elusive, in the background of my life and thoughts.
Have you ever gotten a craving for something, walk into the kitchen searching every cupboard and visually inventorying the entire refrigerator and freezer contents to find nothing that looked like it would satisfy the unnamed craving?
Um, salty, no. Sweet, no. Chewy, no. Well, maybe, what else is there in this house? I’d consider what fast food places were open, and how much effort was behind a late night of getting dressed and braving the streets already littered with thugs, thieves and drunks. And then just give up or munch on something that just doesn’t quite cut it. Have you ever been there? I can’t tell you the number of dissatisfying kitchen raids I’ve had.
It was some time later that I realized that those cravings, that distant longing, the ‘something’s missing’ and the, I-just-know-that-I-forgot-something sensations that I was experiencing was my spirit calling out in pain and loneliness because there was a deep void to be filled. And it wasn’t my stomach. I knew that I was on the outside looking in, but could not see clearly past the invisible barrier to understand what I was searching for. I began building a cocoon around me. I thought I was protecting myself from the missing puzzle piece but I was actually withdrawing, hiding. I had no idea where to turn to fill this void. Prayer in our family upbringing consisted of reciting a rosary, and prayers to Mary, never something personal, or so bold as to actually talk to God the way one would talk to a living person. All that reciting did zilch, nada, zip, zero to fill my void, my hunger. We had a family Bible but it was used for recording births, death’s, and first communions. To read it was unthinkable, that was for the priests! Not once were we ever told to read it from the pulpit, not even the suggestion came up, so I figured it was the priests job, not mine.
Years later, through my place of employment I met the equivalent of Peter and Paul. I mean, these dudes, all they could talk about was this Jesus they knew. I didn’t think it was possible that He could be the same Jesus that my dad often barked when he was really ticked off, or the one that occasionally was referred to at the church. Was this the same suffering, emaciated man-statue that I looked upon, nailed to a cross hanging smack-dab in the middle on the background of the altar area? The way these guys talked about their Jesus, you’d think they were talking about someone who’s house they just left for a merry visit, not the guy stuck to that huge cross, dying.
Then I met their Jesus. This was a deeply personal event that I will never forget on 12/30/1976 when I read the Bible for the first time. They had bought me the Bible and I was able to understand it, it had everyday language not this circulatory, dizzying ancient language. I listened to the guys explain about the need for a Savior and as they explained their faith, what I actually heard was a really deep, committed love for Jesus. I mean, these dudes sincerely loved Him. The only other time I have heard someone talk about someone else like that was from an engaged person who was so wrapped up in their future spouse, that their soon-to-be spouse was all they could talk about, their life literally evolved around their loved one.
They mentored me. We shared insights and revelations and I could not get enough of the Bible; this love letter from God Himself! There’s so much to learn in there! I think back and wonder what sort of predicament, what miserable mess I would be in had I continued that dead-end route of pseudo-Christianity. Yes, one can be an unbelieving believer. Or, put another way, a half-believer. I know from experience, that my early “Christian” days were unfulfilled and I was spiritually malnourished which manifested in rebellion, discouragement, stubbornness, an attitude that I was always right, and jumping from one relationship to another in the hopes of filling that need, that void, that hunger. None of the junk I did on my own satisfied, if anything it made matters worse.
About a month after receiving Jesus in my heart I felt like I wasn’t growing or understanding fast enough. I decided to fast from food and pray in the desert like I read about in the Bible; I took everything quite literally. So I went to the desert and stayed for 3 days. On day two I found a tiny stream from the neighboring mountains’ snow melt and I sat and read near the edge of the meager stream when I ran across the following verse:
Mark 9:23,24 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Wow! I could relate to that! I knew what it was to believe yet not believe; to half-believe. And as I read it over and over, I discovered that Jesus had picked up the doubting words of the father in the story. The question deciding was not Jesus’ power but the man’s faith. His faith has been shaken, and he is conscious of its imperfection. Therefore, he asks Jesus to remove all doubt and to grant him unquestioning faith. Making me think: One can do that, just for the asking? So I boldly went where I have never ventured before and pulled up the mustard seed of faith that I had and said aloud to Him, “You must know that I half-believe. Can You fix the bad half?”
I was overcome. I began to cry, my heart raced unreasonably. I knew that my soul was a filthy mess and I needed to get clean immediately. I invited Him again into my heart, recounted the horrible things I had done in my life including white lies to my siblings. I mean, I laid it all out there. Then I remembered reading about baptism and I had to have it. I went into the stream and splashed water all over me, it was only a few inches deep so I had no choice but to splash freezing snow melt all over me. And He knew my heart, my intention and thoroughly and completely blessed me right then and there. I knew it was the real thing, there was no drama from other people, so soft, emotional background music, I was all alone with my Jesus, and I was tingling with a power not of this earth and invisible presence that was undeniable.
Freezing, I sat on the hot sand, joyful and relaxing and I let my thoughts drift to pleasant memories. I was so happy and quietly singing a song to myself from one of the cassette tapes that my “missionary’s” from work had given me; “He’s the Lilly of the valley/the bright and morning Star/He’s the fairest of ten thousand/ everybody ought to know… when all of a sudden I realized I was no longer singing in English!
The Lord had blessed the tiny belief and faith that I gave to Him and baptized me in His Holy Spirit as well!
I have since gotten re-baptized in a church, not that I needed to, I wanted to. The Lord Jesus has been faithful to me throughout all these years. I truly wish I could say that I had been faithful to Him in return but I can’t. None of us are perfect and I’m at the top of that list. But the wonderful news is, He forgives. His love does not waver, nor is it something that we can earn. It’s a true and pure and unconditional love that we will never experience from a fellow human.
Whatever our “desert experience” has been in life He will meet us there, and He brings with Him a refreshing, cleansing stream of salvation, ours for the asking. Nothing can compare to recognizing our unbelief for what it is. He has given every person a measure of faith, the Bible says so. It is up to us to pull it up by its boot straps and apply it.
He faithfully “fixes” the unbelieving part when we ask.
Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
Be blessed my friends! For helpful information on the plan of salvation click this link. http://ow.ly/kSqSd from our About page. We are here for you, however we can help direct you in your full belief!
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