My senior year in college was an interesting one for me when it comes to my faith journey. I had just finished a summer working as a camp counselor in North Dakota where the questions my young campers asked humbled me and reminded me of how much I still had to learn about God. I had a roommate who was struggling with some really hard stuff to which I could offer no answers. The reality of needing to find a job in the spring loomed large for someone who had always planned on going to medical school before switching course at the end of her freshman year to study psychology instead of biology. When you put all that together, I had some questions for God.
My senior year in college is also when I learned that getting the answer to one question about God often lead, not to more answers, but to more questions. While I never doubted God’s existence or lost my faith, I had a lot of questions about how we could say we knew what we did know about God. How could we know for sure he was Father, Son, and Spirit? How could we know for sure He had been there at the moment of creation? How could we know for sure Jesus was both the fully human and fully divine Son of God? How could God be never changing and yet still relevant hundreds of years ago AND today? How could God be everywhere at once?
These questions and many more kept rolling around in my brain day after day, week after week, month after month and the people I normally turned to for answers had none for me. If anything, they were a bit concerned that I was asking such questions. Several times I was told, “We just know,” or “God just is.” Not helpful answers then. Not helpful answers to those asking such questions today.
In midst of my search for answers I learned that finding people who are willing to ask the questions and search alongside you for answers are incredibly valuable and wise friends. They are people who think deeply about faith and who understand that no matter how many answers you come up with, there will still be more questions to ask in an attempt to more fully understand God.
At one point towards the end of my school year, as spring was starting to arrive to my western Minnesota college campus, I hit a point with God where I needed one answer. At the time, the Catholic Church in town was open 24/7 making it a popular place for my friends to go to for prayer in the overnight hours for both privacy and keeping the peace with roommates who were sleeping. After a long day of classes, meetings, working, study groups, paper writing, and generally being a college student, I found myself in that church as I walked home from campus in the late night hours.
Honestly, I was at a loss as to what to pray. Everything was so big and overwhelming in that moment. Everything was so confusing. I made my way to the front of row of pews and quietly sat down in the dark church lit only by a single candle and a single light softly illuminating the risen Christ on the cross before me. The prayer I came up with was simple.
“God, I just need to know one thing that will always be true, no matter what. I’m just going to wait here until I can know that.”
And then I just made myself comfortable and waited in the silence and darkness. God’s reply came in the midst of the waiting that night and it was simple.
“I love you.”
Direct. To the Point. Enough.
As life has thrown me various curve balls since then, some minor, some shaking the very foundation of my faith once again, I have always come back to that basic truth. Nothing has ever been able to cause me to doubt that truth in my life. Each time the dust settles, the truth of God’s love for me is still there.
I can’t say I would care to repeat that year of my life given the chance but I will say I wouldn’t trade it. I learned a lot about who I was and what really mattered to me. I learned that there is a lot of value in knowing the basics deeply and being able to share them clearly.
In the midst of these last few months, where life has been constantly throwing everyone curve balls, this lesson is what keeps coming up my mind. From COVID-19 to confronting racial injustice to a hurricane popping up the state of IOWA, nothing has been what we expected 2020 to look like.
Yet God’s truth does remain the same. And, for me at least, God’s truth is most clearly found in the most basic statements and expressions of our faith. So in the coming weeks, are going to look at the Lord’s prayer and the basic truth of God it reveals. It’s a beautiful prayer we too often rush through without thinking about what we really are saying when we recite it. And it reminds us of a lot of basics: God is our Father, there is something beyond this world, we need God’s help to live a holy life, and eternity (just to name a few).
In the midst of continued uncertainty, cancelled plans, and a new way of living our normal, daily life, I hope you’ll join in on this journey of going back to some of the basics of our faith as we look at the Lord’s Prayer.
Get familiar with the Lord’s prayer as it is found in scripture. In can be found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.
What is one thing you know to be true regardless of what is happening in your life at the moment? How are you reminded of that truth when life gets hard?
What are some of the harder questions you have had about God and faith in your life? Who has been part of you finding an answer or learning to be at peace with the search for an answer?