February 16, 2011
To move forward in a life with God, I have to keep moving forward in my faith. Thats not easy. Im an optimist by nature, but life many days makes me a skeptic and a cynic. Life makes me doubt. And so my faith comes and goes, ebbing and flowing like the sea I live beside.
I love the ocean, but it scares meI can’t always see what’s with me when I’m out there. The other night, I dreamt I could see through it, to see the sharks swimming below me. Sharks terrify me. I’m not sure why. I’ve never even seen Jaws. I think it comes from nightmares I had as a kid. Something would pull me into the deep, something I would look for but could never see. My legs would burn, like sliced by knives. Or teeth.
I did triathlons for five months last year. This involved swimming a mile across the channel separating Wilmington from Wrightsville Beach. It was terrifying. I got tired. My arms got heavy. I would remember my childhood nightmare and panic. But I was in the middle of it, with nowhere to go, forever from land on either side, and so my only option was to swim.
Faith is like that. More accurately, fear and doubt and skepticism and cynicism are like that. Faith is the thing that gets us to land. The other stuff is what nearly kills us while were out to sea.
To truly know our faith, to know the depth it reaches and the expanse it covers, we’ve got to swim through it. We’ve got to throw ourselves somewhere that we’re not sure we can survive.
To lose my faith, to forsake Christianitythis would throw my whole life into upheaval. But thats not what keeps me clinging to it. It is what made my doubt so powerful, so profound, but it’s not why I doubt no longer.
The truth is, I still doubt. Not always. But some days. Some days, I still think, “If God exists, then …” It’s not pleasant. But it’s human. And is it not our humanity that makes us capable of knowing the divine?
I feel more and more crazy every time I read the latest scientific study proving evolutionary theory and disproving miracles and this, that, and the other, basically laying out Christianity and belief in God as irrational and insane. Im rational. I want to be sane. But Ive accepted that maybe Im not. I see stories like those of the Villanova managers, the boys with cerebral palsy who help an elite college basketball team win. The coaches and players embrace and love them, despite their drooling and lack of muscle control and how they can only move by motorized wheelchair.
For reasons I can’t fully explain, in those stories I also see God. And so I keep the faith. Rather, the faith keeps me. And for that Im grateful.
As Paul wrote those two thousand years ago, right now all I can see is like looking through fog, but one day it’ll all fade away, and I’ll see Him face to face. I believe for a simple reason. I am no scientist. No expert of quantum mechanics. No psychic. I am but a simple man, a writer, one who puts into words the things I think, hopefully in ways that people can understand.
There is but one thing I know, without a doubt: The days I believe and the days I see God are more beautiful and more full and more alive than the days I do not. Life with God is just better.
The sea terrifies me, but its also given me some of my best memories. Floating in it, holding Katie. It was one of the best trips to the beach ever, my first with her. Floating on it, surfing to a beautiful sunrise. In the ocean I have known fear, but there I have also known God.
And so in my pursuit of Him, I’ll just keep moving forward. I can’t see the end. But I can see just far enough ahead to take another few steps, and that’ll get me there.
Brandon is a Wilmington-based professional freelance journalist, copywriter, and editor. He is the author of The Edge of Legend: An Incredible Story of Faith and Basketball (Port 2010) and has contributed to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, and Our State (NC) magazine, in additional to myriad regional publications. He blogs at brandonsneed.com.