It's still fairly early morning and the house is quiet. I'm sitting under a cozy blanket listening to gentle rain fall against the house, and I'm thinking my usual thoughts around Good Friday & Easter Sunday. Most years at this time, I ask myself some version of this question: do I really believe that Jesus was the son of God and that he died on the cross as a means of taking on my sin and dealing with it in a way that allows me to be forgiven for it, and to have the added benefit of eternal life? It's what I grew up believing, what I've believed for the majority of my life...but do I still really believe it??
Though I profess to be a Christian, the answer to this question hasn't always been obvious. There were a couple of years, when I was in my early/mid twenties, when I answered this question with: I don't think so...I don't want to believe in this any more. Other years, the answer was: I think so, but I'm not entirely sure. Throughout most of my childhood, and again for the past number of years, the answer has consistently been: yes. I do believe it.
There is no doubt in my mind that I've had doubts. Sometimes, I confess, I get tired of believing. Life is hard sometimes, and the image of Jesus on a cross seems far removed from daily life at times. Plus, I've done some things in my life that seem, from where I'm sitting, not particularly forgivable. So it's complicated for me....as, I suspect, it is for many people...Christians or otherwise.
But I refuse to live my inner life by default anymore...been there, done that. What I mean by that is this. In my past, I too often believed these things simply because that's how I grew up. I was lazy about my beliefs. I didn't challenge myself nearly enough to believe/not for myself. Conversely, I have also rejected these beliefs at times 'merely' out of reaction to seeing Christians around me (from family members to tv personalities and lots of people in between) acting hypocritically or trying to push it down my throat. I've lived both of these extremes over the course of my adult life, and I think a lot of people are like me in this tendency to be either lazy about what they believe or rejecting of it on a reactionary basis. But neither response is acceptable to me anymore. I don't want to be a Christian just because that's what I grew up believing...in fact, I'm not a Christian for that reason any more. Nor do I want to reject Christianity because I have problems with how some Christians live their lives - that's their business, and I can choose my own path...besides, I'm so far from perfect and have screwed up so many times that I'm in no position to judge anyone else's life...I have way too much to worry about in my own life!
Where that leaves me is here: I do believe that Jesus died on the cross for me, and rose again on the third day, and that by believing in him I will have eternal life. Call me old fashioned, call me whatever you want...that's what I believe. I'm grateful for it; I'm grateful that I'm forgiven for those things in my life that I'm not proud of. Frankly, I find the whole message of Jesus, as well as that of creation (which I believe comfortably co-exists with many principles of evolution), a whole lot easier to believe than I do the notion of the big bang theory, or the idea that when we die we just lie there in the earth in perpetuity. But that's just me - you need to decide for yourself what you believe...or not.
So yeah, this year, I'm still a believer. I'm a believer who also loves and participates in some of the completely secular traditions that have been built up around this weekend: chocolate egg hunts; decorating eggs; a big ham dinner with family and friends. I stop at fostering a belief in the easter bunny, though - the same principle applies here as it does to santa, in my opinion!! But that's a subject for another day.
For now, enjoy the long weekend...and, whether or not you're a Christian, I hope that you, too, can take a few minutes this weekend to consider what you believe, and why. Don't live by default as I have all too often.