I have all kinds of reasons why I believe in God and why I have decided that specifically for me that means Jesus. It’s o.k. to disagree with me. I’m not angered, upset, hurt or confounded by people who don’t see what I see or reach the same conclusions that I’ve come to. I’m also not egotistical enough to think I’ve got everything figured out or that I’ve got the final word on it all. Even when it comes to Jesus who I choose to follow and worship I’ve had my mind, heart and soul changed so many times about what doing those two things look like that I know better than to tell someone else they’re doing it wrong. This is just my story and by virtue, cracked though it may be, of you reading this it’s become part of your story as well.
One of the big reasons I believe is a person and her story that became part of my story. Her name is Michelle. I met her in high school and at all the wrong times I wanted her to be my girlfriend until finally I realized I liked her way too much for that and stopped thinking about it. In high school, break-ups were inevitable weekly and even daily trials but friendships could last all the way through. So I chose friendship which turned out to be one of the first signs that wisdom might be attainable in my lifetime. Cracked Virtue is full of references to her and those who know her could do a whole year’s worth of blogging just around stories about her. My friend John (I mean Don) and I used to sing a Billy Joel song about her and her influence actually drove him to vandalize a children’s clothing store mannequin. But that’s not this story.
One day, while in my “deeply sceptical, post confirmation, it’s silly to believe in God” phase I decided to convince Michelle that she should give the whole “God thing” some reconsideration. I was at her place. Her family had always made me feel welcome there and her mom tried to feed me every time I showed up. What I saw was a picture perfect family, including having Lassie for their family pet. For whatever reason on that day I decided that the best way to be a friend to Michelle was to persuade her God just wasn’t there. (Evidence that common sense would be a long time coming to me.) I brought out all my reasons, my questions, my big box of scepticism and a great big, steaming pile of cynicism. And just when I thought my incredible logic had convinced the nice, little Baptist girl to give up the fantasy she seemed to change before my eyes.
I know that sounds dramatic but it was dramatic.
There’s a scene, a moment, in Superman 2 starring the late Christopher Reeve. It’s a moment where, if you can imagine it in the context, I first understood the nature of good acting. In the scene Reeve was Clark Kent trying to keep Lois Lane from figuring out his secret. His glasses go into the fireplace and he has to retrieve them or risk her seeing him without the masterful disguise. So he reaches into the fire and pulls them out. She grabs his hand to see how badly he’s burned and realizes he’s not burned at all and something’s up. Clark tries some lame explanation and then suddenly stops. In that moment, right there without any trick photography, Reeve turned from Clark into Superman. He stood up straight, I hadn’t noticed he wasn’t, he held himself differently. It was masterful, magical and powerful.
I could also compare it to the moment in LOTR when Glorfindel reveals his true self in the battle with the Nazgul but I don’t want to underline what I nerd I am or let it go to her head.
And that’s what happened to Michelle in that moment as I watched. Only she wasn’t acting. She seemed to stand straighter, she got a look in her eyes that burned away all my words and when she spoke it tore apart all my reasons like pine in a wood chipper.
“What I know,” she said firmly and fiercely, “is that because of God my life is different than it used to be.” She seemed to get bigger to me as she spoke. “My family is different, my Mom and Dad are different and nothing you can argue can change that.”
And then, like that, she was Michelle again. Not “just” Michelle, she’d never be “just” again, I’d been given a glimpse of who she really was. She wasn’t angry, she was passionate. She hadn’t answered out of frustration or inability to come up with intellectual answers, she’d answered from some place I’d never even been.
(Disclosure. What she actually said included more personal details about the ‘different’ but that’s not my story to tell and since this is an essentially true story I don’t want to say more than that. Maybe she’ll blog it all someday at her website.)
What I knew in that moment was that I should shut up. I couldn’t give it words but I knew that she was more than what I could see and there was something inside of her that I couldn’t understand, but I wanted to. I left her house that day with all my protective arguments and explanations for how life works looking thin and empty. I believed that day, in something bigger than myself, something I would never be able to get away from. That moment and the moments that Michelle wrote on my life before and after that are another reason I believe.