A thought occurred to me the other day that, as I’m slowly growing and maturing, I essentially become a new person every decade or so. I imagine this is true of most people and I began to ponder the theological implications of this. When I first accepted Christ, I was around four years old and I did it because my mom wanted me to. I don’t remember much about the situation and what I do remember, may not be completely accurate, but I seem to recall my mom asking me if I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart and I could tell by the way she asked that my answer should be yes. Then she asked me to repeat after her and I did and she was happy. Not long after that, I was baptized and I pretty clearly remember that my primary motivation for that was the fact that the baptism was in a pool and I was promised I could go swimming afterwards. Now, I’m not saying this to slight my mom or her methods of discipling me, that’s a topic for another post. The reason I bring this up is to show the mindset I was in at the time; I was a child and therefore my understanding of God and what it means to follow him were limited.
Years later, towards the end of my time in high school, I realized just how ignorant I was when I first gave my life to Christ and decided to re-dedicate myself to Him. This time, I wasn’t baptized, but I did go forward during a youth event and pray with my youth pastor and, for a time, I felt that I had become a mature Christian. It’s only recently that I’ve become aware of just how little I knew back then and this has lead me to wonder if, as Christians, we should somehow formally re-dedicate our lives and possibly be re-baptized as we grow into these new people with new understanding. At least for me, it feels like the promises I made at four to follow Christ don’t mean much, they were a misguided attempt and being a obedient. My re-dedication in my teen years was more authentic, but still lacking much of the maturity and wisdom I now poses. It almost feels like I need to check in with God and say, “Even though I am now able to perceive more of what following you means and how difficult it can be, now that I know it’s not going to solve all my problems and may at times create more, I’m still in this.”
My sophomore year of college, I took a class called Psychology of Religion. It was one of my favorite classes and it caused me to really evaluate some parts of my faith that I never had before. I remember one day in particular, we were discussing worship music and that feeling you get when you really press in and praise God. My professor told us about a study that showed that the type of brain activity that happens when worshiping God is similar to what it would be at a concert; it’s believed to be caused by the energy of the music and the excitement of the crowd which, to me, made it seem like that feeling was somehow false or dishonest. If I could have the same reaction by just getting into live music, then maybe that feeling wasn’t God’s presence or the Holy Spirit like I had always thought. This didn’t really make me doubt my faith, but it did cause me to stop worshiping in the way had been accustomed to. At first, I thought that I just needed to stop making it about me and the feeling I got and just praise Him, but I began to realize I couldn’t really separate the two; when I tried, I just became bland singing with no emotion behind it. Then I tried for a more solemn earnest worship experience where I considered the words and tried to sing them as a prayer. This helped me feel closer to God in some ways, but the lack of energy made me feel like there was no one on the other end of my prayers. I tried to worship God and talk to Him, but without letting my emotions get in the way so that I could prove it was really Him and not a trick of my brain chemistry, but nothing comes through. So now, I’m left to wonder, does God’s silence, the lack of any type of touch or sense of Him, mean he doesn’t exist or do I need to let go and allow Him to communicate with me through my own thoughts and emotions and, if so, how do I know that I’m any different from someone experiencing some form of psychosis? How do I know when a thought of feeling is God or just something in my human brain. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people attribute things (ideas, circumstances, opinions, etc.) with no foundation. I’ve tried really hard never to do that, but it’s possible that I may need to trust in Him, pray, and do my best to discern what’s really from God.