Here’s one of the many paradoxes of the spiritual life: through surrender to God, we achieve our greatest freedom. I found this out when I was 11.
My father, Ralph, was an accountant who played banjo on weekends at Shakey’s Pizza. Sometimes our whole family went to see Dad perform. He and his partner at the piano dressed in gay-‘90s garb, complete with boater hat and sleeve garters. His signature song, “Bye, Bye Blues,” which ended with wild strumming in anticipation of the final note, always brought down the house and made us proud.
It was in the middle of such a lively evening that I told my mother, Sylvia, “I don’t get why I would believe or trust God more than anyone else.” Despite the ridiculous occasion I had chosen to ask, she looked me in the eye and said, “We never know what the other side of the chasm really looks like until we jump over. It’s called a leap of faith. Try it – you’ll see for yourself.”
I had my big chance to try it the next day when I wanted to strangle my sister, Joni, who occupied half of what I thought of as my bedroom. Instead of being mean, I asked God to make me not feel mean. As my mom had suggested, I leapt God’s way and trusted him to catch me. I couldn’t believe what happened next – I wasn’t mad anymore. I was actually being nice to my sister! I had witnessed the impossible with my own eyes. Since then, I have had many similar experiences, but this was the starkest example I ever saw. I had instantly been freed from conflict to virtue, from anger to peace. And I had no doubt how it had come about.
But I drifted away from God as a teenager and spent years with my back turned. Maybe I thought He was only good at turning away anger. Maybe I was too ashamed to ask Him for help. I don’t know why I stayed away so long.
At age 27, I thought I was happy. Looking back at my journal from that time, I can see that I was deeply unsettled. I was unhappy without even knowing it because I didn’t remember that anything more solid or peaceful existed. Faith entered my life again after my friend Lauren reintroduced me to the God who wants to develop a relationship with me and guide me to stability and clarity in all the areas of my life. As I grew to realize what a gift that is, I never turned away again.
It may be that we can’t “see” the results of faith in God, but we can experience them powerfully. I’m glad I took Sylvia’s advice and tried it for myself!