This comes to us from our friend Emily Skelding. 

I’m a terrible evangelist.

I have never once, not ever, converted anyone. I am suspicious of emotional altar calls after a sermon that starts at a whisper and ends with shouts.  I’ve never wandered a Florida beach converting a hungover college kid. In fact, I doubt these transformations. They ring tinny to my ear.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I even qualify as a born-again Christian.

Still, I cling to the idea of rebirth. God’s grace, the process of God holding my cracked soul to make it healed and whole, carries me through life’s strains. I long for the freedom of undressing my inner world before God and allowing Him to begin my spiritual makeover.

When we were dating, my agnostic-Jewish husband wondered about this inner world. “So the Christian life is like life plus a bonus. Turbo life? Better life?” Sort of. Mainly yes. While faith hasn’t kept me from loss and failure, he was onto something. In the midst of the tensions and struggles of life, I can exhale my crippling angst and breathe in God’s perfect love.

walken-with-jesus-t-shirt-white-p2452-8019_zoomAlmost twenty years and four children later, my husband still doesn’t “believe in” any God or more specifically, my Jesus. Despite a fair amount of prayer for and with our children and their starring roles as Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in a nativity play, our kids remain up in the air about God.

My husband does a good parody of me praying. He starts with several I-just-wants. Then he sprinkles in terms that make no sense to him, like “lamb of God” and “blood of Jesus” and ends by saying he’ll lay something at “the feet of Jesus.” When I use the feet-of-God metaphor, he imagines me solemnly cradling a doll-sized version of the person I’m praying for. He sees me, perhaps in a religious tunic, laying the doll, perhaps one of our children’s cruel teachers, at the feet of a statue of Jesus gazing at the sky. While he has an active imagination, it is true that sometimes my faith, disguised in the language of our Christian culture, reads as hocus pocus.

When my son was in elementary school, he devoured complicated stories. He loved otherworldly fantasy–kids fighting evil at Hogwarts, a skeleton detective fighting an army of vampires, or a boy and his baby sister falling into an underground world full of giant rodents and insects. We attended a tiny Episcopal church. He believed in God and trusted the veracity of the Bible. He read high-church liturgy like he meant it. He was connected to God, a believer.

I remember the day his faith began to crumble. One Sunday, the lesson was about the Holy Spirit, the power of God to move in tangible ways among real people. I was delivering the lesson.

A child asked, “So the Holy Spirit is like magic?”

“No,” I blurted, “Magic isn’t real. God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus? They’re real.”

A debate ensued. The children, ages five to eleven, against me. The kids were adamant: if God is real, magic must be too.

My son trapped me. He was sitting next to his little sister who believed in Santa, “If there’s no magic, how does Santa’s sleigh fly and how does the tooth fairy get into our house?” I think he was really wondering, if the magic in books that defeats evil through friendship and courage is not real, how can this Holy Spirit thing be trusted?

I stood there, alone, determined to share with them an abiding truth to cling to when their belief in the Easter bunny faded. I wanted to extend the grace I crave, but I didn’t know how to frame it honestly. Desperate for Godly wisdom, I came up empty handed, worried about drawing a clear line between faith and fantasy. Of course the magic in my son’s stories, victory through love and action, is real even if zombies and dragons are not.

Recently, I heard a sermon on James 3. I particularly like verse 17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

My children are all of those things–pure, contentedly open to the truth, genuine. I want to be a  real person allowing God into my life and letting God spill over into others’ lives. James spells it out: if God in me is authentic, my wisdom will be gentle, peaceful, open, merciful, and impartial. That sounds impossible.

It isn’t about altar calls and perfect family pictures in the church directory. It isn’t about saying the right thing or attending the most genuine church. It is about plugging into what is “above” and trusting the rest will follow.

I share my faith, my vital place of renewal through Jesus, with my family. My family points me to the truth, despite the fact that they don’t see Jesus as “the [only] way, the [only] truth, and the [only] life.” We share our messy lives and ask questions. Why does being (and having) a teenager suck sometimes? How should we deal with difficult people? Why is it so hard to make a sincere apology? How can we live our lives more magically? I try not to get in God’s way and wonder with them.