*For an audio version of this post click here.
What a loaded question! But one that I feel every Christian should have an answer to. In my perspective, how we answer this question is a direct reflection of where we stand in our relationship with God and the trinity.
Through my teen years my answer to “Who is God?” and “Why are you a Christian?” was something like “I don’t know, the spirit that you pray for help to” and “we go to church on Sunday and I go to youth group and like the people there, I try and follow the commandments because that is what God asks us to do”. Today, if I were to hear this answer it would tell me that the person has understanding of who God might be, or at least who your pastors says He is, but that there lacks a deeper personal connection with God and the trinity, and thus an understanding of the depths of who God is, has been, and will ever be.
What are my answer today? Well, for starters they are very different!
Who is God [to me]?
God is the only presence that can stop an anxiety attack with a single phrase. God is the only voice of wisdom that has helped my hurting heart see truth in the midst of pain. God is the very presence that speaks peace into my fears when I can’t turn off the land slide of fear-triggered thoughts about loved ones, my life choices, or my husband’s health. God is who my spirit runs to when I feel broken, when I am confused, when I am ashamed, when I am overwhelmed, and when I am happy and excited. God is the only being that answers my prayers, or helps me understand why a prayer was not answered. His spirit is that “trusted gut feeling” that has gotten me out of bad situations, lead me into good ones and that has helped me make big decisions. He has carried a tired heart and kept my fire going when I have wanted to quit because I felt uncomfortable or like a failure. God is the one constant presence in my life that will never walk away from me. Christ is the person that willingly sacrificed His life knowing I may not care to know Him, yet still saw me worth dying for. God is the very essence of my existence, even if I don’t always reflect him.
It is not to say my husband or loved ones don’t bring me peace, they too stand with me during good times and comforts me through difficult nights. It is to say that a connection with God is beyond the human connection. It touches parts of my heart and spirit that not a spouse, friend or I myself can reach or appease. You know when you have some odd symptoms you don’t quite know where they are coming from, and your loved one can give you a pill or explain them, and it helps a little, but talking to a doctor who has deeper knowledge really helps calm your hesitation? That is God. He is that deeper knowledge and connection beyond my human interactions.
Why am I a Christian?
Because how does one live without the experiences mentioned above after you have felt how real and present God can be?
Christianity to some looks like a religion full of rules and barriers, to me Christianity is what I call my faith and personal relationship with Christ. My faith is not dictated by rules and expectations, it is directed by love and sacrifice. I try and honour commandments not because I am told to, but because I honour God. I raise my hands in worship, not because it is “a cult action”, but because it is how I show surrender in saying “I am little and I cannot, You are mighty and can”. I read my bible not because I have to, but because I want to understand who God is, how Christ lived, and how many Christians before me overcame their obstacles and faced their successes and failures. I connect with fellow Christians because there is a spiritual understanding and way of encouragement that I cannot get from those that do not believe in the realness of God in our every day lives. The actions that the world sees “a religious must” are the actions I choose to take because they deepen my faith and understanding of who God is and what my purpose on earth is.
Think of it this way:
You follow your parents’ rules because you love them and honour them, because you want to show them respect and you know their intentions are to keep you safe and protected from harms we may not see. It is not always pleasant and there are times you think these guidelines might be ridiculous, but deep down you know they are keeping you from experiencing events that can harm you or are just not beneficial to you – even if you crave the momentary gratifications those actions bring, parents look at the bigger picture. You praise and love on your parents because they have done so much for you, because they love you unconditionally and have given their lives to provide for you in every way. You gather with family and listen to stories of present and past family members because it allows you to learn about them, and it inspires you to live life with a certain character and boldness. You aren’t part of your family because you are told to be, you choose to be present and be a representation of what your family name stands for.
Side note: if your hesitation is about joining a church community because you have been previously hurt by one, take a read through my post on “Why The Church Is NOT God”. Sometimes we put a lot of expectation on humans and leadership, and we have to come and accept that though a church is a place where we seek growth, council and connection, it is not a replacement for our active relationship with God in our day to day.
My husband often jokes about “the Bergners” (my family of origin). He addresses my sisters and I as “the Bergner girls”, like we have some high status or something. Mainly because over the years I have half jokingly instilled it in him, but mostly because he knows our value and sees our worth. He understands the values with which we have been raised, how cherished we are, and as he says “how rare we are to find in our society”. Maybe you do the same, maybe how you fix a car, how you correct your children, or the manner in which you carry yourself is the “Fitzpatrick way” or the “Mendoza way”. Perhaps your family is seen as one to admire for their values or as a corner stone in your community for their active participation. Christianity is that for me, it is my spiritual family name and as such it guides my steps in life. The bible is my family book, where I learn about our beginnings and the character traits that reflect God [our family head] and who He is. My church is my Sunday family time, where I go to learn and grow deeper roots into my family line. And my character and daily faith is my reflection of that family and the trinity that leads it. All this deepens my identity and so when the world is trying to make me live life according to”its family values and standards” I can stare it in the face and say no because I know where I belong. Being part of a family is an active choice that requires sometimes saying no to your own desires and yes to honouring and carrying the weight of our family name for a purpose far bigger than what you currently see. It is not always easy, you won’t love or agree with how every family member represents the Christian name, but the gains (both for ourselves and for those around us) far outweigh the frustrations that can be faced.
And you know what? There is no better, more healing, more comforting awareness than knowing I don’t ever stand alone in life. That if you have had the heartache of losing a parent of having them willingly walk out of your life here on earth, that spiritually, you will never be abandoned for your actions or be left alone to face both hardship and happiness. God is the family that chose you before your birth (Jeremiah 1:5) and the family that is just itching and waiting for you actively choose to be a part of. He is head of the family that will bring correction not because you are seen as a failure but because you have too big a purpose to be left to your mistakes. Even though we cannot physically see God, His presence is always covering us and carrying us, if we choose to accept it in our lives.
That is what being a Christian means to me and why I have chosen it as my way of life.
If you are sitting there thinking “how can you believe in a feeling so strongly? this is dumb!”, I challenge you to try it. Really. What do you have to lose in saying “let’s see if these experiences are real”? Quite oppositely, you have a your whole life to gain! Want to give it a try? Check out this post on “How Do I Accept God Into My Life?” and connect with us via email so we can walk this journey with you.