Have you ever been so desperate to find God, only to discover that he had first been, and always is, pursuing you? In her search for truth, beauty and holiness, Marisa discovered that she was unable to put her faith in God or change her life. Yet, it was upon that revelation that she allowed Jesus to step in and do for her all that she could not do without him.
I did not grow up liking Christianity. On the contrary, I viewed Christians as cruel, hateful, intolerant and ignorant. I don’t recall knowing much about Jesus or the doctrines of Christianity even though it was, and still is, the dominant religion of our culture. From what I knew, it seemed as if the Bible was full of men killing people in the name of God, animals being slaughtered, and women being mistreated. I had wanted to argue with Christians because they infuriated me so much.
At the same time though, I felt a deep longing for God in my life. I doubted my ability to believe in him. Even if I saw a miracle, I reasoned, it wouldn’t prove anything because it could be a hallucination. Where was the solid, logical proof that God existed? Evolution had explained everything well enough. Despite this, I started looking into religions. I started exploring new age beliefs and that seemed promising, at first. I could pick and choose what I liked and think up my own religion. In the end, I needed more substance than that. I did not want a relative religion. I wanted the truth, whatever that was. One night, swept up by a desire for “Something Else”, I prayed one of the most fervent prayers of my life. I prayed for the One, whether God or Goddess, to show herself or himself to me. The next night I repeated this prayer, which became my daily evening prayer for the next several years, “God, if you’re real, prove it and help me believe in you.”
When I was in ninth grade, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time. I was filled with a desire to be in that world, to be called into the beauty that existed in that world. It was a desire so intense that it hurt. During that year and maybe even after, the longing to exist in that realm of beauty was the most important thing in my life. I’m not sure exactly what my moral beliefs were before reading it, but they didn’t change dramatically after I read the book. The flavor of the book was decidedly more Christian-friendly than anything else I had ever loved, and that left its mark on me. I was hungry for more of the wonder that world offered. One day, while searching on the internet, I came across a passage from The Weight of Glory, an essay by C.S. Lewis. The passage sounded so beautiful, like The Lord of the Rings. I remembered it and later bought the book. I recall being embarrassed because I was standing in the Christian Inspiration section of the bookstore, but I just had to read it.
The essay spoke worlds to me. In perfect detail, Lewis described the very longing that I had experienced when I read The Lord of the Rings. He understood my pain to know the truth and knew that even though it was painful, it was a feeling to be desperately desired. “The scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard,” he wrote. I was stunned. This dead English writer that I had never met was explaining to me the depths of my own soul when no one around me seemed to understand it. And most interestingly, he said that this desire was not for any earthly thing, but for heaven and for God –for the Christian God.
In this essay, I saw for the first time a Christianity which I could not only accept, but rejoice over and love. It was a new thought. I read The Screwtape Letters as well, and that helped solidify this new concept of Christianity. I still wanted to have arguments with Christians, but now, it wasn’t just to expose their ignorance and mock them. I wanted to know what they actually had to say.
On top of this, in my junior year of high school, I became friends with a Christian—a real, honest-to-goodness Christian who not only said he was one, but actually tried to live out what he believed. I was very drawn to him. I felt that he had a sort of holiness about him, something I wanted to be. I was intrigued.
My second year at college, I became friends with another person who gave off the same vibe of holiness and real goodness. To my rueful surprise, I realized he was Christian as well. There seemed to be a trend. At this point, I was hooked on the whole Christianity thing. I still had my issues with it as well as a strong distaste for the name “Jesus” and the hokey bits of Christian culture I had experienced. Overall though, I kind of wanted to be Christian. I had kept reading Lewis’ books over the years and he made Christianity seem like the answer to all of my wildest dreams. Practically all of my moral beliefs became shaped by Tolkien and Lewis, and thus were very Christian. I was pretty hooked. One morning in the midst of reading Mere Christianity, I was enthralled by the whole idea so much that I decided to commit my life to Christ. I didn’t commit to Jesus though because that name sounded too tacky and was associated with the things that I didn’t like about the religion. Besides, my mother refused to call him that, calling him instead Yahushua. I didn’t believe in him, because I couldn’t. I wanted to, but I wasn’t capable of it, so I decided to just follow his teachings as much as I could.
That day was wonderful and I was filled with feelings of holiness and purity, but the rest of the week didn’t turn out so well. I realized that emulating Christ was something I was not very good at. I knew He would have wanted me to pay attention in class and to do otherwise was disrespectful to my parents and my teachers, but I hated paying attention. My mind wandered. I knew I wasn’t expected to be able to pay attention—after all, I had a sinful nature. I did think that I should at least try and with some horror, I found that I didn’t even want to try. I just wanted to daydream. In fact, I just wanted my conscience to leave me alone. I began to wish I had never come up with this lunatic idea to follow Christ in the first place. It was much too hard for me.
This realization that I didn’t even want to try not to sin, filled me with a sense of impending doom. I theoretically accepted that I could be forgiven for my sins, but how could I be forgiven when I didn’t even want to stop sinning?
This vague discontent solidified itself during one night when there was a party at my house. I had a lot of rules for myself and none of them condoned hedonistic, sleazy partying. Those rules were too much for me to follow and that night, in desperation, I threw them out the window. Then, I came off my alcohol high and for the next three hours, I sobbed in my friend’s arms, crying about how I was going to hell.
It was hardly better the next morning. For the next few months, I believed I was going to hell. Mostly, it was an idea that I shoved to the back of my head and ignored. But sometimes, it made itself known and I was tormented and sickened with my own sinfulness. I didn’t want to be evil. I wanted to be good, but apparently, I didn’t want it enough to try for it. I hated myself, my inability to be good, and God at the same time. I was desperate for Him to fix it all.
One night, it all became too much to bear. I saw myself for what I had become, as one who is interested in dark things, those that were worldly and fleshly. I no longer cared about beauty, purity and the goodness that I had so terribly desired years ago. I ran outside into the night and sat down alone. I let loose all the cries that I had smothered inside myself throughout those months. I confessed how awful I was and how I knew I deserved hell. I said I didn’t want to be evil, but I could see no way out because I didn’t even have a real desire to be good. In my need, I called on the name that I had never before exalted. I called on Jesus. I asked if somehow, some way, He could manage to make me good even though I couldn’t promise anything to Him. I couldn’t promise to try and I didn’t even want to try, but I asked if somehow He could just love me enough, if He could just love me into His presence. As I spoke those words, peace began slowly to come over me. I started praying it again and again. I felt like everything was finally going to be all right. I felt like I had broken through to God. I see now that He had finally broken through to me.
After that, the road was short before I realized and confessed that I was a Christian. I have known Jesus for almost five years now, and I continue to be humbled. I thought once that my desire for the holy would lead me to Him, but I have seen it is not my desire. My love falls short. His goes the whole way. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Marisa can be found at the Ark Ministries which meets Saturday evenings at 2138 Cedar Street at 6:30 pm at Christ Church Berkeley. The Ark culture is simple: they want to meet God. Every meeting, their goal is to welcome His amazing presence and encounter the living God. Please join them for worship some time, they would love to host you!