What does it takes to melt away unbelief?
I met him when I was around 12; he knew me from the very start. I played the part of a selfish brat; he was there for me all along. I ran back and forth with my bruised and broken heart; he was my ever-present morphine. I was lost in the depths of my bitter past; he made me remember no more.
I saw the tragic fall-out of my parent’s marriage; he remained a loving father. I wept in the agony of such a painful loss; he calmed me in my distress. I went through sleepless nights of solitude and in the midst of the deafening silence, he stayed with me ’till the break of dawn. I drowned myself in an ocean of apathy, if only to protect my heart from pain; he embraced me and reminded me of love.
On the surface, it appeared to be merely an ordinary meeting with an ordinary stranger. But the intensity of his impact in my life left no room for anything but extraordinary. There are times when I come to pause for a while and look back to all the growing years I’ve spent with him; such years are marked with both triumph and defeat and in between lies a long line of struggle and suffering. It was painfully difficult to keep up with the demands of such a cruel world; to face the day without fear was one hard of a task. Living became a heavy chore; too heavy that it nearly brought me face to face with death. The assault to my young heart was grave and unrelenting. I was left to pick up the pieces of my shattered self, all in utter desperation to find a way to escape from the gloom that surrounded me. He held me in the hand and brought me out of my confusion. He shunned the chaos within me and silenced all of my demons. He restored all that the world has harshly taken away from me. He stepped up in the middle of the screaming darkness and showed me his glory.
He is God.
Looking back to where it all started, truly there is no excuse to be ungrateful to such a God who has been there since day, since the beginning of time. And for some, it is easy to remain devoted to Him, to have Him as the reason for everything they think and say and do and to put Him in the center of their pathetic existence all to gain purpose and meaning to their pathetic lives.
I am not like one of them.
Prior to writing this essay, I was on the height of my unbelief. I doubted everything around me, including myself and my existence. It is quite ironic to say that, that I doubt even my existence, for how could I doubt something that I can see with my own eyes and can experience with my senses. I knew that I am alive but I wasn’t convinced with it, nonetheless. All I knew was that I am floating in a thin air of uncertainty with almost nothing solid and permanent to hold on to. Even the idea of me floating in thin air was subject to question. Was it really me, or perhaps merely an illusion, a projection of someone else’s thoughts? Does that ‘someone else’ exists as well? Who am I, really? What is it that makes me alive, if existence is really a sure and steady thing.
My unbelief led to a series of question marks regarding the very nature and existence of God until it brought me to a point where I felt cheated and deceived by a God who has hidden His face from me right from the very start, by a God who demands all of my praises but is hushed with silence in who-knows-where paradise, by a God who hears every prayer of the suffering world but dwells in comfort beyond the white clouds.
At the same time, I developed an unexplainable contempt towards Christian morality. I hated every single word that is written in the Bible and grew cold in my passion to reach the lost, because I too felt lost. I scorned the way Christians put a careful emphasis on humility and how they are willing to bow too low for other people, all for the sake of love. I hated the fact that I am bound by the moral law of the Christian faith, as if I am not a creature of free will.
To sink me further down the depths of the hole, I exposed myself to various materials regarding philosophy and logic. In my pursuit to find the cure for my pathological unbelief, I stumbled upon a wide variety of profound thinkers. It felt like time travel, a journey back to the lost centuries, as I witnessed in both awe and admiration the genius that flourished during the height of their career. The deeper I got to know these bright minds, the more I got detached in my faith as a Christian, until one day, I woke up and felt that I do not know anything, anymore.
I do not blame my philosophers for the skepticism that has grown wildly in my heart for I know that in the end of every book, it is I who decides. I acknowledge the fact that it was solely my decision to nod at the thought of rejecting the existence of everything, including God. This decision led me to bow in blindfold in the assertion of the logical positivists during the 20th century that God is a meaningless term. I also found myself enamored by the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who was, nonetheless, the herald to the judgement of the death of God and undertook a campaign against Christian morality.
I felt a sense of relief for finding a foundation to which I could place my doubt on, even if such a relief is momentary, fleeting. There was no shame inside me for mocking God in open air, thinking that perhaps nobody was really listening, that the heaven is just a vast space of nothingness and that I, an illusion. But there was something, though. Something too profound and unspeakable beyond the lines of my unbelief, something too powerful for words to define, something too real for any kind of rejection or denial.
There was pain.
I stripped myself of everything that I’ve believed in and was left with nothing but the nakedness of my unbelief—and there was pain. I detached myself from the pillars of tradition to free myself from the chains of what was once considered true but has now become a lie—and there was pain. I set myself apart from the rest of the world and went on for days and nights with no purpose, no meaning, no sense of life and living—and there was pain. I shut myself in both indifference and oblivion, if only to never feel anything ever again—but still there was pain.
I did not know what it meant, to take away the meaning of it and still feel pain; real pain. The kind that pierces right through the chest, making it hard to breathe as it slowly suffocates and takes the life out of what is already dead inside of me. I could only guess, speculate about the things that I do not really know for certain; things that would require me, to borrow the words of Kierkegaard, a leap of faith.
I think about all the things that I know now, the things that the brilliant thinkers before me has founded very well and realize that unlike them, I was not thinking. Maybe I did, for a while, and then stopped eventually. Who knows why we give up sometimes?
I remember the words that punctuated finality to my years as a Christian; that deliberate declaration of the death of what was once my living God and I began to ask myself, who was it that has been dead all along? Wasn’t it me, my poor tormented soul? I murdered the idea of God, maybe God himself, without knowing that in the act of doing so, I too murder myself.
What does it takes to melt away unbelief?
A memory, a thought, a sudden realization of something real or perhaps a song. Yes, a song; a melody that captures the core of one’s soul and reminds one of a love everlasting. Sometimes, faith speaks in the rhythm of such a love song, enough to make someone return to life and live again, believe again.
The notion of God, the question of His existence, the assertion of His death— I believe that these delicate matters are, in the end, remote to the opinion of any great thinker from the past as well as the present and is subject to one’s own will and belief, to him and no one else. Perhaps, the question of God’s existence is beyond rational justification and to follow Kant’s line of thought that we can not approve as much as we can not disprove the existence of God. Perhaps, the idea of God is beyond the confines of logic and can not be resolved by logical reasoning; and maybe, just maybe, we will never know all that we want to understand in this side of eternity. As the Latin dictum connotes: ars longa, sed vita brevis.
I know that in comparison to the brilliant thinkers of the past centuries, my knowledge of the world and of the things that comprises the world are of no match. They have astounded me with their capacity to think creatively, to dwell with knowledge with much sophistication and to examine and interpret the world from a highly different perspective. Their names are forever engraved in the pages of philosophy books, as well as in every corner of my grateful heart.
At the end of the day, when every book is returnd to its place, when voices that speak of a thousand words are silenced and when every theory, every idea and every thought comes back to where it all came from, I will still stand my ground; for I have realized now that no amount of knowledge could ever make me forget the truth that there is someone up there who loves me and cares for me with all certainty, within and beyond my unbelief. I will still remain faithful to what I have first known and that is God, even if it sounds irrational sometimes, even if it violates the laws of logic, even if there is no material evidence that I could present to support His existence.
I shall not ask for any proof of His love. To be content with faith is more than enough. He did not ask for anything, after all, when He first loved me.
10th of February, 2012
San Jose St. Pureza,
Sta. Mesa, Manila.
Spill the words and never mean them.
You are far away from redemption and love.