I’ll never forget where I was the day it happened. I was lying on my bed, reading the Bible like a scrappy zealous young Christian should. When I came to the end of one of the Gospels (I don’t remember which one…let’s just say Matthew), I saw it. I flipped through my Bible to make sure I wasn’t going crazy. First to Mark. Then to Luke. Finally to John.
Matthew 27:28: “They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him.” PAUSE.
Mark 15:17 and John 19:2 very specifically stated that the robe was PURPLE.
As I flipped back and forth, I noticed that the number of angels at the tomb was different between the gospels, that the gospels are inconsistent in describing who showed up to the empty when and in what order, and that a footnote in Mark said something about Mark 16:9-20 not being in the original manuscript.
When you noticed these things for the first time, maybe they didn’t bother you. Maybe you’re smarter than I am and/or was, but you have to understand something. I had had an intensely emotional religious experience in my church the year before. It gave me a sense of certainty that God was real, Jesus was great, and therefore the Bible must be as flawless as I had been told it was.
Now I had to begin to face the reality that many of us had before. For many years, I suppressed these doubts, but they followed me around like a cloud over my life. It wasn’t until I was in my final semester at Bible college (after which I had initially planned on going into ministry) that the dam broke, and all my doubts rushed in: questions about the Bible, questions about evolution and creation, and questions about Christ’s resurrection and the second coming. I realized how hard it was to be certain about any of these things. The stakes were high. If I believed any of the wrong stuff about these things, I might go to hell. If the Bible wasn’t perfect, if evolution was true, and if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and wasn’t really coming back, then I had wasted three years of my life in Bible college (not to mention my teen years) pursuing a meaningless life.
What followed was a year of despair and depression (I wore A LOT of black and grew a beard and hair halfway down my back…I looked like Jesus…dark, depressed Jesus).
The thing is, after a year of figuring out if I was still a Christian and/or if I could be a Christian, I began to recognize that God was present in my life (some may use the word “mystical” to describe this feeling).
And I still felt like maybe God wanted me in ministry.
And I still felt like Jesus was Lord of my life.
But my time of doubt had changed my faith.
I had put my faith into a tiny box, but now it was apparent that it hadn’t needed to be in such a confined space. I had tried for so many years to keep my faith within the confines of the most literal interpretation of Scripture that I could, and it had led to incredible doubts about the validity of my faith. But now, it was apparent (to me at least) that no matter how literal or not literal Scripture was, God was still real and drawing me to himself.
My doubt initially came to be as an unwelcome invader, but it helped lead me to the truth that Jesus speaks in John 5:39-40, that one does not find life in a particular view of the Scriptures but in a relationship with the real God whose presence can be felt.
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