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Packaging Faith

He had been through his share of girls. Actually, he had been through several guys’ share of girls. And they were always great girls. But just when he seemed to have settled on one, you would start to see the signs. Her phone calls weren’t returned. Her name didn’t come up in conversation anymore. She didn’t come around the house anymore. And another one bites the dust.

This is why I was surprised one day when, out of the blue, he said, “Give me three good reasons to get married.” Ummm. Hold on a second. I’m sure I can think of something. Well, the only things I could come up with were having sex and something about sharing your dreams.

The room was crowded with college students learning, in five easy steps, how to share their faith. We broke up into small groups and did a role-playing exercise, with one person being a somewhat receptive friend and the other sharing their newly streamlined testimony. “So, you’re a Christian. Why?” Ummm. Hold on a second. Something about giving purpose to my life and a sense of peace.

I was no better at sharing why I love God than why I love being married. And I do, in fact, love both. But how can you take such deep things and treat them like a bullet-point list? How can you summarize the things that have taken a lifetime to evolve?

To explain these things to you, I would have to explain the letter from my dad and all the things he wrote that I knew were true, but had never been spoken. I would have to tell you about my wife’s mom and what an example of deep faith she was and how, when she died, my wife died a little too. I would need to explain to you what it was like taking my little boy to his first day of school and how I felt his life would, from that point on, be less safe. I would have to tell you about all my dreams involving water, and maybe you could explain them to me. I would tell you a scary story from my childhood, and I would confide in you that despite the way I casually tell the story what happened really did scare me. I would tell you about my job and what is satisfying about it and what continually frustrates me. About my summer overseas. Great Expectations. Sunday nights at church, singing, with all the windows open. Best friends and girlfriends and, finally, soulmates.

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The story of my life is the story of my faith, looping and intertwined to the point that you can’t tell one story from the other. It requires time and explanations and feelings and twists and turns that are not easily communicated in five easy steps. It cannot be expressed on a T-shirt or in a PowerPoint presentation or a top 10 list.

Sharing your faith is sharing your life. Not the surface conversations that dominate our days or the packaged communications of a professional Christian, but the truth and the hope and the love that runs below the surface and makes us who we are.

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