Before my wife I were married, we asked each other what was the biggest fear we had about one another.
My fear was she would be too indecisive, and would not be satisfied with the choices she made throughout our life together.
Her largest fear about me was that I wasn’t Christian enough for her ideals of a husband and family leader.
Through the years our fears played out in spectacular fashion.
Facing the Doubt
Although my brother and I were raised as Christians, we were not raised in the church. We worshipped there with our father and briefly attended Sunday School for a portion of our lives. My father credited Jesus for surviving his stroke at the age of 35. We were taught to give gratitude to The Lord in all things. As with most Christians, I harbored doubt, but as most Christians would tell you, doubt is the among the worst traits to feed for it is the very antithesis of faith.
Throughout my youthful years, I consciously ignored my doubts and leaned not on my own understanding.
During my early 20’s, after one particularly rousing reading of the bible, I even thought the good book revealed to me the very purpose of life itself – that the purpose of this life is to choose how you would spend the rest of eternity. How everything else this life has to offer must pale in comparison to either the joy or pain that awaited us all. I would cry at night for all of the countless souls throughout eternity who were destined to make the wrong choice. I was a Christian.
I still had my doubts, but for most of my life chalked it up to the feebleness of my limited human mind – until my wife and I started thinking about a family.
My future child would surely ask me about Jesus. And they would ask about Muhammed, and Buddha, and Vishnu, and Joseph Smith, and even David Koresh. How would I respond? How would I explain one person’s truth over another when I didn’t completely understand it myself? How would I look them in the eye and tell them what was true?
At that time, I told myself that many Christian men much smarter than I have certainly dealt with these issues and came to conclusions I could rest on. All I needed to do was face my doubts and do some research. In the age of the Internet, with knowledge ready at my fingertips, I set out on a journey which would change me in ways I had not even thought possible.
About a year into my research, I had printouts all over the office – articles, letters, emails, quotes, highlighted biblical verses, and more. I had books from C.S. Lewis and apologist William Lane Craig strewn about. I couldn’t get enough.
I also couldn’t get straight answers that satisfied my questions around divinity, predestination, life after death, and the condemnation of other world faiths. My wife watched and supported my new interest. She even picked out a book she believed would be of particular interest to me, Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus.” That book introduced me to the term “intellectual honesty” and made me start seriously looking into the other side of the argument. If I was to understand the nonbeliever’s way of thinking, I had to read their words as they had written them, not as paraphrased by apologists.
That would be like listening to a Muslim state all the reasons why Christianity is a false religion without ever discussing it with a Christian. It’s just not intellectually honest.
This floodgate of new literature turned my world upside down. It challenged such strongly held beliefs so thoroughly that I could feel walls shattering around my psyche. My very sense of self was being challenged. I felt I didn’t know who I was and read voraciously more work. I vowed for every apologist book I had read, I would read its counter argument.
That process lasted at least another year.
I reread the bible – this time in a whole new context.
You can’t unlearn things.
I knew I couldn’t call myself a Christian for almost a year before I told my wife. It was her worst nightmare about me – about us – come true. Not only was I not Christian enough, I wasn’t even Christian any longer. For months I felt I was living a lie. I couldn’t attend church any longer either.
I knew I had to tell her because she deserved to know. She deserved the chance at the family she always wanted – at the husband she always wanted.
Once I decided to tell her, I had to put it in a way she would most understand where I was coming from.
I took an easel with that huge presentation paper and wrote one sheet…
Things Most Christians Believe
This list contained things such as Holy Trinity, tithing, physical existence of Heaven/Hell, etc. Once again, things MOST Christians agree on, but if someone said they didn’t cut for tithing, you wouldn’t necessarily revoke their Christian card for the indiscretion.
On the next page I wrote at the top…
Things All Christians Believe
On here I listed items such as Jesus was the son of God, 10 Commandments, the only way to Heaven and the Father is through Jesus, etc. This list was vastly shorter than the previous one, but much more concrete. Cross any one of these from a believer’s faith, and it would be hard to still rock the Christian title.
I told my wife we needed to talk one night after she came home from work, I sat her down, and went over belief by belief and where I differed on each one – and why. I gave her speeches, and articles, and quotes, and anecdotes. I gave her everything I had – I gave her myself. And as the night went on, I crossed out item after item – believe after belief – from both pages.
Hours later, by the time I flipped to the third page, I only had one question written…
“If I don’t believe these things, how can I continue to label myself a Christian?”
She didn’t hesitate, when she responded matter of factly, “You can’t.”
Then she said, “I understand. Thank you for sharing with me. I still love you.”
That was five years ago. Since then we’ve welcomed a beautiful boy in to the world. She still reads her daily devotionals. I’m looking forward to our 10 year anniversary next next year.
My son has yet to ask my about David Koresh. Guess he’s still too into Frozen.