(This is fictional, as if written by the lead character from a recent movie, “God’s Not Dead“.)
Where do I even begin? I know it’s been a while since I last wrote, but I just couldn’t find the time to sit down or the words to say. But I feel like God is challenging me to think about all that’s happened. Putting these thoughts into words will help me grow in my faith, and give wisdom for my future. So here we go…
Last time I wrote, I was about to start my courses for the November-December semester. I was a little intimidated by one in particular and sure enough, it proved to be worth concern. The first day of class, Professor Radisson asked us to write “God is Dead”, in order to skip all of the theological conversations in the study of Philosophy. I couldn’t do it, and he required me to defend my position in front of the class over the next 3 sessions. Looking back, I’m not sure what I would have changed…but I think I would’ve done something different.
I became consumed with proving I was right. I wanted to win, no matter what the cost. My highschool sweetheart dumped me (admittedly, she was a bit crazy anyway), and I spent so much time stressing over compiling the best one-liners and offensive arguments I could come up with. I could think of nothing else but showing this class the God could triumph over any atheistic-influenced logic Professor Radisson had up his sleeve. I might have begun the process motivated by a love for my classmates, but at some point I must have lost focus.
That’s when it began to happen. As Professor Radisson and I shared a couple of “impromptu” moments outside of class hours, I realized he was searching for something more than my agreeing to his position in class. But instead of responding to his scars with the love of God, I was like a shark smelling blood. I saw the weak areas, the places he’d been disappointed by God, losing his own mother to a battle with cancer, and I went in for the kill. In what I thought was my proudest moment – proving that he was mad at a creator he’d formerly declared didn’t exist – as the class applauded, I felt sick to my stomach. The tears in his eyes hinted that perhaps I should’ve taken a different route. But with the enthusiasm of my peers (and tickets to Newsboys in my pocket), I was off to celebrate. With Kara out of the picture, I ended up taking my new friend Martin. That’s a confusing and humbling addition to all of this: Even in the midst of me losing focus, God was using everything to reach out and touch the lives of others. Martin gave his life to Jesus. I’m so glad God can bring redemption to anything we offer Him.
Even as Michael Tait gave me props from on stage, when I should have been feeling on top of the world, I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t shake the image of pain on Professor Radisson’s face as I “won” in the middle of class. Somewhere in the midst of worship that night, I heard God’s voice almost plain as day. He was asking me if I would show love to Jeffrey. I had no idea who Jeffrey was, but I responded to God that night….whatever it meant, I would show His love to Jeffrey. I left the concert that night, excited to see who God might bring into my life. I had no idea what was coming my way.
Before bed, I checked my e-mail, only to find an urgent campus-wide announcement. Classes would be cancelled the next schoolday, because of “Professor Jeffrey Radisson” dying that night after being struck by a car. Jeffrey. God was asking me if I’d be willing to show love to someone I’d only considered my enemy this whole time. Even as I headed out late that night to talk with Pastor Dave, a friend patted me on the back saying, “Looks like God added an exclamation mark to your argument, eh?” I cried all the way to the church.
Pastor Dave shared how Jeffrey had apparently had a change of heart after our class that day. Once again I was humbled that God could move even in the midst of my approach. Pastor was making arrangements for the services to be held later that week, and I asked if I could speak. He agreed, and I put even more time into preparing my words for that service than I did for the 3 sessions defending God’s existence. I learned so much about this man, and the pain he’d been through. I regretted not knowing him, and I knew that God was calling me to confess in front of all my peers who stood with me that day in class.
The truth is, as I was caught up in proving God’s existence as a viable logical option, I forgot to reveal one of the most powerful ways He’s alive today is through the loving presence of His body…which includes me. As I shared these words at his memorial service, a student I’d met at the concert felt God stirring something. Ayisha came to me afterward, and together with Pastor Dave we decided to start a ministry to the hungry & homeless right there near campus. What began as a Christmas dinner, has turned into something more consistent and thriving. It’s been incredible seeing the faces of children receiving food or clothing, the smiles that testify louder than any factual statement – God is alive. Several of the students in my philosophy class have joined, and in memory of the events with Professor Radisson, we’re naming it “De Vita Dei” (latin for “The Life of God”).
All in all, I’m continually thankful that no matter what I offer God, he can take it and bring redemption for Kingdom purposes. I look forward to how I can help Ayisha show love to her brother and father, even though it may be a long road. Our hope is that someday they will know the love of God, and look back to see how it has been poured out to them for years through her actions and words.
Whew. That’s it for now. Although I suppose I should add: Martin recently began dating Kara, which works great as she’s replaced his dad as decision maker. Professor Radisson’s friend Mina began dating Pastor Dave, which is kinda weird but we’re getting used to it. A woman named Amy Ryan has become a huge help in getting the word out about “De Vita Dei”, and giving herself to serve others, even as she struggles through treatments for cancer. Pastor Dave has a friend from Africa who decided to work at Disney for a year…so we get free tickets if we ever want to head that way. Oh…and I also heard that the Newsboys are working the sounds of Willie Robertson and his duck-calls into their next album…it’s sure to be a hit!!!
Until next time…