Several months ago a favorite professor of mine invited my husband and I along with a few other friends in academia to his house for a meal. Over good food and wine our conversation inevitably turned to departmental squabbles and global conflict, and then somewhat surprisingly took a turn toward religion.
Finding out that my husband and I were not only practicing Presbyterians, but seminary graduates, my professor’s friends began to ask my husband and I, essentially, what appeal religion has to two educated folks like us. Convinced that faith primarily filled some void regarding fears of the afterlife, one woman persistently questioned the value or the complexity of religious belief and practice.
In response to her questions, I marveled that my faith doesn’t grow out of some existential anxiety about my existence, its finiteness, or insignificance, but rather out of a conviction that we are all first and foremost spiritual beings, and out of a desire to experience the fullness of the gift of this very life, and therefore, a desire to become aware of God in every moment.
To become aware of God in every moment means to experience what it means to love and be fully loved by God.
When these explanations were fundamentally unsatisfying to my new friend in academia, I realized that to consent to be known fully by God and to submit one’s life to God’s full use is a leap of faith that our minds understandably resist. But God doesn’t want us to leap toward faith out of fear, but rather out of hope, joy, and love. This is not to say that faith is inconceivable or irrational, but rather that God’s work in our lives, despite all that we know, is somewhat mysterious, in that it is best known through experience.
In the end, I’m not sure my new friend wanted to hear or understand how and why I find the spiritual life more challenging and rewarding than my academic one. It is not that I am uncommitted to the challenges of mastering knowledge and enriching my mind, but just as I do not believe my Christian faith has a monopoly on truth, I also do not believe academia has a monopoly on wisdom. I trust that it is such a gift to be known by God and to fellowship with others, and so I continue to seek God’s will for my life, which only inspires me to cherish even more this life and all that is within it.