Step 1: Face Reality

I think that’s at the core of everything I care about. You have to face reality.

I wrote this a few years ago, back when I was Past Ben.1

I am getting honestly kind of scared about how unusual a stance this seems to be these days. It strikes me as fairly self-evident. Things are a certain way. Also, that means they are not any other way. Like it or not.

I have one new fear as I read this, and one old fear.

One of the most desperate driving impulses in my life is to discover and respond to how things actually are. I can’t stand the idea of intentional self-deception, and I have only an uneasy truce with the fact that lots of truth is currently out of my reach. It is a hard, bracing, knife-edged lifestyle, and absolutely gushing with life and power. I know I have pockets of inaccuracy and self-deception in me – lots of them, I’m pretty sure – but they only last as long as they can stay out of my scopes.

The reason I share this is because it’s the groundwork for any conversation you’ll ever have with me. If you can’t agree that reality is a certain way (and therefore not any other way) and that we must find and face reality as it is, I’m happy to serve you however I’m called to, but our serious conversations are not going to get very far. Conversely, if you agree with me on that, I’ll love every moment we spend talking, even if we’re at each others’ throats in hard debate.

Prove me wrong, anytime, on anything. Open invitation. Don’t take my word for stuff. If you can convince me that I’m wrong, I’ll change my mind and thank you for it. I can’t understand any other way of living.

Here comes the part that sparks the old fear, followed by the part that sparks the new.

This gets particularly interesting because I’m a devoted follower of Jesus. I follow him because I’m convinced he’s real and everything he said is right. My allegiance is to the truth and to Jesus, not to “being a Christian” or anything else. If you seek the truth, I don’t care where you’re starting from or where you currently stand. Let’s talk. And if you’re not willing to face the truth, I don’t care if you’re a Christian or what. Be careful how seriously you engage with me, because I’m committed to bringing everything into the light.

The old fear is one that, I suspect, is akin to the fear of coming out. Among many people I deeply respect, believing in a real God (much less a living Jesus) is at best a little eccentric, at worst self-delusional and maybe even dangerous. Highly unscientific, at the very least. One of those people. And I really, really care about people knowing that I’m capable of intellectual rigor and I’m not a superstitious freak or a kneejerk bigot. Shallow, I know, but I care.

The thing I want you to understand is that I believe in God as a result of my synthesis of how I’ve seen the world working. My faith is not (intentionally) escapist or superstitious. I didn’t decide to believe in God. It’s just that, as far as I can tell, God is real, and I’ve had to decide how I’m going to respond to that.

Often this complicates my life rather than making it easier. But based on my experience, not believing in God would be kind of like not believing in electromagnetic force. It may be a little tricky to explain, sure, and I’m open to new data, but I’m pretty sure that, whether clumsily or accurately, we’re describing a real thing.

But there’s another side to it, too. Pretty much all of the actual Christians I know in real life are super cool, but outside my really cool church and my deep and deeply understanding friends, and even sometimes with them, I’m scared to admit how deeply I think about and question things about God and Christianity and spiritual things, and what strange and complicated conclusions (or theories) I arrive at.

Or sometimes it’s just hard to explain my ideas.

But in any case, I worry that people might not like what I’m really thinking about things. Sometimes my ideas are a little unorthodox (in the strict sense, diverging from accepted beliefs). Often it’s just really hard to tell whether they’re orthodox or not because I’m not asking the standard questions to start with, much less getting the standard answers. And that makes people uncomfortable, or makes them wonder if I’m really reliably Christian.2

To you who are worried, I want to reassure you that I am deeply devoted to Jesus, and I plan to walk with him for the rest of my life and beyond. I’d go so far as to say I’m in love with him. You know, not in a weird way, except how could it possibly not be weird? He’s invisible and 2,000 years old and/or eternal and has been through death and out the other side!

I want to shout this to the world in two ways. To you who don’t know this yet: Jesus is incredible! He’s invisible and etc. and yet so cool and lovely! Ask him to show you if he’s real, then pay attention to what you know deep down is what you really need to do next—Unplug for a minute? Reconcile with somebody? Write faster?—and follow that. Then repeat. Recipe for adventure.

And to you who believe in Jesus: This is freaking weird! You’re so weird! You believe in invisible people! You think you’re going to be alive ten thousand years from now! And I do too! We’re so weird! Let’s not act like we have it buttoned up, like this is all some tidy, comforting lens that finally makes sense of everything.

As for the new fear? It’s sparked by that last line:

Be careful how seriously you engage with me, because I’m committed to bringing everything into the light.

I’m really scared that’s less true now than it was when I wrote it. I’m scared I’m getting comfortable and middle-aged and cocooned into my sense of my own smartness and rightness in how I see the world. So I’ll end with an old invitation that still holds. Seriously.

Prove me wrong, anytime, on anything. Open invitation. Don’t take my word for stuff. If you can convince me that I’m wrong, I’ll change my mind and thank you for it. I can’t understand any other way of living.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – To those who actually read this far, thank you for bearing with me. I know it’s a huge departure from what I’ve been posting so far, but it had to come out sooner or later. It was a really scary post to write, and I’m grateful to know that there are people like you who will hear me out even when I’m complicated and long-winded and not necessarily making sense yet. But then, what are friends for, right?


1 Or was I? Maybe back then I was Normal Ben and now I was Past Ben back then. Am having been. Was have—Hmm. No, maybe now I’m Future—wait, now I was going to being Future Ben? Maybe there’s just two Normal Bens. Well, infinite Normal Bens. Or rather, would I—we?—be quantized? Maybe I am having been a spectrum of increasingly future Bens. Ben. Increasingly future Ben. Except there’s less and less Future Ben as you travel along the continuum. So I’m a continuum of increasingly past Ben. Or Bens, if we’re quantized. Sorry, if I’m quantized. Sorry, what was the question?

2 This is part of why I like writing stories, by the way. I can explore the uncomfortable questions and oddball answers freely, and if people get nervous about it, well, come on. It’s just a story. What harm can stories do, right? Heh heh. Riiight.

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3 comments

  1. Dear Ben, I realize you wrote this almost a month ago, but I haven’t figured out how to get your posts by email yet and don’t ever remember to check your website. 🙂

    I, too, believe the pursuit of truth is the only thing worth giving your life to. I question things constantly. I am full of doubts and skepticism about Christianity and God’s existence, and even the existence of myself and everything around me. But if there’s one thing I’ve prayed with all my heart, it’s for God to reveal the Truth to me, and I have to believe that if he’s real he’ll answer that prayer. And I’ll follow the answer wherever it leads me, even if it alienates me from my family and my community. I would sacrifice almost anything – relationships, dreams, independence, even my own life, for my little ones (my siblings). But the stakes are too high to remain a Christian/Protestant/(fill in the blank) just for their sake.

    All that being said, through all the doubts, I am loved by Jesus and I love him too. And it IS weird. Isn’t it?? A friend of mine made a point about that verse in John, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” – that the Truth is not an idea or a set of assertions you agree with. Those don’t have the power to free you from anything. The truth is a Person – the revealed son of God, Jesus Christ, who loved us so much he came to suffer and die for our sake, to make us his own. Wow.

    Thanks for the reminder that I’m not the only one who’s struggling trying to figure things out, asking weird questions, not believing the right things. We can muddle along together until that glorious day when all is revealed!

    Ivy

    Like

    1. Thanks, Ivy. I was horribly self-conscious about this post, very nervous that it all came out wrong and I’d just confused and/or offended all of the (mercifully few) people who had or would read it. It’s so good to hear that someone got it and got good out of it.

      I still haven’t gotten my head around the idea that truth is more fundamentally relational/personal than factual, but I think that’s the way it is. I’m trying to massage my grid to where I can start to grasp that.

      I’m so grateful that I can always come back to Jesus as he is as the core of my life and allegiance. I waver and overthink, and I find it tiresome to support or defend a given way of thinking or living just because it’s what I or my people have always supported or defended, but—however the other questions and answers shake out—Jesus is alive and his life is in me.

      It can sometimes feel like I’ve got nothing except the deep unshakable foundation, but I’d so much rather have that than everything but.

      Thanks as ever for sharing so freely and deeply of yourself. I really appreciate it.

      Cheers!
      Ben

      Like

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