Rags to Riches: Being Honest In Your Doubting
Welcome to the Rags to Riches series! I am delighted to begin with this post, as it has challenged me to think about being honest with, and about God. Unbelief and doubt can feel daunting. Yet Jessie reminds us of the importance of asking the hard questions at times, rooting our confidence in Christ. Enjoy! Nadia x
Few people would guess it now, but for most of my life I have been cripplingly shy. My cousin recently joked that she didn’t hear me speak until I was about 7. My exceptional quietness started to reduce when I was about 13 - I thankfully realised that: no, not everything to come out of my mouth would sound lame, and repel every potential friend within hearing distance. This becomes relevant when I tell you the story of how I found God.
I grew up in a small, rural village and went with my parents and sister to church almost every Sunday. By the time I was about 14, however, I saw no evidence of this ‘God’ in my life or the world, and biology, physics and chemistry were telling me far more about creation than church ever had.
One Sunday as I sat on the pew and stared around the dusty old church, I noticed a golden beam of light streaming in through the keyhole of the big wooden door and thought: ‘THAT is where I want to be. Outside. In the light. Free of this cold, dark place.’ That was what it took for me to finally reject faith. From then on I happily embraced the idea that Christianity was wrong, and Jesus and his disciples must have faked it.
I wish I could tell you I announced my views, or even my doubts to my parents or my sister. But I never did. My opinions were, as ever, internal. Shyness and insecurity made me afraid to speak up. I was afraid of making a scene and being rejected by revealing my unbelief. Thus began several years of lying by omission and feeling somewhat of a fake in church. I clasped my hands and closed my eyes in prayer while thinking it was a load of rubbish. I did readings and helped at Sunday club because people asked me to.
I don’t recall actively lying since no one ever asked me a direct question about my faith, but I was never honest. I’m ashamed that I kept up that charade even as I grew into a normal, confident girl; simply because it was easiest to do so.
A few years later I arrived at University to study biology and the theory of evolution that so fascinated me. I was aware of the Christian union and churches but finally felt free to avoid them, ending years of obligation and associated guilt. To my surprise I found myself popular and desirable and felt free to enjoy it. I would drink whole bottles of wine and more whenever the opportunity arose and if I made it to a club, throw myself at boys - or so I am told. First year will always be a haze of drunkenness, falling asleep in lectures and narrowly escaping a third.
But as I made friends with Christians, I observed their faithfulness. To my discomfort, I realised that this religion I had written off was something people were truly passionate about and really believed. It wasn't just tradition and community spirit that fuelled the church. There was more to Christianity than what I knew.
I was deeply moved by the love of Christians who handed out bottled water and jam sandwiches at 3am outside the clubs I was stumbling out of. I was touched by their friendliness and willingness to talk about their faith. I was curious about their joyfulness and easy friendships with one another.
Over a couple of years, going to mission week talks and follow-up groups, speaking to my Christian friends and generous church workers I came to realise I had no better explanation for the unexpected hero that was Jesus, than the explanation offered by the bible: he was God and he fulfilled God’s master plan in the most heart-achingly, glorious, torturous, loving way possible
I came to see that Jesus was what I had needed all along.
He was the light outside my cold, dark life, shining through the keyhole. He was the freedom and fulfilment I longed for; he was the beauty in the landscape and the freshness in the air.
Why tell you all this? A couple of reasons.
1. I don't want my sisters in Christ to be afraid to ask the hard questions. It can feel shameful because you lack in confidence, or worry you won’t find a satisfactory answer. I was painfully shy, I never asked and I never learnt. I tried to go it alone and never had the blessing of knowing God through some of the hardest years when I needed Him most. But knowledge is what we need:
For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2: 10-11
2. I want to encourage you in your evangelism. Don’t underestimate the power your generosity and distinctive lives have. Continue to love others because it brings glory to God, but be amazed as God uses it to bring others to Him.
Jessie graduated from Cambridge in July 2015 having studied Biology. She moved to East London in January, and works in Farringdon doing the finances for a small company and loves it! A sportswoman at University, she’ll be found jogging down the city streets or chilling out with friends and colleagues in bars, coffee shops and museums.