I will be writing a series of thoughts from Mel Lawrenz’s newly released book, I Want to Believe, by Regal Books (get it HERE).
Grace. The grace of a dancer who moves beautifully.
Grace is a word so overtaken by religion we often fail to see its simple meaning.
Is God graceful?
Mel Lawrenz thinks so. He says:
I used to think that God was only pleased when we say to Him, “I do believe.” But having lived a little longer and having watched many people running and stumbling and thrashing their way through life, and having read the Bible with a somewhat more careful eye, I think God is pleased when someone says, “I want to believe.” (pg. 14).
It is a beautiful thought and certainly true. In days when I was less critical about what I heard from my religious teachers, and less choosy about the teachers, I accepted a sort of dualistic view of the world and who is included and who is excluded. I accepted a view that one is either saved or unsaved and that the gulf between the two stretches long.
I grew to realize that the differences are far smaller than originally touted by those simplistic teachers.
I am not that different from the people I love who are not followers of Jesus. I recognize in myself the same compulsions and fatal flaws. I recognize in them the same drives to love and believe.
It is not a chasm that separates us, nor even a line. We are on a continuum.
I am not denying that a decision to follow Jesus is a deciding factor in our inclusion in the World to Come. I still believe that firmly. But I don’t see myself or people like me as radically different from those who are not disciples of Jesus. We are all children of God and more like Him than most would dare admit.
What attracted me to Mel Lawrenz’s book in the first place is the premise: that we all want to believe.
As soon as I, or Lawrenz, would say something like that, someone who firmly denies God or Messiah or salvation or whatever might say, “Don’t be so arrogant; I have no desire to be part of that religion that has taken you captive.”
True for some, no doubt. I’m not speaking, and neither is Lawrenz, about Jesus-envy. We’re speaking about an innate human drive to something, to order, structure, and some vision of goodness we want to believe in.
I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m told in the recent Ben Stein movie, Expelled, several leading atheist writers admit to some surprising visions of hope apart from God, yet, in a way that reveal their connection to God, however unconscious and tenuous it may be.
The premise of Lawrenz’s book is well-illustrated by the beautiful story of the man who came to Jesus on behalf of his son, whose epilectic seizures were caused by demons.
The man said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us.”
Jesus’ response challenges the man to deeper faith, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
The man’s response is stunning, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”
Lawrenz’s response to the story describes a condition nearly all of us have felt in this broken life:
When a person can look to God and say, “I do believe; help me with my unbelief,” he or she has actually said, “With as much as I know and as much as I have experienced and as much evidence as I have, I know that God is real, and he is good, and he is powerful, and he is here.”