Everyone does. Whether you’re a homeless drug fiend or a philanthropic billionaire, we all need God. Otherwise you will live, and you will die, and fifty years later it will be as though you never had. If you’re ok with nihilism and happy (or unhappy, I guess) to live a pointless life, I probably don’t have to tell you you’re reading something you’ll disagree with. For the rest of us humans, our need for God is universal regardless of how religious or independent we would consider ourselves.
All that separates the faithful from the faithless is acceptance of this need. Not temperament, not IQ, not criminal record or social status. Only by being acutely aware of our hopeless state can we escape it. “Good” or “bad” doesn’t mean a lot in light of the fact that we’re mostly driven by selfishness and entirely unable to prevent ourselves or anyone else from dying at the end. Without God, life is sandcastles too close to the shore and energy wasted fighting the waves. Sure, we can all build something on our own… but not well, and not for long.
Enough with generalization; what about me specifically? I am, after all, the only person I know well enough to write very much about. Am I a better person for seeing my need and giving God control of my life? While I think so, it’s not my doing. And it wasn’t much of a choice, really. I’d consider myself a ‘good’ person, for whatever that is worth, somewhere on the world’s scale between the homeless guy and the billionaire. I’m usually smart, mostly honest, almost always responsible. Why, then, do I need God so much? Because, among other reasons: without him, I’d be crazy.
We’re not talking “boy, that guy’s a little crazy” crazy. I mean more like “have a nervous breakdown, drop out of school and move to Montana to hunt bison” crazy. Seriously. I am insightful, so I’m used to knowing how things – my computer, every electronic device my parents own, gravity, government, communication – work. Fortunately, I’m also intelligent enough to know that this has limits, and that even if I tried (and were a whole lot smarter) I would never understand everything. This tidbit of knowledge serves as an equalizer, with one fatal exception.
Girls. Yes, girls… real original, eh? Not girls in general, because that would just be stupid. Specifically, attractive girls who are nice enough to talk to me and popular enough to usually be talking to someone else. At least since tag on the kindergarten playground, it seems like I’ve usually got one girl or another stuck in my head. By 5th or 6th grade when I’d begun to decide cooties might not be such a bad thing to catch, I’d also realized I was smaller and less talkative than many of the other guys. In a classroom of 30 kids there might be 5 cute girls and 10 boys more popular than me; you do the math. I started thinking about girls more and talking to girls less.
I might go deep into nature vs. nurture, considering whether my character or early experiences were more responsible for making me self-conscious and intimidated. But nature vs. nurture has always bored the crap out of me, so let’s not do that. Fact is, I was shy in general and especially frightened of conversations with cute girls. What does an overly introspective boy do in a situation like this? Why, analyze to death and freak out, of course! To varying degrees, that’s what I’ve been doing since I was 12, and I can’t think of a single time when it’s served me well.
The “varying degrees” part is where God comes in. As I’ve mentioned probably enough to sound like a hugely arrogant nerd, I’m pretty smart. I got good grades in high school without much work. I get decent grades in college with only slightly more work. Given my blessedly encouraging family and friends, and assuming my B.S. snags me a career, what else do I need? I can get an apartment, then a house, then a new car every three years from this chapter until the conclusion, like your average Miami business graduate. By every worldly standard, I’m one good job interview away from being set.
Except for the way I bend myself to breaking over girls. Everything else I’ve needed has fallen into place: college acceptance, test scores, scholarships, summer work, housing, money from my parents for school and from my grandparents for a car. Were it not for girls, these self-centered things would probably be enough for me. I’m smart enough to know how dumb I am, but I don’t know whether I’m humble enough to admit it without extra pressure.
And talk about pressure! From junior high through high school, there was always a handful of girls I thought were really cool, really hot, and really scary. Although this unofficial group’s roll was in a fairly constant state of change, there always was someone I had to prep myself before running into again. At every school or church event, there was someone to whom talking required thorough preparation. I was ever thinking of lines in my head, ever cooking up scenarios that would get me a smile or a laugh or, dare I say it, a date.
If you’ve had to give a presentation or a speech in front of people, you’ve got some idea what this is like. The only thing worse than going in blind and completely unprepared is trying to memorize verbatim what you want to say; speeches don’t have multiple takes. Forget a sentence… a phrase… a word, and you’ve got an instant breakdown with no delay on the camera and everybody watching. This is sort of the way I’ve always felt about girls I’m interested in dating.
Under the weight of stress, stretched expectations, and emotional letdown (let’s just say I regularly forget my lines), I found myself at the end of high school beginning to understand the reasons my parents had always taken me to church. No matter how much better I got at talking to girls, and even if I were to find the right one, romance – this supposed peak of human existence, this glamorized salve for every cut – would be a challenge for me. Analysis is something my brain is always doing, whether I throw myself into it or not, and logic is one persistent beast.
Even the rare girl who is cool and approachable provides feelings that only hint at a more perfect Love. Even sweet girls who are a little too crazy or a little too trendy or a little too sold on the college culture leave me fumbling for words and planning my next moves. Thank God for these feelings. Sometimes I think they are the only stupid things keeping me from giving up on romance altogether. More importantly, I know rejection and broken expectations stab hard enough to make me feel more frequently my need for God.
Am I wrong in seeing this as blatantly amazing? God takes my most vulnerable point, a perpetually unstable aspect of who I am, and forces me to see him through it. I think there’s a reason people often “find” God at their worst, tend to grow closest to Him during the hardest parts of their lives. At any other time, we can get a new car or a new job or a new whatever, slough off/take pills for the depression, pick ourselves up and go on alone. There are certain things, though, we simply cannot get around: these turn us either numb, crazy, or Christian.