Recently I was asked a question which I’ve been asked before and always sort of bothers me. While on a Confirmation retreat, a high-schooler said to me: “Why do you believe in God?”
Now, you might ask me why that question bothers me. As a youth minister and someone who says I’m doing my best to live out the Catholic faith, I should probably have an answer. And I do; that is not the problem. My problem with the question is not that I don’t know to answer the question, but that I don’t think I can adequately explain my answer. More on this later.
I’ve long wanted to have something of a thesis, a quote or verse or idea which dominates my life and prayer and thought. Maybe you’re like me, and you totally understand this desire: I like to set out knowing the main push behind something that I’m doing. If there’s a task, I want to know the goal of the task. When I play sports, I need to play to win, otherwise sports aren’t so fun.
When I try to think of a thesis, the verse which keeps coming to mind is this one: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). As far as a thesis goes, though, I’ve never been able to pinpoint why this one is so important to me. Is the Lord trying to tell me that I shouldn’t have fear? Maybe (probably). Is He trying to encourage me to love those around me more perfectly? Maybe, but probably not.
Maybe I always had a hard time explaining this verse because I didn’t understand it, or maybe I was just trying to find something more manly (I mean, love just sounds kind of girly sometimes). Lately, though, I think I’ve understood it. When the Gospel asks for my whole life, when Christ tells me I’m supposed to be ready to sell everything I have and turn away from everyone I love, it can bring me fear. Often, I want to tell Jesus that I love Him, but that it’s not fair of Him to ask me to leave behind the people and the things which I so cherish.
Then, in the back of my mind, I hear the voice of a priest who was very dear to me saying “it’s all about love” and it makes sense. The Lord knows I struggle to accept His love in a way which allows me to live in freedom instead of fear, and so He reminds me daily of His unfathomable love. He wants me to know that if I let His perfect love — that love which gives meaning to everything — penetrate my life, nothing will be scary anymore. In fact, in that love, I’ll be able to find peace, joy and happiness.
So I guess that’s what I should say when asked why I believe in God. I should tell them that I believe in God because I have been loved by a Love so perfect and complete that it removes from me all need to fear.
I’m not sure if I can really articulate that, either, but I know I believe it, and I think that just might be enough.