On 28 April 2015, I lost my faith.
No, I do not have the dates mixed up.
You've all heard the story; I rehash it every year. How my cousin suddenly had an asthma attack and was taken to hospital where she died. I entered into the story between the hospital and the death when my aunt called and told us the situation and told us to pray. We did pray as a family that night, collectively and individually. I vividly remember saying to God, "If You love me, let her live."
In the years since then, I've had so many people -- pastors, student theologians, Bible study leaders, fellow Bible college students, even people who no longer adhere to the Christian faith -- tell me how badly my theology was flawed that night. They tell me how ridiculous it was for me to base my entire hope and faith into one miracle. They tell me it was wrong for me to hinge His love for me on one prayer, on one human life.
I can follow where they're coming from, but I cannot understand their logic.
If God really is as great as they say He is, why then can't I do that? If God is capable of using a donkey to accomplish His purposes, why can't He reinflate dying lungs? Even modern medicine can do that nine times out of ten, why can't the God of the universe even manage that 10%? If God is so great, how is it wrong for me to bet the farm, to hinge my entire faith on one crazy possibility? Isn't that the very definition of faith? I believed so much that God loved me that I bet my cousin's life and my entire faith on it. They make entire blockbuster films on the stories of lesser bets.
Oh right -- the ones in the films usually pay off.
I made a crazy bet based on crazy faith -- the kind they begged us in youth group to have -- and lost. Yeah, yeah, maybe it was wrong to bet with God, but if He loved me -- if He really loved me -- why wouldn't He prove it? I have spent the last five years in a pit of numbness, knowing that I should love and serve and be faithful to Him, but also knowing that He was fully capable of saving my cousin and proving to me that He loved me and He did not do it. 'Ask and you shall receive,' my foot.
You know if it had been a degenerate -- somebody addicted to crack who'd gambled his entire life away and made a hobby of murdering children for twenty-five years -- God would have done it. If that 'degenerate' had pleaded for the life of his own nine-year-cousin, using the exact same wording I did, God would have done it. And it would have sold millions of books and packed out arenas to hear that testimony. What makes me any different? Why can't I ask the exact same thing? I'm really no less of a degenerate in my soul. Am I not evil enough for God to bother with me? Is that not 'bad enough' for me to get a prayer answered? What do I have to do? How bad do I have to be?
I've lost many people even closer to me than my cousin, but my cousin's death is the one that I keep coming back to, the one that continues to infuriate and flummox me.
I asked for one thing -- one thing. I had a hell of a lot of faith -- it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to bet my entire faith on one person's life. I didn't ask for new shoes or a better-paying job or more friends or anything frivolous. I begged for someone else's life. Is that not a noble thing to ask? All I wanted was my cousin to live, and I wanted it so badly that I exchanged my relationship with God for it.
How is that not enough? Nothing I do is ever enough for humans; I've known that for years. But they always told us God was gracious and while we would never measure up to His standard, He had this really great thing called 'mercy' because He loved us SOOOOOOOO much. I bet a hell of a lot on that mercy and that love that night.
And it failed me.