When I was a little girl, nighttime shadows were large around me, and I imagined spirits and demons against the wall. Bible passages and revival meeting preachers had painted vivid pictures in my mind of the horrors of hell, and I was afraid of dying and going there. I did not know how to be a Christian, and I was afraid to ask. Lonely and terrified, I cried myself to sleep many nights.
And then one day I gathered courage. I talked to my mom and dad, and I did what they told me. I prayed and asked God to forgive my sins and take me to heaven when I died.
The fear was gone. And God was close–so close, that lying on my back on my bed I could have reached up and touched Him–but even that cannot describe His closeness. He was next to my heart. I felt that He loved me, and this surprised me. Puny Luci Miller, nine years old, inadequate, and fearful–and this God of the Universe loved me? The revelation changed my life.
I nursed that beginning of a relationship like a tender young seedling in my heart. As I got older, my desires grew and changed, and my understanding of life deepened. But I could not forget the startling reality of my nine-year-old revelation–that the God of the Universe loved me. I never again feared going to hell.
That abandoned child’s fear was replaced by a new fear, gentler, but more potent–I wanted nothing to damage this tender seedling of love, nothing to come between me and this Startling Person I had glimpsed. It was all I really wanted: to know this Person better. He allured and called me–the words were gentle, but they pierced me.
When I was a young woman of twenty-two, I dedicated my life to Him in a public service. Trembling, joyful, reckless, I prayed these words: I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.
With all my heart, I meant every word.
But time moves on, and I move with it. I have not stood unwavering in that holy and dedicated spot. Rather, it is the opposite. In the five years since I made that promise, I have gone through intense periods of questioning God. I have felt anger towards Him. I have felt my faith rocked by doubt until I could only hold onto the sides of the boat and pray I would not sink.
I do not know why this is, unless it is that Satan hates my prayer of dedication as much as I love it.
Trying to understand myself, I look for the root of the doubts. These are my conclusions:
1. In the intervening years since that prayer, I have become far more connected to the world outside my small Christian community. Internet is a huge connector. Work, and the people and lifestyles I come into contact with there, is another. I read widely and am influenced by the books and articles that I read. But the most powerful of my connectors are the friendships I have formed, the real admiration and love I have conceived for people who make no profession of Christianity and may even oppose it. Real, flesh-and-blood people will always be more effective than disembodied words.
2. Whatever fuels it, the real source of my doubt comes from within. The doubts are vague and all-encompassing. When I examine them, they have no basis in anything solid or reasonable–and yet, they have the power to sway me to my depth. I wonder why this is, and have concluded that the doubts are not fed from an outside source, but from some faithless corner of my heart. The reasons for my doubt have changed many times–but it does not really matter what the reasons are. Any reason, however groundless, would have the capability to cause me to stop and reconsider my faith. This doubt is a part of my fallen nature. It is my rebellion, my blindness, my self-thinking pride, my inability to comprehend God.
3. I am gullible. I tend to believe what people tell me. When people tell me conflicting things, I have a problem. Enough said.
4. Hell is still my biggest problem. I no longer fear it, but I grapple with the idea of it. This Biblical concept of a lost humanity headed toward a doomed eternity is the one part of my faith I do not like.
5. I have felt myself ashamed of my faith. I have been told I am narrow-minded, non-intellectual, old fashioned. These things sting.
I wish that the Bible teachings would be less harsh, less single-minded, more pleasing to other people. I wish that there weren’t found in its pages such an inflexibility of right and wrong. I wish that I could read the Bible, and reading it, still happily believe that everyone, regardless of belief system or moral choice, is headed for the same happy hunting ground. It would be more pleasant. So much easier. No offense involved.
I look with envy at these other people, the ones who have no bulky Bible beliefs to weigh them down. It would be nice, I think, to be “normal,” like them. Nice to live without this deep sense of responsibility toward humanity. Nice to live in the moment, with no thought of eternity. Nice to live without the obligation of sharing my faith. It would be pleasant to align myself with the “in” crowd, to choose my own beliefs and make them acceptable, intellectual, and easy. How fun it would be, I tell myself, to be able to live that way.
And the writing that is so important to me. Too bad the only thing I am really passionate about is Jesus. It would be easier to write about something else.
But who am I kidding?
If I didn’t have Jesus stuck in my head, my life wouldn’t be easier. It would only be lonelier. Someone once said to me, “We are all lonely,” and I thought, “but I’m not.” Sometimes I have felt alienated and vastly different from other people, but at times like this, I talk to God and know that He understands me in a way no one else can. His hands formed me, and He is my Friend. I am never lonely, because He is with me.
Maybe, if I didn’t have Jesus, I could choose easier beliefs, but it’s more likely that I wouldn’t know what to believe. Believing all things, I would end by believing nothing.
Maybe, if He wasn’t stuck in my head, I could write books that were popular and acceptable. But I think I would not. I think I would still be a scared little girl lying in a bed and unable to handle my world. Jesus is my passion and my courage. He makes my life worth living. He gives me something to write about.
Maybe, if I didn’t have Jesus, I would be free from this burdening responsibility towards humanity. But I would also have to live without this deep love for people that I know comes from Him. I would have to live without the words He speaks to me in the early mornings, live without the joy that fulfills my longings, live without His love that is close as a wedding band around my heart.
I would give up everything, every home, every friend, every dream, in order to keep this one friendship with Jesus that began when I was a scared, nine-year-old girl.
Jesus told a little story about a field one time. I know exactly what He meant by it:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hid in a field; which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy of it, goes and sells all that he has and buys that one field.
This is me. It doesn’t matter how the doubts rock me, and how vicious they are. In the end, I must come to Jesus. He is my everything. He is my field.