“Καλημερα! Καλημερα, Τρισια!” I heard behind me as I turned right in front of the 1896 Olympic Stadium. I turned around. Nir held his arms open. “Like my jacket?” he asked. “My parents bought it for me.”
We discussed our weekends, and he asked about how church works. He asked about Christmas and Easter, and I asked about Yom Kippur and Purim. He said he wasn’t religious, but was I? “Yes,” I said, grimacing. I’ve thought about this before, how much I hate to tell new people that Christianity is a big deal to me. Romans 1:16 runs through my head like an accusation, but I’ve decided that I’m not ashamed of the gospel…I’m ashamed of a lot of the people who go around talking about it.
“What does it mean for you? To be religious or not religious?” Nir asked.
“Hmmm…” I stalled, writing “επαναληψη – συνηθεια – διαρκεια” on the white board before our classmates arrived. “I think it gives me hope. Believing that there’s a God that made me and loved me. And it helps me to love others. When I think about how God made and loved everyone else, it makes me think I ought to do the same.”
Luigi and Stefanie entered the room. “Γεια σασ” we chorused at each other, and the conversation changed.
I’ve continued thinking about that conversation. The legalistic, perfectionistic (aka fearful) part of myself wonders if I should have explained more. The weight of Missed Opportunities, and those gross skits about being responsible for our friends’ eternal damnation at youth group conferences, still hangs over me sometimes. But the bigger part of me, the Me Now part of me, doesn’t think that faith can be summarized in a six-point, two-minute message.
My faith is messy. My faith includes a lot of days that could more accurately be labeled “doubt.” My faith means I’m mad a lot – at the world, at abusive people, at a God who moves slowly and tells us that is His “grace.” My faith is comforting and infuriating. I believe in a God who is more mystery than fact, who reveals himself and hides himself. How in the world can I explain all of that in one conversation?
My worries about whether or not I said enough to Nir have fallen away. There’s so much I don’t know about my faith, but what I do know, I said. Believing in God gives me hope. Believing in a God who used all of his power to give and give and give makes me light inside, light being weightless and bright all at once. Believing in God helps me to love. That’s what I have, and that’s what I cling to when nothing else seems quite as real.