A year ago today, I was in the hospital.
On Independence Day, I found out I had appendicitis - a severe case. I would require an appendectomy the next morning.
Appendectomies are routine procedures, but I’ll admit I was nervous. I’d never had surgery before.
Laying in the hospital bed, I turned on my audiobook: “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. I distinctly remember this paragraph:
“...my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.”
It was ironic, not only because I was battling with the same “what ifs,” but also because it spoke to why I was reading “Mere Christianity” in the first place.
Before 2021, I probably wasn’t a Christian, though I would’ve certainly said I was. I grew up in a church. I went to youth group. I even prayed most nights.
But I had little understanding of what Christianity was. I’d been catechized as a child at Sunday school, but, as a teenager, I’d been catechized by public school, Hollywood and social media.
I was a hedonist. Going into college, I was more concerned about what bar I was going to that night or what girl was going to be my date to the football game that Saturday. I ate like crap, napped all day and spent more time downtown than at the library, gym or church. As my freshman year came to a close, I was left with 25 extra pounds, mediocre grades and a painful emptiness.
It got better when I read books like “12 Rules for Life” by Dr. Jordan Peterson and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. They helped me begin my search for meaning and realize that instant gratification is antithetical to lasting satisfaction.
Even then, I wasn’t taking the concept of God seriously. I thought traditional theology was outdated, a likely misinterpretation of a man who probably taught good things.
I became a pantheist, someone who believes God is identical to nature. I didn’t deny that there was a Higher Power, but I denied that He was anything supernatural.
This changed in the spring of 2021 when I did an in-depth study on epistemology, the branch of philosophy which examines knowledge. It asks the questions, “What is knowing?” and “How do we know?”
What I found was exactly what Lewis is pointing to in that paragraph: reason and faith are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are mutually necessary.
As I thought about what it meant to believe at all, I hit a roadblock. Do we believe things because there are zero conceivable doubts about them? Is there anything that can’t be doubted at all?
Asking myself these questions, I realized that every belief requires some sort of leap of faith, whether that belief is in the fundamental precepts of science or the existence of heaven.
For instance, you can’t use science to “test” whether or not the conclusions drawn from science are valid. Science relies on observational evidence. In order to accept its validity, you must accept that our observations are also valid. This can’t be “proven” or “disproven.” It has to be simply trusted.
I’m not suggesting that science is invalid but only that faith is required to believe all things, even those things which we all take for granted, science included. Therefore, faith is not necessarily an invalid reason to hold a belief. If it was, we couldn’t believe anything.
This made me open my mind to things I previously dismissed. Maybe, I thought, Jesus did perform miracles. Maybe He was resurrected. Maybe God is not nature but is rather superior to it, i.e., supernatural.
Curious, I decided to read about theology. I started with Lewis because that’s what the internet told me to do.
Still, it wasn’t reason that opened the door for me to step into faith. Reason opened the door for faith to step into me. And it hit me as I woke up from my surgery.
The procedure was supposed to be minor. I thought I would have only a few small incisions and go home that night.
When I came back to consciousness, the doctor said my appendix was one of the largest he’d ever seen. They couldn’t get it out with a small incision, so they had to cut me open. I still have a six-inch scar on my stomach.
I remained in the hospital for five days. Between the bouts of pain and morphine naps, I couldn’t help but think of what a miracle it was that I’d gone to the hospital on time. As bad as it was, it could’ve been much worse.
Furthermore, every time I’d open my eyes, I noticed what was hanging on the wall to my right: Jesus Christ nailed to a cross. It was a Catholic hospital, and they had crucifixes in every room.
It was surreal and not only put my pain in perspective, but made me think. It still remains with me today.
Sure enough, I remain a sinner. My knowledge of theology is minimal. I’m still searching through the plethora of Christian denominations, and I’m learning, reading and trying to get better at this prayer thing.
Nevertheless, as I constantly catch myself resorting back to worldly assumptions, I’m reminded of another quote by Lewis:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”
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