I've got this friend named Matt who has played a pretty significant role in my life. Matt and I met when we lived overseas in Jr. High. Our parent's both worked for the U.S. Embassy in a... um... very difficult country.
We pretty much spent every day together for two years, and I was massive liar before I knew Matt. It was during those two years that I really came to own my own faith as I was going through all kinds of crap in life. I started seeking the Lord pretty intensely and Matt was a big part of helping me figure that out.
Recently we haven't seen each other much. I saw him once right before I got married seven years ago, and he supported my wife and I for several years while he was still in school. Problems cropped up when through a bad connection and incompetence on my part I called to ask for some support and ended up being kind of an ass. We didn't talk for a while as I was still trying to figure out how to repair things and then a few months back I finally found him again online through his wife and apologized.
Intially he forgave me and then when I found out he wasn't really walking with the Lord anymore I got grumpy with him and probably burned whatever bridge we had just repaired. It was a knee-jerk reaction. How the heck does the guy who in a large part is responsible for me walking with the Lord, stop walking with the Lord? It's like a friend who talks you in to switching from Hanes to Fruit of the Loom undershirts and then a few years later you find out he's wearing Hanes.
Okay bad comparison, but you get the point.
So this is titled "Monologues with Matt" because I anticipate it being much more a monologue than a dialogue. I will also drop what I write up in to an email and send it his way, but I don't know that I anticipate him actually reading it, let alone engaging with it. I post it here because whether he interacts or not, we all have friends who have wrestled with their faith. I hope my processing some of these things will be helpful to your process in loving on your friends.
On the to the meat. First of all you should know Matt is brilliant. Like probably one of the most brilliant people I've ever known (if not THE most brilliant). Even when I'm seven miles in to a run and having wonderful delusions of granduer imagining myself as president of the United States, I still imagine hiring Matt as my main advisor because even when delusional, I still know he's brighter than me by a substantial margain.
To be honest I think a large part of his wrestling with his faith is probably due to his brilliance. That said I simply don’t buy the argument that some people are too smart for faith. There may be a large number of intellectuals who do not seek God, but there are also an awful lot who do. Some scientists find excuses for the lack of God in their work, but others see his outrageous artwork in creation. In my opinion it’s not that much different than the world of teachers or soccer players. There are believers and non-believers everywhere.
Romans says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” - 1 Corinthians 1:22-24. My understanding of this is that we all have our own excuses for what we want to see God provide, but frankly it’s just going to be foolishness to us unless we are called. Then it’s brilliance.
Part of what I wrestle with over this thing with Matt is that he was one of those people who found wonder in God everywhere he looked. Everything in life was informed by his love for the Lord, especially his intellect. Christ was the wisdom and power of God.
Recently I read a book about missionaries who lost their faith in the field. I also read a book about a former believer who fell in to mormonism. The thing they had in common was they stopped reading the Bible. I know that sounds simple, but in the latter the lady says very clearly that this is the reason she points to for her being confused (when she latter came back to the Lord). Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The word is living and active. That is to say, the Bible is pretty tough. It has absolutely been my experience that reading the word is essential to continuing in my life in Christ. I may be way off, but I wonder how much of Matt’s questioning has come from stopping reading the word. And which actually came first? Matt, if you’re reading this I challenge you to spend some time reading the Bible and see anew what you think. The book is ridiculously brilliant. Maybe being in grad school and then post-grad school just made very little time for the Word. I don’t know.
Whatever you choose to do, please know buddy that I press this issue only because I really do genuinely love you, and it’s hard for me to hear what was once of utmost importance to you is now just a thing of your past. I tell people about Jesus for a living. I live in an uncomfortable place to do so. And you were an essential part of making me chase hard after the Lord. Miss you man.
I have every intention of buying you a beer in heaven. I don’t want you to just get there. I want to someday again see the Matt that would have stormed the gates.