Throughout Lent, a strong and courageous group of the young adults at my church engaged in a project I piloted called “Profess & Confess.” For six weeks, they studied, prayed and asked themselves difficult questions like, “What do I believe?” “What do I know to be true?” and “Can I truly call myself a Christian?”
Some of their realizations were freeing as these young adults resolved suspicions and misgivings around concepts like sin, judgment and predestination. Others were less than comforting as individuals were forced to acknowledge the limits of their knowledge around issues like free will, redemption and the existence of evil.
At the end of the six weeks, all of the participants concluded the journey by writing their very own confessions of faith.
As I expected, each person’s experience was unique and distinctive, ranging from feeling empowered and enlightened to terrified and even devastated. But as the texts began to pour in, the unexpected happened as one common confession emerged over and over again. Without provocation or prompt, every one of the participants acknowledged the presence of God in their lives and in the world around them:
- “Beyond what all holy books say about God; beyond what science may prove or disprove about God’s existence, I trust my intuition enough to say I feel strongly that throughout my life I have been loved by a powerful creator of infinite universes.”
- There are few things that are concrete in my life and that I am completely certain of, but I know that I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am a sister and I am a Christian. I know that I will never completely know all of God’s awesomeness and power, but I also know that he will never stop revealing himself to me.”
- I do not disbelieve anything but disbelief, for there is something out there to believe in.”
This may not seem groundbreaking. Christians who confess the existence of God — shocking! But it is far more than that. These Christians traveled to the depths and returned with an even-stronger conviction. These young adults discovered that their faith was not based in the foolish assumptions of their youth, but in the deep desires of their hearts. And it was from that place that they could confess the unrelenting, the undeniable, the unmistakable existence of God.
As 1 Peter says, “They have not seen Jesus, but they love him. They do not see him now, but they believe. Even despite their struggles, they believe in him and rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. And their reward for trusting him is the salvation of their souls.”
And I am not talking about salvation as some kind of cheap prize that gets doled out to those who believe the right thing. It isn’t some quid pro quo arrangement where IF you confess the right beliefs THEN you get to be saved.
No, the salvation of their souls, the salvation of our souls is that wonderful thing that happens when we, as believers, realize beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus isn’t gone, we are not alone, and that God is with us until the very end of the age. The world may continue to be imperfect. We may continue to suffer through hardship, and our hearts may be filled more often with expectation than fulfillment, but that does not mean our Savior has abandoned us.
After all, the Easter story tell us that Jesus is on the loose and he desires to be found.
Charlene Han Powell is currently the associate pastor for Christian education at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. She oversees adult education, young adult ministries and family ministries at this historic Manhattan church.