If you’ve read any of Epic whatsoever, whether it’s the entire series so far or the first handful of chapters in Dawn of Destiny, you’ve undoubtedly come away with the realization that I write from a perspective of faith, specifically, Christianity. Though I never profess Epic to be a Christian series (for those curious, it isn’t), my experiences with Christianity no doubt shines through on a number of occasions, be it through the thoughts of the protagonist – a struggling man of faith – or the events that unfold around the rest of the cast. At the end of this Easter Sunday, I am prompted to reflect back on how my life has been as a follower of Christ.
Though I’m far from an in-your-facer or a Bible-thumper, I don’t shy from spiritual discussion. My testimony is easy to find, and I mention it in the author biography of every novel I publish. On numerous occasions, I’ve gone back to reread it with the intent of updating it or tweaking it to make it sound more “polished.” But in every attempt, I’ve come back with the realization that it was written exactly how it was meant to be written, in a way far more mature than the author was at the time of its writing, a fact that only serves to reinforce to me that the words weren’t my own to begin with. And so in all of these years that it’s been available online for others to read, it remains unchanged from the first day it was posted.
One of the greatest struggles a follower of Christ faces is putting into words exactly what being a follower of Christ means – and by that, I mean inwardly. On the outside, most of us follow the modern commandments of, “Thou shalt not curse, thou shalt listen only to Christian music, and thou must answer every ‘how are you?’ question with ‘fine!’ since you’re a Christian and that’s how things should be.” All too often our walks as Christians get muddled in the exterior, where we try to cover up our dented chassis with fresh coats of paint and those scented hangie-things that make our front seats smell like pine trees. More often than not, our outward appearances are lies. We’re not perfect, either.
But the inward reality is the one that counts, for it is in the expression of this reality that we find our testimonies – our witness to the amazing change that accompanies one’s decision to surrender their life to Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one captured that inward reality in better words than the Apostle Paul, who said things such as, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway,” and “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Or in layman’s terms, “The Christian life is very, very, very hard.”
Hard, but so worth it.
One of the first things I always say when attempting to express the essence of Christianity is, “Don’t judge it by looking at Christians.” In our culture of comfort, conformity, and political correctness, we’ve lost a great deal of the groundedness that our forerunners, such as the Apostle Paul and the other men of the New Testament, gained through lives of difficulty and persecution. We’re spoiled. We want to be liked. So we opt to stay in out comfort zones and not offend. After all, it’s a nice thought to say that everyone gets to Heaven in the end, right?
If you’re waiting for me to tack on to the end of that last statement something like, “But we know that’s not true,” don’t worry. As much as any amount of spiritual truth that I know, I also know that statements like that, for purposes like these, aren’t going to convince anyone. And I’m not trying to convince anyone. That’s not my job. God has more powerful forces than me to evoke senses of incompleteness and conviction. So here’s what I’ll say:
The words in my testimony were true then, and they remain true now. Every single one of them. Accepting Christ simply does something that cannot be explained, not in flowery words or pointed calculation. When you know Christ, you know God, and when you know God, you experience Him. I don’t mean in fleeting thoughts that could or not could be our own imaginations, or unexplainable “feelings” that prompt us to do things that we wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’m talking about in real, tangible, “Wow” moments. Moments that aren’t the conjurations of our overactive imaginations, or coincidences that we try desperately to pawn off as God’s will miraculously revealing itself. I mean direct communication. Seeing things that should not be seen – being led to places you should not go. No, I’m not talking about hallucinations. I’m talking about conversations that are as tangibly evident as any I’d have with a coworker or neighbor. A relationship that is unlike any other, in which both parties speak and are spoken to in ways that simple explanations will never do justice. The knowledge and awareness of a living God, living in you. It is something that to this day, with four novels under my belt and over two decades of writing experience, I still cannot put into words.
Those who count themselves among the body of Christ know what I’m talking about. And so I suppose that the culmination of this message is a simple statement intended for those who don’t. Those who don’t count themselves among followers of Christ, or of any organized religion, or of any anything. I am intelligent. I am a thinker. I was given a gift of creativity and rationalization, and I approach life, more or less, as a skeptic in most things. I even frequently test my own faith. To this day, I have never been left disappointed. And so I would say this to my fellow skeptics in the world, with whom I share a complete love, understanding, and empathy: don’t take my word for any of this. Don’t even take the Bible’s word.
I said this in my original testimony, and I’ll say it here again. There is zero – absolutely zero – harm in asking God to show Himself. To say, honestly, “God, I don’t believe in you, but if you’re up there, I’m open to your showing me.” But to truly ask it. To truly be open. To seek. And if you come back with no answers, well, I suppose that’s your answer. But I’m not worried about that. Because the God I commune with says, “Seek and you will find.” But you have to truly seek. Just give it a try. Humor Him, to humor me. Just be ready.
Just be ready.
As always, I love to hear back from people, especially as it pertains to spirituality (be it good or bad). A million emails about favorite characters can’t rival one from a person writing about their faith experience. Those tend to put everything in perspective. And sometimes, we could all use a little perspective – and a small step of faith. I’d love to hear about yours.