Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My life as a Christian

by Ben Fischer

            I was baptized the same day as my oldest daughter, in fall 2006.  I was 35.  I had first had thoughts about becoming a Christian 2 years earlier when I was courting my now wife, Liz.  It was Liz and my friend and fellow Navy doctor David Benson who drew me to the Church by the way they lived their lives. 
            Liz and I were introduced by a childhood friend of mine who was in graduate school with her. I was immediately drawn to Liz by her warmth, humor, and spirit of adventure.  She and my friend Todd shared enthusiasm for live music (which was the main reason they both chose to go to school in Austin), and though Liz moved comfortably in that world, I soon realized that she was not of that world.  She did not exude any sort of superior or judgmental attitude, but at the same time she lived by a different standard than the people around her. 
As I got to know her better and we started to date, her differences from every other girl became more apparent.  She expected more from me than any other girl I had ever dated.  She made me want to be old fashioned and treat her with respect; she made me want to be better.  I wanted to know more about what made her different and so she began to share her faith with me.  She gave me a Bible with my name inscribed on it in fall 2004.  I read mostly from the New Testament (the Old was and still is a bit scary and intimidating) and was inspired by the call to love and selflessness. Exhortations to lead a more virtuous and noble life spoke to me and, in combination with the real life example of my then fiancé, made me want learn more about the Christian faith.
            I had up to that point in my life been seeking significance and a meaningful life in a secular context.   I was fortunate to have a loving mother and a formidable father who was stern about all the things he should have been stern about.  I knew from them and from the rigorous high school they had sent me to that a life well lived involved service to others. 
I had also been inspired by a high school Latin and philosophy teacher to lead the examined life.  I went off to college and then spent some post college adventure years earnestly seeking to find the right path that would best use my talents and interests. 
After some meandering paths through a farm in Vermont, nature preserve in Ecuador, and then a year teaching junior high in Quito, Ecuador I wound up choosing to study medicine because I had not come up with a better idea on my own and that path had always been encouraged by my family.  Though I’d had a lot of questions to that point about what a successful life constituted, I then went into 8 years of total dedication to professional training with no time to worry or think about what it all meant.  Upon emerging from my residency training, I found that I still had big questions.  I thought I had found meaning, and I had to a degree, but I had also found that you can busy yourself to the point that you can’t or don’t think about what it all means.
            In the year leading up to the time when I began to date my wife I read The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom, the main thesis of which is that a society that believes that all truths are equally true ultimately believes nothing and cannot hold together.  That book in part paved the way for me to accept Christianity.  I knew that I was dissatisfied with moral relativism and I felt myself adrift and not exactly the person I wanted to be, but I didn’t know what to do about it. 
            When I first began coming to Church I thought of myself as an observer – studying what this was all about.  I sincerely wanted to live up to the exhortations I admired from Paul and James in the Bible, but I was not sure about who God or Christ were. When Liz and I moved to Raleigh in 2007 and began to attend Church of the Apostles, I was very self-conscious about those doubts and even asked Patrick if it was okay for me to be in Church.  I felt like I was faking it.  Patrick encouraged me to keep coming and to attend a course here at the church called Alpha, which I did in 2008.  My main memories from that were Christa Wells playing songs for us at every meeting (incredible) and the line which I paraphrase – if you are uncertain if Jesus Christ is the son of God, just try following him and see if he doesn’t lead you to God.  That helped me an awful lot and gave me the intellectual license to look for God rather than to profess that I knew and had a relationship with God.
            As I have sought Christ over the past 5 years I have gradually shed my doubts and come to the state of being “all in” where I am now.  In science, a theory is affirmed by demonstrating that it consistently explains and predicts observed phenomena.  My faith has been affirmed as I have found that the Christian perspective on life consistently explains and predicts human behavior.  My understanding of the basic motivations of human beings, my own and those of others around me, are so much clearer to me now.  I see myself and my selfish tendencies so much more clearly, and seeing them I can (not always) rise above them.  My restless soul that was seeking meaning, significance, connection has found its rest.      
Like many children of my generation I was sent out into the world with the hoped for outcome that I would “be happy.”  Though I had ambitions to help others, my sifting through life choices still came down to how or whether those choices would satisfy ME.  What profession, which life companion, what place to live would make me “happy?”  My faith has delivered me from the need to seek my own satisfaction, and directed me instead to strive to love as Christ loved us and to live a life that is pleasing to God.  As a result I have never had a deeper contentment in all my life.  I know now what I am living for and where I’m going.  It’s better and deeper and richer than “happiness.”  I consider myself saved by God in the eternal sense, but also palpably in the very life I live now.  I am saved from chasing after stuff that has no eternal value. 
            I am grateful to my wife for sharing her faith with me and grateful to Church of the Apostles for shepherding me along as I explored who God is and what life he calls us to.    

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