My eyes drew open a little after 4:30 this morning. The alarm wasn't supposed to go off for another hour and a half, but I was awake. Though I knew I could go back to sleep, I also knew that I probably would wake up feeling more groggy than I did at that moment. So I pushed myself up out of bed.
I am not a run before dawn kind of guy. I have done it a few times before and, despite being someone who loves running, I found myself thinking, "This is really stupid." But I'm running in a half marathon in 10 days and my training hasn't exactly been the model of consistency. This was the clearest shot at five miles I was going to have all day, so I pulled on my running clothes.
It was chilly. The temperature was in the 30s. I had on a hat and gloves for the first time since winter. And it was dark. There were streetlights every fifty yards or so which made the road look like an archipelago of dimly glowing islands. Other than that, it was just me and the stars.
There was one star in particular that shined brighter than the others. Wherever I turned through the neighborhood, I could quickly find the star in the sky. It sounds kind of silly, but I grew fond of that star. Perhaps this is what happens to your brain when you get up to run a few hours before dawn. Yet I went down a new road, it lifted my spirits when I spotted that shining point of light.
A few miles in, it occurred to me that the star seemed a little bit too bright. Maybe it wasn't a star at all, but a satellite. My sleep-deprived mind went back and forth over whether this was a big deal. It felt like it took away some of that old world romantic feeling if the star was actually just a receptor for texts messages and whatever the heck goes on with Snapchat. Did the fact that it was possibly a manmade object matter? Did that change the hope that I felt when I saw it in the sky?
Once I had a train of thought that went kind of like this: "Did we make up God?Whoawhatareyoudoing? NONONONONONONONONONO..." I felt like if I even entertained the thought that my whole entire life was going to implode. I would stop being a Christian. I would take up a life of crime and pick up kicking puppies as a hobby.
Obviously, that's ludicrous. But the idea of God being a satellite rather than a star haunted me like a specter. I think that slowly changed as I grew up. My initial and admittedly immature understanding of God was rooted in what I would get after I died. If there was no God then there was no heaven and what the heck had I been doing? Yet I have come to understand that being a Christian is supposed to transform us into compassionate and loving people who live full (though no less challenging lives) here on earth.
I still believe in heaven about 90-95% of the time and I have never really believed that humanity made God up for more than two or three minutes at a time. Yet if this whole entire God thing was made up and I had the chance to go back and undo it all, I don't think I would take that opportunity. Because this is a faith that forces me out of my selfish comfort zones.
That faith asks me to love others and to commit myself to something far larger than my own wants. It asks me to forgive others and, often even harder, forgive myself. It asks me to be a peacemaker. It asks me to point to One who is loving and sacrificially giving. Even if all of that was manmade, that is best stuff humanity can make (the fact that it is so contrary to how we behave is one of the reasons why I think God is real; it seems like it had to come from outside of us). I don't think I would trade it. Even if I was wrong and the whole thing is made up, there is too much good that has come from it.
Maybe that makes me delusional or in need of some divine crutch. I don't know. But that's what I talk about when I say that I can't quite shake God. I can't shake Jesus. I can't shake what I see when people truly seek to love like Jesus. I can't shake grace. I don't want to shake grace. I don't think that star is a satellite, but even if it is, I think I will keep following it.