Sometimes I feel as though my life were a cartoon, like "DuckTales" or "The Gummy Bears." Both are Disney cartoons I frequently watched back in the day, mainly because the characters often took off on adventures, searching for treasure in some long-forgotten place. Jungles, deserts, caves and old temples were opened and explored. I'll never forget the surprised looks on the adventurers' faces as they encountered mummies or some other Indiana Jones-like booby-trap. Those looks of fear made me feel as though I shared in their impending disaster.
The Gummy Bears would merely bounce around until they either stunned the enemy or passed him. In "DuckTales," Scrooge McDuck, the eccentric millionaire, and his nephews would usually run and scatter, hoping to run from the issue and regroup later to make a plan. Whether the reaction is fight or flight, standing in a situation with unknown results is terrifying, even in a cartoon and especially for the children watching and waiting through three minutes of commercials to find out the eventual resolution. Every cartoon used this mechanism, though, to keep kids biting their nails, waiting for that next harrowing moment -- all the while selling us sugary cereals and cool new sneakers.
A recent conversation about faith reminded me of this fear last week. I was on a dock, getting to know some really cool new people, when it came up that I work at the local Methodist church as a youth director. Our conversation turned to the apprehension many have about religion and faith in general. I often hear about the division of science and faith. Science being the discovery of truth and reality through the use of hypothesis, empirical testing and the creative aspect of formulating new ideas for intriguing problems with the goal of filling in the gaps in human knowledge.
I do think this dichotomy is false. In fact, I think those who believe in God have an imperative to discover how his creation is ordered, and in this process of testing truths, we gain a greater understanding of the universe and begin to see the brush strokes of a greater genius.
But with new discoveries being made daily, religion can be like that scary monster around the bend. Each generation turns a new corner ,and they find something big that has been generated by people and their experiences and thoughts on God over millennia. Any conversation on belief in God often seems convoluted, and the first response can be to turn about and run. Running doesn't solve the problem, however. Eventually you have to come back to the same issue. A plan is necessary.
One day, each generation will have to walk into the face of the "monster" and find out if it is real, and, if so, is it benevolent or something to be fought. Sometimes fear is irrational and needs to be tested in the face of truth. Other times, fear helps us assess properly and soberly our reality, our place in the situation, our plan to move forward, and our method of proceeding.
I've found that the monster we tend to fight or run from is not God at all. It is merely a scarecrow built by others, or a trap we have put out ourselves to keep all the bad stuff away. The adventure cannot proceed unless one turns that corner toward belief. And once this is done, you'll find you are not alone.
Even in the most anxious moments, God is an ally, not an enemy.
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him."
I find it refreshing when people open up and find language for their journey, regardless of their views. I like to share mine as well, and in the end, let the truth of reality be something we all strive for together.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.