Losing Faith and Finding Belief – Marie Wood’s Story

Jan 21, 2022

Side B Stories
Side B Stories
Losing Faith and Finding Belief - Marie Wood's Story
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Former atheist Marie left her devoted childhood faith in the face of intellectual doubts but eventually found her way to an intellectually robust belief in God and Christianity.

 

Resources:

Marie’s Non-Profit: MTM-CNM Family Connection http://www.mtm-cnm.org

Books

More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell

The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel

Works on the resurrection by Gary Habermas

Icons of Evolution, Jonathan Wells

Works by Nabeel Qureshi – http://www.nabeelqureshi.com (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and more)

C.S. Lewis Institute Resources and Events: https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/

Episode Transcript

Hello, and thanks for joining in. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to the Side B Podcast, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each episode, we listen to someone who has once been an atheist but who became a Christian, to the great surprise of themselves and others. In most of the stories we’ve listened to so far, the former atheists had little to no Christian belief or faith or exposure to Christians or Christianity before they became atheists.

But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, someone is intimately connected with Christianity and then decides to leave it, decides to leave the faith and community they once loved, the beliefs they once held, not necessarily because they wanted to leave, but they felt like they had no choice. In their minds, they could not sustain intellectual belief in God or perhaps questionable moral platitudes in the face and pressures of what they may be finding or learning that opposes what they once thought was true. They find their faith crumbling against the weight of growing disbelief. They can no longer sustain their faith or intellectual integrity or even social acceptance and continue as a Christian. It becomes no longer true or real, good, or relevant. Deconversion seems inevitable. Atheism seemingly becomes their only choice. That is, until it isn’t.

In today’s story, Marie, a brilliant thinker, left the Christian faith she loved for what she thought was the intellectual respectability and truth of atheism. But her once-settled atheistic presumptions were challenged, and she became open to reconsider what she once left behind. She found her way back, not to the childhood Christian faith she left behind, but to a substantive, intellectually grounded Christianity that has informed her adult thinking and sustained her life in powerful ways. I hope you’ll come along and listen to her story and that you’ll stay to the end to hear her give advice to curious skeptics or even former Christians towards rethinking their faith, as well as advice to Christians on how best to think about and engage with those who don’t believe.

Welcome to the Side B Podcast, Marie. It’s so great to have you!

Oh, it’s great to be here!

As we’re getting started, Marie, so the listeners can know a little bit about you, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself before we get into your story?

Well, I’m Marie Wood. I’m married to David Wood. We’ve been married for 19 years. We have five boys, Lucien, Blaise, Reid, Paley, and Kepler, and I am very busy with the boys, and also I assist David with his work, and I also co-founded a nonprofit to support families affected by the rare disease that my sons Reid and Paley share, so that pretty much occupies my time.

Okay, great, and maybe we can learn more about that as we move through your story, and for those who are listening, I’ll put a link to whatever that nonprofit is in the episode notes. So let’s get started with your story, Marie. So that we can know about where you grew up, the community and the context of your belief or disbelief as a child, why don’t you just step us into that world of your family, of your childhood, of your community. Was there any sense of religion? Religious belief? Was there any reference to God in that world?

So I grew up in a Roman Catholic family, and we were practicing. We went to church every Sunday, and I always remember having a strong love of God at an early age. What was interesting was I ended up going to a Presbyterian church for preschool or for nursery and day care. So I actually heard the gospel at a very early age, and I really connected to it, and I used to just sing about Jesus all the time.

And I had this little T-shirt that we made at that nursery/preschool that said, “Guess who’s my best friend?” and it was a picture of Jesus with the long hair. And it was my favorite shirt. I loved that shirt so much that I wore it all the way until probably first grade.

But I loved God. I always had this… I used to fall asleep praying, and I just had this intense curiosity about God. I remember I was about five when I was trying to wrap my head around, “How did God begin?” And I remember I was talking to my dad. I said, “What was God’s beginning?” or, “When was God born?” And my dad would say, “Well, He wasn’t born,” and I thought maybe I wasn’t asking the question the right way, and I would try to come up with a different way, and say, “Well, when did He start?” And so I was curious about this concept of eternity and what that… It finally clicked with me when my Dad said something like, “Well, He’s outside of time.” And it didn’t quite make sense to me, but it made probably the most sense to me when he said it like that.

I was about five years old, and I lost my first tooth. I was staring, looking in the mirror, and I thought to myself, “Five years ago, I was not here,” and it was scary. It was scary for me. And only looking back I could say it was almost like a taste of my own mortality. And when you’re little, you are the world. You’re kind of selfish in a way. I mean, it’s childish. You see everything from your own perspective. And for me, that moment, just looking into my own reflection and thinking, “Five years ago, I was not here. I. This. Everything around me that I think. This is the world. This is everything. My perspective is everything to me, but it wasn’t even here.” And this sense of… just that, “I’m not that big. I’m not that important in everything,” and it was an interesting moment, and it kind of coincided with this thought about God as eternal.

So I had this strong devotion, and it was interesting because I was probably the most devout in my immediate family. With my parents, my dad would sometimes go to church and sometimes he would still be relaxing from his Saturday fun, and my mother, she would specifically say, “Well, I have to go and show my face.” It was more of like a duty. But for me, I actually experienced this joy going to church. I wanted to be there. I felt closer to God. I liked listening to the word. I liked singing. So it was really important to me. I probably looked up to my grandparents the most as my moral guides. They were churchgoers and all that. So that’s kind of where I was at a very early age.

That’s really quite impressive for a five-year-old to be so thoughtful, not only introspective but actually thinking about very deep questions, like, “Who made God?” or, “How did God begin?” Those kind of questions. And the concept of time and eternity and your own mortality. Those are big questions for a five-year-old. But I think it gives us an indication, even from an early age, that you are an inquisitive person, a person who needs to be intellectually satisfied in some way, but I love also your description about the joy and devotion that you felt. So even from the beginning, we’re getting a sense of who you are, in terms of not only deep intellect but also deep emotion.

Yeah. I would say that those two go hand in hand with my connection with God. And I remember the cross itself being a huge image to me. And the meaning behind it. I started thinking about much Jesus must’ve hurt on the cross. And I remember thinking, “I wonder if it’s possible for me, if I hurt, can I take away other people’s hurt?”

And let me not start crying at the beginning of my interview, but I remember I prayed to God. I said, “I feel…” This is sort of a strange prayer, but I told God. Again, I’m like six years old, and I told God, “I think I’m stronger than other people, so if it’s possible, you can let me hurt instead of other people.”

Wow. That’s incredibly unselfish. I mean, your devotion to God and your selflessness, based upon what you knew of Jesus and His own suffering, again, is very deep. It’s just deep, and that you personalized it in that way, again, speaks to a maturity beyond your years, at six years old. That’s quite amazing.

Yeah. I guess I think it’s important to share all this because, really, in seeing me as an atheist at some point in my life, to understand that, at the beginning, there was this really powerful connection between me and God, and I was. I was always thinking and wondering about God. And it was this joyful relationship. I think about, what’s his name? Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, and he says, “When I run, I feel His pleasure,” like I feel God’s pleasure. “I believe I was made for China, to be a missionary to China, but when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” And for me, I have something similar happen when I’m just thinking. I have this sense of pleasure, like a sense of the presence of God and His delight in me as I’m thinking about things and wondering about the world.

So I was about eight years old when I began to think about people who don’t believe in God, and I found that so strange. “How can people not believe in God?” And I even came up kind of like my own version of Pascal’s wager, where I thought, “It just doesn’t make sense, because if God is real and you believe in Him, then you go to heaven, and everything’s great. But if you don’t believe in Him, then it’s not going to turn out well. But if He doesn’t exist and you believe in Him, nothing bad happens, and if He doesn’t exist and you don’t believe in Him, it doesn’t really change anything.” So I told this to my dad, and he thought it was a great idea. And he said, “Yeah, you should tell grandma and grandpa about that,” and so at some point I was talking to them on the phone, and like I said, they were sort of my spiritual role models. And I started telling them my thoughts about it, and they could see where I was going, and they kind of almost cut me off right before I really finished my conclusion, and they both… I guess they had me on speakerphone because they were both responding to me, and they were like, “No, honey. No, no. God doesn’t want us to come up with reasons to believe in Him. He just wants a pure faith,” and I was sort of chagrined because I thought I was going to be praised. So I was a little surprised.

But it also created this chink in my spiritual world, like, “Okay, so you’re telling me that thinking and reasoning is not a part of being a faithful follower of God and Jesus?” So that was sort of a big wedge, because as you could tell, I was sort of a bright child, and I liked academics, and I was a high achiever, and so that was a part of my identity, being a good student and learning things, so it was at that point I kind of created, “Okay, so religion is this compartment that’s separate from all of me. It’s just one little part of me now.” And it didn’t impact me instantly, but I can look back and say, over time, my faith was becoming watered down in a sense. I mean I still had this connection to God. I still felt emotionally connected to God.

And yet, again, as I’m going through high school and becoming more of, you know, “God is sort of a good guy,” and, “There are these other religions. Surely all these good people are not going to hell,” and so my concept of the Gospel is getting a little bit more expanded or shifting a little bit, and once I got into college, as a science major—I was a double major in biology and psychology, and you really just get inundated with a materialistic worldview, a physicalist worldview. Everything is physical. A lot of psychology—there’s the nurture/nature debate, but a lot of it boils down to your physiology and your biology. And so, in biology, you just get really impressed with the theory of evolution, that it’s the basis for everything.

And I also took a philosophy class in my first semester at college, and my professor was an atheist, and I loved that guy. I still love that guy. We had great banter. Because at that time, I was still professing Christianity. And I remember writing my final paper, where I was still defending the faith, and I was defending the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, and I think my argument was based on musical improvisation, and how there must be something more than just the physical world, because we sense it and how we feel about things. Again, it was still—because of all the skepticism, I guess, I was sort of being impressed with this notion that everybody who is in academia just doesn’t believe in God. Or they don’t believe in traditional Christianity. And it’s not really what smart people are supposed to think. And so was getting to me in a subtle way. And I would say by my second year of college, my concept of God at that point was very abstract. Definitely not a personal God. Definitely not the triune God of Christianity. Jesus was a really wonderful person. He was divine in the sense that He was extremely enlightened and loving and moral, and God was the force of life and creation in the universe, whatever that creative impulse that allows life to exist.

I mean, I even said to my dad one time—we were talking, and I said, “I don’t believe in God anymore,” and my dad, he was shocked because that was so strange for him to hear from me, of all people.

So when you went to college, obviously, there was a real paradigm shift that started happening there. If you went to college, and your faith, at that point, was more emotional. This personal connection. You had separated your reason from your devotion to God. Then you move into this—as you were talking about your atheist philosopher professor and you were trying to defend the existence of God. At that point, you were required, in some form or fashion, to defend God’s existence intellectually, and it sounded like you tried to do that. I wonder, at that point, were you… probably a couple of things. One is that were you finding any kind of intellectual or rational kinds of evidences or arguments for God at that time? Or were you just drawing from what you knew or what you felt? Like you say, you’re a thinker. Were you drawing from your abstract thoughts about it? So you weren’t finding a grounded intellectual rationality for God?

No. I would say my thinking at that point and my arguments for God were more subjective, and it was clear that—I didn’t even know there was such a thing as providing evidences for God. Because, again, I was eight years old, and I was told that that’s not a part of our faith. And so I had no idea that there were all these discussions happening. And my professor certainly didn’t point me to any books on the topic. I think what happened with being a biology major and studying evolution so much. I mean, evolution was part of all of my classes. I mean even my creative writing teacher was talking about evolution one day. “What do you think the first sound that people evolved? Probably a lament or a cry.” So I started feeling like maybe God is just this extra explanation that we add on to this, and the people who came up with the scriptures, and whoever wrote the Old Testament, those were people trying to explain reality, and now we know where everything comes from. We evolved from the primordial soup. “If you want to believe in God, it’s an okay addition, but it’s not a necessary one.” And just a big reversal of where I was as a child.

I guess instead of God creating man, man created god?

Right. Right. Yeah.

And that you, I guess, through these courses and looking at these examples of thinkers and educated people and academics—all those people didn’t need God. And you, as an intellectual, I’m sure, saw yourself as someone who perhaps doesn’t need God as well.

Yeah. Exactly. And oftentimes, they were antagonistic towards Christianity, and Christian values especially, so Christians are seen as judgmental and close-minded and anti-intellectual, so I was kind of imbibing all of this, and it obviously had detrimental effects on my faith.

So then you decided to leave it all behind. And you identified as an atheist, then, in college?

Yeah. Yeah. As I said, I did clearly say to my father, “I don’t believe in God anymore,” but then when I said that, I sort of felt something in my heart, like, “Do I really mean it that way?” And so then I kind of redefined God. I couldn’t quite say that I don’t believe at all, but I sort of redefined him as a sort of impersonal creative force in the universe. And mankind does good things towards others. That’s god, that’s love, that’s what we’re talking about. I actually had this traumatic experience that—I would say that, when I stopped believing in God and Christianity in the orthodox sense, the concepts that were connected to God also began to crumble or shift in a way, so God was a foundational belief, even the crucifixion of Jesus and saving the world. These were all the foundation for everything that I thought about. And so to take those away, everything started shifting and re-balancing, I guess. And I had this traumatic experience, and I started even questioning whether unconditional love was real.

I didn’t feel like the world was the place that I once thought it was. And I felt a loss. I had a sense of loss, but it wasn’t enough for me to believe in God. I can’t believe in it if I don’t think it’s real. I remember an aunt of mine was—like I said, most of my family was Catholic, but I have this one uncle who became an evangelical when he was young, and he and his wife used to talk to me a lot. I guess they could see a kind of openness in me towards the Gospel. And they had come to visit. They were in town, and we were at the beach, and my aunt was sitting next to me, and I was looking at the water, and she said, “You know, Marie. I remember you used to say you prayed every night, and you’ve always loved Jesus and all these things. Do you still pray?” or, “Do you still feel that way about Jesus?” and when she asked me that, I started crying. And I said, “I miss Jesus. I miss Him,” and she kind of put her arm around me, and she said, “God bless you for your sensitivity,” and, “I’m praying for you,” but again, just because I wanted to believe in Jesus, I still thought Christianity was the most beautiful philosophy that I’d ever studied or heard of or read, and I studied world religions. I read the Mahabharata, and I studied the intellects and Buddhism, all these things, and Christianity was still the most beautiful to me, the most attractive. But if it wasn’t real, I couldn’t deceive myself that way, no matter how much I wanted to.

So you still saw beauty in it. It wasn’t as if you turned, as some of your, I guess, professors had done, just to ridicule and speak of the immorality or all of that of it, that you actually still saw something worth believing in. You just couldn’t because you didn’t think it was intellectually viable.

Yes.

Yeah. So step us on from here. What happened next?

Well, then I, through a series of un-coincidences, I ended up at a rehearsal for the college speech and debate team, and there I met my future husband, David Wood, and also Nabeel Qureshi. And so I just—like I said, it was a series of un-coincidences, but I ended up in this rehearsal, and the coach just instantly loved me. She just loved me. And she said, “Marie, why don’t you join us for our next tournament?” And I said, “Well, I don’t have anything to do,” and she says, “Oh, you can do an impromptu speech. And we have an extra ticket because somebody dropped out.” So I agreed to go on this debate tournament, or speech and debate tournament, the next weekend. With nothing prepared. I was just going to observe and then do an impromptu speech.

And when I got to the airport for that trip, I immediately spotted David and Nabeel because they were so tall. One of their nicknames on campus was “the two towers.” They’re both over six feet tall. So I walk over there, because I have to establish my dominance and superiority, find the biggest guys to take on. And they were debating whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. And I’m listening to them for a second, and then I decide it’s time for me to get attention, and I go, “Well, you can both be right.” And they look at me, and David says—he was like, “No. Either I’m right, and he’s wrong, or we could both be wrong, but we can’t both be right on this. Either Jesus Christ rose from the dead or He didn’t.” And I was like, “Well, the important thing about religion is that, even if you have different beliefs, it all comes down to the same thing, that we need to love our fellow human beings and try to be decent to each other,” and yada, yada, and David says, “Don’t give me that. I come from the trailer park,” as if he’s establishing his legitimacy with his humble origins, so I kind of roll my eyes, and I was like, “Well, whatever. I come from single-celled organisms.” And his jaw kind of dropped, and he was like, “What?” And so we got into this little debate about that.

And this is what’s interesting, because, as you said, I didn’t actually have an aversion to Christianity itself, but for some reason, what came out of me in that moment was what I got from my culture, from my professors and everything, and I was mocking him. And he would try to contend with me, and I was so mean. And if you know me, it’s weird. Because I’m not normally mean. But I was so mean. I kind of joke that it’s almost a miracle that he even wanted to talk to me after this. Because I was so mean. I was nonstop ridiculing and mocking him. And he would try to speak, and I would burst out laughing. I have no… I mean, it was a divine intervention because I don’t know who’d want to talk to somebody after they were that nasty.

But we did. We kept talking. We kept talking through that tournament. We talked on the plane. And he’s engaging with Nabeel, who was a Muslim at the time and later became a famous evangelist as well, and one of things that hit me with David was when he told me that he used to be an atheist. And I thought, “Wow! So you used to be an atheist.” And I noticed, as we were talking and having these little arguments, that he was smart. And he was really smart. And that I couldn’t just brush him aside the way that I did some other Christians that I had met or evangelical Christians that I had met who were anti-intellectual, who were opposed to any type of higher education, because they thought it was just brain washing and all this stuff. I mean it can be in a sense, but obviously, if you present that to somebody who’s intellectually inclined, that’s not going to be attractive.

So David really shook my stereotype and some assumptions that I had about Christians, that you only end up that way when you’re raised that way, and to see someone who was as smart as him, who I couldn’t just wipe the floor with intellectually in a debate, and that he could actually really stand his ground. And then this concept that you can know that Christianity is true because Jesus rose from the dead. That was different. And I said, “Well, okay. I could see historical evidence that He died on the cross, and I believe that He died on a cross,” and I was like, “But you can’t prove that He rose from the dead.” And so these were the conversations we were having.

And it was the end of the semester, so we had exams coming up, but David and I started meeting every day to talk about these things. So we’d meet to study, and we’d be studying our stuff, and then I’d take breaks and read the books that he was giving me. So he was giving me things like  which was put out by the Discovery Institute. And so I’d read these books, and I’d kind of get huffy or be mad, especially with the ones that were contradicting evolution. I would get irritated. And David would kind of laugh at me because he’d say, “Well, what’s wrong?” I was like, “Well, they’re just making it sound like evolution is stupid.” So it’s okay for me to make fun of you for not believing it, but you can’t make fun of me for believing it. So-

Right. And in the meantime, you’re still pursuing… I think you were pursuing medicine at the time, right? And still studying evolutionary biology-

Yeah.

… in all of your coursework, and yet you were having this counter perspective.

Yeah.

But did it cause you to question evolutionary biology at that time? Or really what was underpinning your atheistic worldview?

Yeah. Yeah. That was the big challenge. Because again, I felt like God and all attendant beliefs, the idea of a personal god and creator, I mean that’s unnecessary if you believe that everything just evolved by accident. And what hit me about some of these books I was reading that were countering evolution and providing counter claims was that some of the very examples that I used to tell David, like, it’s irrefutable were staged photographs of butterflies that were pinned on tree trunks, that were presented to be a natural photograph. But there were staged photographs. There were hoaxes, like Haeckel’s embryos and things like that, and I said, “But those are in the textbooks,” and I was like, “Why would they still have them there?” So even if evolution were true, it’s not this impenetrable fortress that I thought it was and certainly not what I want to be basing my life choices and my concept of morality on as I started to realize this. So that was really shaking the core of my new worldview.

And there was this one moment. We were sitting on this sofa, and he was studying for his exams, and I was reading one of these books, and I had this experience that I was looking at the mirror in my childhood bedroom, which was—over the years, I had covered it up with these little mardi gras beads and sashes and stickers and pictures of friends, and I really could barely see myself in this mirror. Just in the very middle. And I was standing in front of that mirror again and all those things were gone, and I was just looking at myself. And I could see myself as I truly was, in all my rebellion. And I could see I was rejecting God based on lies and that I had really been willfully turning away from Him, the one who loved me the most. And it hurt. It hurt to see myself like that, and I just started weeping and sobbing. I was shaking with sobs. And David was, he was kind of startled, and he just quietly put his book down and put his arm around me. He said, “What’s wrong?” And I looked at him, tears streaming down my face, and I said, “I am. I’m wrong.”

And he invited me to church the following Sunday after that day on that couch, and the pastor did an invitation, gave an invitation, and he said, “Look to the person on your right and then look to the person on the left and tell them if you want to go up and profess Jesus that you’ll go with them,” and David was to my right, so when the pastor said this, I kind of turned to the left. But I could feel him waiting for me, so I kind of slowly turned back at him, and then he repeated the pastor’s invitation, and I said, “Yes, I want to go up.” So we went up, and we prayed as a group. And I didn’t really have any sudden feeling at that moment, but I did feel happy. I noticed a difference the next day.

What was that?

It’s sort of silly, but I turned on the TV, and it was Real World, an MTV program with these singles who live together, and there’s all this drama. And I remembered I had watched it a few days ago or a week before, and I was just laughing at their antics and their foolishness, but I remember this day I turned it on, and I started watching it, and I thought to myself, “How empty and meaningless. There’s nothing attractive about this,” and I was like, “It’s just this empty, vapid type of lifestyle.” And I realized that I had begun to see the world differently, like instantly. And I called it receiving Christian eyes. So it was sort of a silly example, but something instantly changed in me and how I began to see things. I guess you could say because there was that foundation leading up to it, but yeah. Something had shifted.

It sounds like something pretty dramatically had shifted.

Yeah.

It sounds like really obviously spiritually something had opened, and something had shifted, and the way that you viewed the world was completely different. Leading up to that, your mind had been changed and your… I love the way that you describe the way that you look at yourself in the mirror. It reminds me of when you were five, looking at your eyes so closely and actually seeing something, thinking more deeply, and there you are looking at yourself again. But maybe not just your eyes, but yourself.

Yeah. My soul. My spirit.

Yeah. Exactly. Seeing your soul and feeling a sense of alienation and pushing back and longing for, again, what you had found to be true and real. Something you felt was lost but now was found, in a sense. And then you found yourself in that.

Yeah.

That’s really quite extraordinary. So after that first moment, how would you say.. In thinking about living—it sounds like you lived for a while in disbelief and that life perhaps was different in the way that you perceived it and maybe even the way you felt it or lived it. Again, you’re an intuitive person. How would you say that your life transformed? Did it go back to that kind of childhood devotion that you had but yet not just that? That it was probably a more full holistic mind and heart and life kind of thing? That you didn’t have to segregate your rationality and intellect from your faith. How did that work its way out?

Well, it was exciting. It was thrilling because now I knew there were all these things I could learn about with God, and so immediately the emotional connection is re-established, that I’m connected to God again. But also just this hunger and passion to know more, and David had gotten me a Bible, and I was just—it was this giant study Bible. It was, I don’t know, three inches thick or something, and I was just bringing it to school, sitting in the cafeteria at our university, and I’ve got this huge Bible, and I’m reading it, and I mean just this hunger and thirst to know more, and I was so excited. Like a whole new world had opened up to me. It was so engaging. I felt stimulated intellectually in a way that I never had been before.

And then, of course, at this time, David and I, our relationship is growing. We had attraction while we were still on opposite sides, and it was fun being… not enemies but in opposition.

Adversaries, maybe? In that sense.

Yeah. And that was fun for me, while still liking each other, but then to kind of shift into this place where we’re both on the same page spiritually and to both be intellectually engaged with God and each other, it was really like a three-cord binding in that relationship, like between David and me and God and just us having this mutual passion to know more and to also share that with others. And that’s obviously played out in our lives, in his ministry, and then I support him with that.

So if someone was listening to your story, looking at your life, and said… I love what you just said because I think that the tendency would be to say, “Oh, she just believes in God because she fell in love.” But going back to your early reason for leaving the love of God, for being intellectually honest, I would imagine someone like you could not believe just because they fell in love with someone who was a believer, that in order to maintain your intellectual integrity… You saw its beauty, but you couldn’t believe it, even though you wanted to, but now you… You obviously found something, like you say, that was not only beautiful but true.

Yes. Absolutely.

And there was a groundedness, a substantive nature to it. If someone spoke to you or spoke at you about that, how would you respond?

Well, I would say maybe they need to check their own stereotypes and biases, and I feel like it’s sort of demeaning in a sense, to just assume that, “Oh, a woman falls in love, and that’s why she believes what she believes.” I think that I can stand enough on my own intellectual accomplishments that I don’t have to say that I have to be controlled and guided by somebody else. I mean I thrive in antagonistic scenarios and taking on the man and pushing back against the powers that be, and I mean I could talk about that later, but I do that all the time. That’s who I am.

You are definitely a very strong and independent and brilliant woman in your own right, and so… It’s like another presumption you had said earlier, “Oh, people just believe because that’s how they were raised.” There are a lot of things in your story that go against that, just like David. David wasn’t raised a Christian.

No! Not at all.

And now he believes it, and so there are rational evidential reasons, as well as just spiritual reasons and emotional reasons and existential reasons. A whole plethora of reasons to believe in the reality of God.

Yeah.

And your life and your story really demonstrates that. So as we’re coming to a close in your story, there are a lot of things, I think, that you could say to someone who is a curious skeptic, maybe somebody who looks at the Christian and sees something that is attractive, like the joy that you describe, but yet the intellectual depth, and that you, like you and David, who are brilliant people, can believe in God and do so for good reason and good grounding, and it’s not just something that you want. What would you say to someone who may be open towards taking a second look? or maybe even a first look? At Christianity.

Well, I would say be open, but I think probably anyone listening to this, I’m already preaching to the choir on some level. But I think that spending time reflecting on reasons you might not want to believe that have nothing to do with whether or not Christianity is true might be fruitful. To just really get real with yourself and say, “Is there maybe something else?” that it’s not so much that Christianity isn’t true, but apart from that, there might be other issues that you’re contending with. Because each of us is a whole person. It’s not just intellectual or emotional.

There are other things. I think you’re going to meet crummy Christians, and I would say don’t let them be the standard by which you judge Christianity. Maybe have a little leeway and ask yourself, “Do those Christians that I dislike, or the Christians that hurt me or that I find judgmental, do they really reflect who Jesus is?” Look into Jesus’s life and His teachings and think about how He lived and look for Christians that seem to be reflecting that and learn from them if you really want to learn about the Christian life. Keep seeking and reading and read both sides. I have so much conviction that Christianity is true that I believe it can withstand all of that scrutiny. But it’s probably just making that time and give it a chance and spend time reflecting and thinking, and God bless you if you’re on that journey.

Yeah. That’s good wisdom and advice, just towards being open, really, and pursuing where the evidence leads. So with regard to Christians, Marie, you’ve spoken about crummy Christians. And really contrasted them with more genuine Christians, those who try to follow and walk with Jesus more closely, and their lives reflect that. But you’ve also given, you and David both, just an incredible example, as well as Nabeel, of course, of what it might look like to be someone who is very bright and intellectually astute and able to go toe to toe with just about anyone who comes against them. So how would you advise us as Christians to either prepare or how we should live or engage with those who don’t believe?

Well, definitely in my story, I know it comes up a lot with certain stereotypes. I think that breaking stereotypes is important, and so that comes from Christians developing their own intellectual life, because I think that’s a huge stumbling block in our culture that’s very science minded, so I think that nurturing your intellectual life as a Christian and also your spiritual life. I think sometimes, especially with the intellectual-type Christians, you can kind of miss that piece a little bit, like how important that is. Because, I think it was Maya Angelou, she said people might forget what you say, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. And that’s probably a bad paraphrase, but something like that.

And so I think that developing your closeness to God is so important to how you convey Him to others and practicing the presence of God, truly practicing that presence of God and knowing Him on that deep level. And I think it kind of frees you from the sense that everything’s resting on you. I think that it’s a mistake to think, “I’ve got to win this argument. I’ve got to persuade this person right now,” but that might not be your part in their story. And each person is different, so we really have to be spiritually sensitive to where they are and to be listening to God and how we speak to people. And Jesus said that eternal life is to know Him and the One who sent Him, and so we, when we know Christ, we’re already partaking in eternal life right now. We’re already beginning to partake of that life, and we can offer a taste of immortality to others, the more we dwell in our reality and let it bear fruit in our lives. And I think that can be very attractive and persuasive and true. So that’s my advice to Christians.

Yeah. I think that’s a really great word. Something that’s really, especially in apologetic circles, maybe not emphasized as much, right? But there’s something really amazing. I know C.S. Lewis talks about it a lot, that we have, through Christ, the divine power to partake of God and for God to demonstrate Himself through us. And that really is the core of who we are and what we believe and how we live. And there’s something really wonderful about that. Thank you for reminding us, Marie. Again, as we’re closing our conversation, is there anything that we’ve missed or anything else you’d like to add here at the end? That you might have wanted to say? If not, that’s fine, too.

Well, I would say that God has become even more a present reality to me. As I mentioned, I have two children with a chronic illness, and I feel as though I’m a sentinel on the borderland between life and death. I’ve had to revive my children after finding them dead and flat-lined. And I have experienced miracles. I’ve come to the end of my rope. I would say I’m a very resilient person, but even human resilience comes to an end. And that’s where you begin to find that miracles happen and that God is really present in your life. He’s with me always, and I truly hope and pray that my story can encourage others and deepen their faith or lead them closer to God in some way.

Oh, I’m sure that it will. It really is beautiful, Marie. I love not only your vulnerability but also the stories and the thoughtfulness of everything, even from a child, the depth of the way that you felt and that you thought. And it is just a beautiful strand throughout, and here, again, at the end, I think the Lord really takes your story and your life, and He weaves such a beautiful tapestry, even through… Obviously, you’ve dealt with some incredible pain and difficulties, but yet he is there, and you are a living embodied example of everything you speak of. So thank you so much for coming on today and sharing your life and your journey with us.

It’s my pleasure.

Thanks for tuning in to the Side B Podcast today to hear Marie’s story. You can find out more about her, about her website and the things that she was talking about on our episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can reach me by email at thesidebpodcast@cslewisinstitute.org. If you’ve enjoyed it, I hope that you’ll follow, rate, review, and share the Side B Podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we’ll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

 

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