Hello from Bedford is a series of 40 fictional e-mails between myself and an imaginary friend. I think I’ll consider him to be the same imaginary friend I had as a little boy. In these letters I hope there is a clear and logical progression from serious doubts concerning the Christian faith to serious faith in Christ. Enjoy! Dave Claassen
Hello from Bedford!
So you were surprised to get an e-mail from me after all these years! Thanks to search engines and the internet, you weren’t all that difficult to locate!
We’ve lived here in Bedford Township since 1978. Where’s that? We Michiganders like to remind people that our state is shaped like a hand. We just hold up our left hand and use the right one to point out any location. (With such a handy reference always at arm’s length I’ll bet we buy fewer state maps per capita than the citizens of any other state.) At any rate, Bedford Township is in Monroe County, and Monroe County is in the very southeast corner of the state. Extend your hand and we’re located about where you get carpal tunnel problems.
Both our children are long ago grown and gone. We tried to give them both roots and wings, and I think we overdid the wings part. We’re not exactly alone, however. We have a parakeet named Sparky who apparently has a mental block against learning foreign languages, especially the human language called English. We also have a rock garden with a decorative pond that’s home to some goldfish and an aquarium in the house with tropical fish. Then there’s a small flock of seven chickens and one rooster out back in a chicken coop. Growing up on an Iowa farm I have found the old adage true that you can take the boy from the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.
Yes, we’re still pastoring a church across the state line in Toledo, Ohio. I like to tell people I preach my sermon and then run for the border! I’m glad that my being a minister didn’t keep you from e-mailing back and writing honestly concerning your reservations about the Christian faith, and of religion in general. People sometimes think that we ministers never have any questions, only quick answers, and that we wouldn’t know what a doubt was if it was staring us in the face. Wrong!
I’ve come to realize that doubts are important. A strong faith is usually built on the foundation of serious doubts. On the other hand, a weak faith has usually been built on gullible and thoughtless assumptions. The fact that you have honest questions and want honest answers has my enthusiastic support.
You’ve said that it’s not easy for you to be a person of faith. Can I be honest with you? I think you express faith many times every day. You had faith this morning that when you opened your refrigerator door you would be met with a blast of cold air and shelves of well-preserved food. You assumed your refrigerator had kept its contents cold through the night. Isn’t that assumption a form of faith?
You had faith that your car would start when you grabbed your keys and headed out the door, allowing just enough time to make your appointment. But, you argue, there have been times when that faith in the car was let down by a dead battery and you were late for an appointment. True, but you got a new battery and were soon back to trusting your car to start.
You have faith that the food you purchase is free from harmful bacteria. You have faith that the chair you’re sitting in will hold you up.
The fact is, you are a person of faith. I am, too. We simply can’t exist if we question and doubt at every turn. Living takes lots of faith.
Do I ever question my faith in God? Sure. I’ve taken a walk, praying to God, and then paused and asked, “God, are you even there? Are you real? Am I talking to someone or not?” I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit to you that I yearned for a 3-D image of God in full technicolor who would speak with a big, booming voice in Dolby Surround Sound that would have confirmed my faith.
Yes, I occasionally entertain doubts about God. But I’ve come to see that you can only have faith when there’s room for doubt. That’s why I see no threat to faith in your serious questions and doubts concerning God.
It was good to have heard from you. E-mail me again when you get the chance, OK?