Simon Fowler's Blog

I have no other explanation

Posted by Simon on April 2, 2010

20 years ago today, on Good Friday, I was sitting in the lounge at my parent’s house in Harrow, north-west London, happening to look at the clock, 4:20pm, and I thought to myself, “oh my! … wow! … God exists?!”. And then amazingly my life went in a different direction. So my dad said, a better one. I have no other explanation other than that the invisible God, who came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth that first Good Friday 2000 years ago and was crucified on a cross, inexplicably made himself known to me and put a different Spirit within me.

This isn’t an argument for faith, for faith in God, or even faith in Jesus Christ. This is just (part of) my story. Make of it what you will. I may dare, in future posts, to try to make an argument for those, but that’s not what this is. Everyone has a story to tell, and this is mine. The story is still ongoing. And truly, it will only make sense, to me or anyone, if it’s part of the bigger story that God himself is telling.

A few weeks earlier an American exchange student, Karen, turned up at my volleyball club. A normal, funny and energetic person who confounded me by being normal, having deep faith in Jesus Christ and was able to say, “er, yeh, I don’t know, that’s a good question, I don’t get that either”. Her realness made it impossible to write her off as a whack job.

I was 22, fit and healthy, and had friends, family, parents, sport, car, travel, money, girls. I was at the peak, really, of life. No need nor searching for God or party-pooping religion.

Conversations with Karen revealed a couple of things, both profound. One was that I’d never actually thought about my life, purpose, meaning, reality, God. I had no intellectual or reflective life at all. In fact, I didn’t read, or think, about anything. The other was that there was a depth – of wonder and of grief – to life that I hadn’t known but now realized was real. So I was compelled to give these some serious attention. In retrospect, that was probably the moment that God took the blinders off me.

She handed me Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. I read it. Didn’t get it. Read it again. Still didn’t get it. As I said, I had NO intellectual life. Twice more. And on the fourth time, at 4:20pm, that Good Friday, I thought, “Holy Cow!? oops, sorry lord! But wow!”. And that was it. It felt like a revelation, though deciding if I was going to live “for God” or not felt like a real decision, albeit a no-brainer.

I have no other explanation for what happened next other than that the Jesus-God changed my heart and mind: I started think and have compassion for the poor (and ended up in El Salvador during the civil war and in the Burmese jungle instead of sight-seeing around the world). I started feeling, and slowly showing, gratitude and love for my parents (my dad started liking me). I started to feel that maybe, given the ghastliness of the world, that maybe I should and could do something about it (still working out what that means). I started to take an interest in this amazing world (I developed an intellectual life and an appreciation for art and beauty). In my initial zeal I did go through an embarrassing black-and-white phase that I’m afraid didn’t show a lot of sensitivity or understanding to those who disagreed with me (I like to think I developed some humility quickly).

I’m sure more people do these things already, and do them better and with more heart and sincerity and actual action than I ever will. All I’m saying is that I changed, and I have no other explanation for it than Jesus the God-man who was crucified, so it seems, for me. Not just me, but yet me.

I say I changed because of him because I see and feel his death, and resurrection, as effecting love, truth*, forgiveness and reconciliation in me. Love, truth, forgiveness and reconciliation. These seem good to me. But they diminish when I pull away from God or think more about myself than of others, they grow as I trust in him and give my life for others.

That’s my story. Not everyone’s is like that, though I’ve met many who tell similar stories. It also doesn’t quite make sense yet. Life and reality doesn’t make a lot of sense yet actually. But I believe in One who ultimately will make sense of it. And so far it seems a good, even if not easy, path to be on.

* I want it. I don’t care, really, what it is, even if it ends up meaning that Jesus isn’t true. I don’t like hell or death and I’d love it if gravity would sometimes not be there, but if they’re real I’m an idiot to deny them. I’m aware of ontological and epistemological truths (told you I started reading), that there is Truth, and truth, and that some truths are relative. But I have both deep conviction and, as far as I’m able, a totally open mind to where the evidence takes me. You’ll have to take my word for it.

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2 Responses to “I have no other explanation”

  1. Hello Simon,

    After mass yesterday, Easter Sunday, my wife and I were talking about becoming more active in the church. We were both raised Catholic but, as many have, we have fallen away from the church. I have become more active in the past couple of months by attending weekly mass, and my wife, in joining me on Easter, has also felt the pull to return.

    During our discussion, we talked about faith in general, and the role of the church. I mentioned your blog post and how you were aware of the exact moment your faith entered and changed your life. We both admire your transformation very much. We marvel at how this is possible and hope, eventually, to be as fortunate as you have been in answering the call of your faith. You are a lucky man.

    Peace be with you, Simon. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your journey.

    • sifowler said

      Leo, thanks for leaving such a kind and encouraging comment.
      I do feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced a specific turning point in my life like that. It certainly helps in times of doubt to look back and realize that something good, and otherwise inexplicable, happened to me then. But it’s the reaffirmation and lived-out reality of those same truths of the gospel that continues to propel me forward.

      Interestingly, though growing up I found the church (Catholic, also) to be a hindrance to my faith, now I find it indispensable. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, shows the amazing and essential truth that we come to God alone, as individuals. Alone we are accountable to Him and alone we receive and respond to His love and grace. (I think that’s what was missing for me, I never thought I mattered to God, or He to me). Bonhoeffer also showed that we cannot live the Christian life alone. The church, the body of Christ, reconciled and forgiven people-in-community, was Jesus’ intention, and the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who thinks he can be only alone with God, or only in community, actually has neither.

      Peace be with you, too, Leo, and your wife.

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