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Belief or Experience?


I have two things on my mind. Okay, probably more than two and that’s a stretch some days.

The first thing is about belief.

The second thing is about our story. Not the story of you and me. Your story, my story, everybody’s story. We all have our histories and experiences that make up who we are now and how we got to be who we are now.

These two things are related. What we believe about ourselves and who we are.

I once gave a sermon about two twins. They had the same family and the same things happened to them. But the mother loved one and didn’t love the other one. As they became men, one had the belief that he was successful and felt loved and confident. The other one, the one not loved, grew up feeling less than others, not all that valuable, and afraid of being rejected. He grew up thinking that he was not good enough to succeed.  Same genes, same parents, different beliefs.

There are many examples like this in which people experience the same events but have different beliefs about what happened. I have seen several accidents and dealt with the consequences of traumatic events many times. It is rare when two people believe exactly the same things about them. It is so rare that if the beliefs about what happened are too close, they raise a red flag that deceit is in play.

In the end, our story about who we are is determined by two things: Experience and belief. In the twin example, experience led to belief. In other examples, belief leads to experience. In World War Two, many young men in Canada and around the world believed the Nazi ideology to be dangerous and evil. This belief caused them to enlist and experience the horrors of war. Another example is that a belief in oneself leads to success in arts and sports.

Deciding which comes first, belief or experience, is a bit like the chicken and the egg. There has to be a starting point but the two are so intertwined that it becomes one messy ball of yarn. However, there is one case, one event, in which this is not the case. In this example, belief is both the starting point and the refining power of who we are.

I struggled with who I was much of my adult life. I felt like I had two people inside me. One was a scared little kid, fearful of being hurt and rejected. The other was an arrogant daredevil afraid of nothing or nobody.

This led to some pretty interesting inner conversations! I believed that I was less than others and if they only knew me, they would reject me. On the other hand, my protective temper often didn’t let me hide in the shadows. My story was that of a man trying to stand up and make a difference, first for himself, then for others. My belief was that I would not succeed. My experience started to show success. My story began to change but the outer man was not the same as the inner man.

Then something happened. Something that challenged my belief and changed how my experiences shaped my story.

On a crowded ferry between Victoria and Vancouver I challenged God. You have to some kind of some kind of messed up guy to challenge God. Good thing he is gracious!

My conflicted belief about who I was and the need to prove that I was good enough came to a point when a man I respected claimed that God not only existed, but he was necessary for this world. I was after power though, not love. I knew that I was really unlovable but power attracted me. So, I challenged God and he accepted. He came over me in three inner tidal waves of power AND love!

It took a long while for this to settle inside me and when it did, I was a new man, inside and outside. For the first time I believed I was valued and loved. I became confident in who I was and my experiences began to actually reflect who I was, not who I wanted to be.

Love is a powerful force. It changed my belief about myself and it changed my experiences with the world around me. God is love. Believe the truth that he loves you and experience life that will change your story!

___________________________

Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

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