It's 3:43am. I just woke up and decided to scroll through Facebook for a bit. I came across a video that spoke to me. I literally was laying in bed crying my eyes out. It's on The Redesign Facebook page if you'd like to watch it. Before I really get into this I want to warn you, I don't completely know where this is going, nor do I know if this is going to end on a happy note or kind of a depressing one. I'm going to be really honest because, I think it's the right thing to do.

I grew up a Christian. I was baptized Catholic as an infant. My dad taught me the Lord's Prayer and we would recite it daily. We weren't going to church yet. I remember being very young and the only time I'd go to church was for certain occasions, and I'd have to wear a suit. I remember being about 5 when my dad suggested we read the Bible together at the kitchen table. I don't remember what we read, but I can tell you that I remember sitting there and thinking to myself "this is so important." See, I knew about God, but I didn't know God. From that moment things started to change. Not super drastically, I was 5, but they did change. My dad converted from Catholic to non-denominational Protestant. We moved from Florida back to New Jersey (not for this reason). When we came back to Jersey my mom suggested we go to the church she was attended when she was in her late teens/early twenties. They had gotten much bigger. Before we knew it we were going every week. I loved it. We learned about God, and how Jesus was his son, and how he loves us. We colored in pictures of a bodyless cross, not truly understanding why or the weight of what it meant. My dad started reading the Bible everyday, and praying three times a day because he looked up to someone named Daniel. If you don't know him, read about him. He has his own book. This was about the time that my desire to understand these changes in my dad started to come out. I started bringing my Bible into school to read during lunch and recess. This is when my relationship with God started to develop. Soon after that, my dad began reading the Bible with us once a week, and one of the many things he did right was, he never hid stuff from my brothers and I. He spoke to us like we were adults, and I learned about the gruesome sacrifice of Jesus Christ and every detail. I continued to go to church and even was in charge of my own ministry by 18. Throughout high school I would have friendly debates about religion. We had two Muslim kids, one Athiest, and myself. I was known as Bible Boy, the Christian Kid, The God Squad. I was mocked but respected by varying people. I was as Christian as they come. And one of the things that I was always proud of was that I could honestly say that I was always learning. I NEVER blindly followed. When I became 22 I ended up leaving the church I was raised in. I started going to a church called Restore. This is still the church that I attend today. At this time something was exposed to me.

The term CRC was brand new to me. For those of you who don't know, CRC stands for Christian Reformed Church. To properly explore this denomination would be way out of the scope of this post but one thing that is important to note is that it is a Calvinist denomination. Growing up, I was under the impression that Calvists were more of a cult. The belief that God predestined which of his followers to go to heaven regardless of their beliefs was heretical in my eyes. This wasn't taught to me, it was just my view. Going to this church though, I was stunned how I agreed with everything the pastor was speaking. I started thinking how maybe I was wrong. At this time I also started listening to a few different podcasts (BadChristian Podcast, Pastor With No Answers, The Reformed Pubcast, and The Liturgist Podcast). The things about these Podcasts is that they challenged common beliefs like young earth Creationism, the classic view of hell, and even the view of the Bible. Not that they discredit these things or call them false they simply challenge you to analyze and defend your beliefs. Actually, "simply" is not the right word.

When I started listening to these shows I found myself yelling at the hosts. Actually, audibally screaming in my car about how these ideas were heretical and just plain wrong. Now, like I said, I was going to a church that, unintentionally, challenged my original thoughts. So, I fought with myself a bit, but I started to open my mind to the what ifs. I started listening with the view that maybe these ideas are possible.

My views on so much changed, it's astonishing. On my pursuit to learn, I learned. I started reading more, listening to other ideas, questioning my traditional thoughts. I was hungry for knowledge. And all the while I prayed for God to teach me and guide me. And along the way I felt resistance. I was experiencing probably the worst years of my life. I was getting beat down by life. Things became dark.

I started questioning everything...everything. I started questioning my existence, I started to question God's existence, his love for us, my salvation, my dad's salvation after he passed away. The very thing I was praying for, knowledge, was the very thing tearing me apart from the inside. The existential crisis that you face when the very thing that defines you is questioned is horrifying. The reason I told you so much about my past is for you to see how my belief in God, is not one of the threads woven into me, it's the needle with which I was woven!

This is why I said in the beginning, I don't know whether this note is going to end on a positive note or not. I guess positive or depressing weren't the right words. It's more whether it'll be hopeful or not. I guess there are two sides to this coin. I'm not gonna lie to you, there is a darkness to knowledge. There is a horrifying aspect of what if I learn something that turns my world upside down. What if I discover that the thing I dedicated my entire life to is just simply not true. There are times now that I still have my doubts.

I want to preface what I'm about to say with something. I'm a musician so I, by nature am very dramatic. I express myself in dramatic ways, but I also feel in dramatic ways. To kinda explain to you how it feels, I want you to imagine yourself standing on a dark cliff in the night. I want you to imagine there's nothing around you by mountains for miles. You look down from the cliff and you see nothing but blackness. You see nothing! Then you turn around and there is a pack of wolves there. They're snarling at you! They're threatening your life. Here's the thing, those wolves are knowledge, this cliff is the little amount we know about God. A lot of Christians look at the edge of the cliff and try to pretend that the wolves are not behind them or they think of ways to get around them. There is real fear. Is my metaphor flawless, no, but I hope it helps you see the real existential torment you go through when learning certain things and questioning certain things.

So, there is a hopeful message I want to leave you with. I jumped off the cliff, and found out that there is another bigger ledge down here. I still believe in God, and I KNOW that he is with me. I know he protects me through this. Every single time I get through one of these new crisis', whether I end up agreeing with the new thing I've learned or not, my faith gets stronger. I'm still learning and still continuing to cling to my faith!

Lastly, here are some things I want you to do that I wish someone told me going into this. If you do decide to learn more about God with an open mind. Don't do it alone. It's scary and can make you feel extremely alone. Especially when you start learning about things like Biblical inerrancy,  annihilationism, and the Bible as a literary work. Also, and this is extremely important if you have to do this by yourself, seek guidance and council from someone who knows this topic or someone who has already studied the topic like a pastor, or someone who came out the other side. Lastly, PRAY! You will experience real demonic warfare. Please, don't tempt this. It will happen and it's going to be hard. Do not do this on your own! Make sure your Father is by your side. Keep your eyes on Him and He will not let you go! With that I leave you! Till next time,

God bless and Later days,

JD Alam

PS: I'm not Calvinist nor am I Arminian, I'm somewhere in the middle!

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