According to a book written by F.B. Carpenter in 1866 about six months that he spent at the White House during the Civil War, there was a particular conversation between President Lincoln and a minister of religion. During that conversation, Carpenter quotes the minister saying that he “hoped the Lord is on our side”. Lincoln replied, “I am not at all concerned about that…. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
In recent posts, I have talked about how God sees us, a very important consideration for the transsexual in understanding how God identifies people, including in the area of gender. But this quote attributed to Lincoln reminds us that it is even more important to be mindful of how we see God. First of all, do we even believe He exists? Do we see Him at all? If we do, are we doing what we can to be on His side? Are we trying to persuade Him to see things our way, or are we seeking His ways, His will, and His plans and purposes for our life?
Let’s start with the most basic idea first: do we even see God? There are some commentators who deride people for their belief in an invisible God. There are two avenues of response to this argument.
The first response is philosophical. Does something have to be seen to know it exists? One example is air. There are people in parts of China who wish this was true more often, but the air we breathe hopefully cannot be seen. Do we refuse to ride in a car because it is impossible for tires to be inflated with unseen air? Do we reject the Happy Birthday balloon because it can’t really exist if it is filled with unseen air? Of course not. We know the air exists because we can see evidence of its effects: the balloon floating, the tires turning as the car travels down the road, our lungs filling when we take a deep breath.
What about an idea? Can it be seen? We can see the written or pictorial representation of it, but is that the same as seeing the idea itself? Ideas are one of the most powerful agents on earth. How can something so powerful be said to not exist simply because we cannot see it?
Can we see love? Or hate? Or any other feeling or emotion? Yet they are the motivators for lifelong relationships, wars, acts of charity, great works of art, literature and music and much more.
Our lives are affected by various unseen forces, such as magnetism, centrifugal force and gravity. Can you see what causes a compass to always point toward the magnetic north pole? And because we are all living on the outer surface of a rotating (approximately spherical) object, if gravity suddenly stopped while centrifugal force remained, we would all go flying off in a tangent!
Those who are skeptical about the existence of God might very well reply that seeing the effects of something verifies its existence, even if we cannot see the thing itself. Quite true. And we have many witnesses who have seen or felt the effects of God.
Here is the testimony of King David: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalm 19:1)
The Apostle Paul’s remarks take us even further down this same path: Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:19-20)
We also have the testimony of people who have experienced the effect of God in their own life. I am one of them. Having reached age 61, I know my thought processes very well. Most people would consider me a reasonably intelligent person based on the fact that my scores on two different standardized IQ tests and the SAT’s qualify me for Mensa. My gender counselor’s professional opinion that I could proceed with transition speaks to a sound and rational mind, and I will let my writing output speak for itself. And I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that I have experienced spiritual interaction with God, being guided by Him with knowledge that I cannot explain any way other than coming from Him.
Some of the strongest testimonies are those of dramatically changed lives. I will give two examples of people who have achieved some level of fame.
The first is Christian author Lee Strobel. In his early adult years, Strobel was a staunch atheist, very sure of his position on that issue. After receiving a degree in journalism from University of Missouri and a Master’s degree from Yale Law School, he embarked on a career as a newspaper journalist. After 14 years in that career, he was assigned to the City Desk for the Chicago Tribune, covering politics and court cases involving the government and politicians. He prided himself on his ability to ferret out the facts and get to the truth, even when the truth was contrary to statements by public officials and others who were part of the stories.
Strobel was married to a woman who held what he believed were rational positions on religion and spiritual matters that were similar to where he stood. One day, he came home and was shocked to hear his wife tell him that she had a spiritual experience, was saved and was now a Christian. This sudden change deeply dismayed him. However, over time, he discovered two things: he could not change her mind, and she had become a noticeably better person. As a result, his consternation diminished and he became intrigued by what happened to her.
He decided to take a journalist’s look at Christianity, treating it the same as he would any other story. He found the names of some of the leading scholars in various areas of Christian thought. Acquainting himself with their work, he interviewed them and asked them questions in an attempt to poke holes in their positions. He came away from the experience admitting that he failed in the attempt. This does not mean they were able to answer every question he asked as the interview progressed. But he found that their candid admission that there are certain things about an infinite God that finite man cannot explain did not disqualify them when they did have answers.
In perhaps one of the clearest examples that Christianity is reasoned faith, not blind faith, Strobel came out of the experience receiving Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He recreated and expanded on his interview experience in his book “The Case for Christ”. Since then, he has employed the same journalistic techniques in books on other Christian topics. In addition to “The Case for Christ”, I would also recommend “The Case for Faith” to anyone who wants to explore the claims of mainstream evangelical Christianity. This book is a logical, fact-oriented examination into the most common objections to Christianity.
The other example is that of a man who I have never met, but I do feel somewhat connected to. For one thing, I have known some Christians who have met him and testify that he is the genuine article in terms of his Christian faith and service.
From July 1976 until August 1977, young woman, especially those with long brown hair, were becoming terrorized as news of serial murders and murder attempts of victims who fit that description (and sometimes their male companions) became etched into the consciousness of the citizens of the New York metropolitan area. Young brunette women began to cut their hair short, drastically dye it so it would not be mistaken for brown hair, or purchased so many wigs that wig shops could not keep up with the demand.
During that time period, I both lived and worked in New York City at various times. I was in my early twenties and knew young women who fit the profile. I also have brown hair. If I had transitioned before that time, I probably would have favored longer hair at the age (I wore it fairly long during most of college) and would have fit the profile.
Midway through these serial shootings, a man identified himself as “Son of Sam” in some rambling letters sent to the police and the press. He claimed responsibility for the crimes and indicated that more were coming. The letters indicated a man who was deeply disturbed and conflicted, possibly demon possessed or involved in a Satanic cult.
The shooting spree ended when the police arrested the Son of Sam: real name, David Berkowitz. He quickly confessed to the shootings and was sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life.
At one point, Berkowitz may have been the most hated in man in the New York State prison system. In 1979, a fellow inmate at Attica slashed his throat, coming within a fraction of an inch of killing him. Eight years later, another inmate persisted in getting him to accept and read a pocket-sized edition of God’s Word. After reading Psalm 34:6, Berkowitz received Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
Probably the most jaundiced groups toward prisoners claiming to have become Christians are prison guards and officials. But in time, they saw that Berkowitz not only talks the talk but walks the walk. One of the most hated prisoners is now one of the most trusted. He now calls himself “Son of Hope”.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8
In my next post, we will look at an area in which the effects of the Lord may be even more dramatic.