Here's the deal, I did not read a Christian book or inspirational quote that led to the awesome grace and hope found in Christ. Sure, they were supplements that may or may not have pointed me to him, but they did not hold the convincing point that drove it home in my mind.
In fact, I am actually skeptical of most Christian books (and movies). I believe God uses authors in an incredible way, but I also am not a fan of books that try to spark some emotional response in me, and I also don't really enjoy those "feel good, make me feel great" books. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, just look on the "Women's Issues" shelf in the Christianity section of any book store).
I like to read books that bring understanding and insight to different topics, but I also like to read and research things that challenge what and how I think. I should note, I do read Christian books, I just like to line up what they say with what the Bible says. (I've also struggled with letting Christian book reading overshadow Bible reading, and that's no bueno)
For a really long time, I was under the impression that Christianity (or the Church) were just another group of people who found their identity and "rules to life" from whatever popular preacher or best selling author loosely used the Bible to create the perfect "how to" guide to live by. My perception was right AND wrong. (There are people in the church who do that, but that's not how it was meant to be)
Let me mention again, I do not like feeling manipulated to give an emotional response or to reading a book to hopefully all agree (submit) to one person's views of Christianity and how Christians should behave. I am also a self admitted "difficult person" to have in a small group setting at Church. I question a lot and I sometimes need further explanation as to where someone may be coming from. I don't like textbook answers.
I thought that choosing Christianity was an easy way to get out of independent thinking. It seemed to easy to swallow what a preacher said on Sunday morning and to spew that stuff out whenever God "needed defending."
Here's what I've come to know:
1) Jesus was a "free thinker" For real. Every religious leader that he encountered was furious with Him for not "following the rules." I'm not saying Jesus was a rebel, so let's all be rebels, but rather, Jesus came to this world and questioned the teachings and rules the religious leaders were giving to the people. The Church NEEDS those people as well. We need people in the Word and making sure we have preachers and leaders who are speaking truth. He also came to this world to bring restoration and healing, so I want to follow His example and His truth in how I encourage leaders and other believers.
2) We don't have to argue. We all have these beautiful minds that come to conclusions and perceptions based on a wide variety of experiences. It's amazing how two people can go through the exact same situation and have two completely different reactions. The Church needs these perceptions and experiences, but not in a hateful, argumentative way. Recently, in one of our small groups, a controversial issue came up, and our group leader, Jacob, said something that completely put my heart in check (and I think about it every single time a "hot button" issue comes up). He said, "if we allow _____ issue to distract from the message of the redeeming love of Christ, we let the issue of _____ become our idol above Him." There is no political or religious issue that rises above the message of Christ and His love for Us. It's okay to disagree. (It's also great that we are all thinking about these things)
3) Following Christ has challenged the way I think more than I ever thought possible. Even this morning, I was reading something in the Bible and just started laughing and said out loud, "I really don't get this." Christianity isn't meant to dumb down your mind and ability to think for yourself, but following Christ has definitely put into perspective how limited my capacities truly are.
I wrote this post for two reasons.
1) I hope it will encourage other Christians to seek out and know God more. God created your mind in a unique, beautiful way, but we aren't capable of understanding it all on our own. Doubts exist (we need to stop pretending they don't) Surround yourself to others that allow you to share your thoughts, but will also point You to Christ regardless of if they agree or disagree.
2) If you are not following Christ, I wanted to show that we aren't perfect. We have minds that come to conclusions that are sometimes hurtful and not what Christ calls us to. We have unlimited doubts and questions, too. Also, I want to make a case for Christians. It's not quite fair to call Christians dumb, mindless zombies either. For me, it took A LOT of thought and faith to make this decision. It was not one I was forced into and it was not one I entered into lightly. I would encourage you to continue to consider your doubts and questions and to also ask yourself where they stem from/why they exist.