5. Why Catholic?: Big Encounters

I grew up in a Christian home, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t questioned God. In fact, probably most kids who grew up in a Christian home have questioned their faith, and a very large portion of them have decided to leave it. I remember asking a friend in community college (who had also grown up in a Christian home) whether she had ever doubted God. She blissfully responded that she never had, and I thought, “Wow… people like you exist.” I couldn’t relate…. not in the least.

College is probably when most kids start questioning the faith they grew up with – or any cultural beliefs they grew up with. And I was no exception. I felt like so many voices were calling to me from every side, claiming to be the truth. I remember days when I felt like all I had to offer God was my doubt. What He did with it, if He was even there, was His business because I knew I couldn’t bring myself any further than that.

But what touched me more than anything – what kept me a Christian – were miracle stories. And, again, this is the point at which I feel the eye-rolling on the other side of the screen. But, well… yeah, miracles. And specifically the miracles that came into the life of George Müller.

George Müller was a pastor in Bristol, England in the 1800’s. And he had a dilemma: he tried to preach about how people ought to be moral and put their faith in God, but he would hear from men in the business world that, however much they would like to be meek and mild like Jesus was, it just wasn’t practical. If they wanted to get ahead or keep their companies afloat, they said they had to cut corners. They had to be cut-throat.

Tired of hearing this, he prayed about it and decided the most reasonable thing to do was start an orphanage. But he didn’t just start an orphanage. He started it and maintained it the rest of his life without asking anyone for money and never even telling anyone the needs of the institution, aside from his fellow workers. Instead, what he and his staff did was essentially pray the place into existence.

In his autobiography, he recorded one circumstance after another in which, at just the right time, food or supplies were provided. A baker in town woke up in the night and told his workers to bake bread for the children at the orphanage because he couldn’t fall asleep otherwise. A milk wagon broke down right in front of the orphanage, and the man told Müller, “You might as well take it all, otherwise it will spoil.” There were years they were going hand to mouth, but the children never had to wait more than a half an hour for any meal in all the years it was running. By the end of his own life, Müller had cared for over 10,000 orphans and established 117 schools which gave a Christian education to around 120,000 children.

I suppose Müller’s story hits me so hard because one of the hardest things for me to trust God with is money. I’ve continually wondered if He’d really take care of us. We’re in a much better place now as far as finances go, but for years, it wasn’t that way. And it’s one thing when you’re a bachelor who can live in a studio apartment, and survive off of coffee, ramen noodles, and Netflix. But when your wife and three little lives are depending on you, you start biting your nails. I’ve constantly had to remind myself that Jesus promised to give us our daily bread – not monthly bread, or yearly bread, or lifetime supply of bread.

God finds all sorts of avenues to people’s hearts. This was the avenue to mine. I had days when I didn’t feel God’s presence. I had days when nothing about being a Christian made sense and it would have been easy to chuck it. But then there was George Müller. Maybe I could explain an invisible deity away as fiction, but how was I going to explain away a real man who died only recently, who wrote an autobiography anyone can read who’s organization still exists today functioning the same way it always has: on prayer?

Take his story and multiply it by thousands and you have the lives of the Catholic saints – both ancient and much more recent. Müller’s story isn’t even the most extravagant – even among the more contemporary tales. I could go through so many of them in this post, but I wanted to zero in on this one because it’s the one that touched me when I most needed it to. Which is kind of the point of a miracle, or any encounter with God. It’s a moment when God comes down and touches your life. It’s not just that they show us that there is a God. It’s not just that they show us that God has some cosmic plan for our lives. It’s that they show us that God actually cares. He’s involved. He has a deep interest in making sure we’re going to be ok. As Jesus said,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:29-31)

In other words, God loves us.

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