Eric Metaxas – White Chair Film – I Am Second®

There’s no such thing as blind faith. The whole idea of blind faith is misunderstanding faith. Faith can only be faith in what is real. This ridiculous idea which is so popular in our culture that you know, if you want to believe you kind of got to check your brain at the door. That’s absurd, I mean, it’s totally wrong. Some of the greatest minds I’ve ever met, people that are just extraordinary, brilliant thoughtful, emotionally intelligent, emotionally mature people, are people of faith in Jesus. And I think the tragedy of our culture and the culture that I grew up is that you don’t really see evidence of that. My dad came from Greece in 1955, my mom came from Germany in 1954. They met in an English class in New York City, in Manhattan. We went to the Greek church and it was a wonderful community, it was a warm community, but it was mainly a community build around the idea of being Greek, that’s where the Greeks hung out, in the church. It was an ethnic community, but it was not really very much a community of faith. My identity was getting good grades, being the smart kid and so I just assumed that, whatever, I should go to some good school, and you know, that was not part of the culture that I grew up in. I mean, I went to a public school in Danbury, Connecticut. Nobody’s talking about wanting to go to these Ivy League schools, You know, of course you don’t know what you’re getting into. But I remember going to college and really thinking I don’t know what I believe, I have no clue and I’m so open minded that in an environment like Yale particularly, it’s a very secular environment. You know, by the time I graduated I was really, absolutely at sea, I had no idea what I believed or who I was. It got tough. It was very unpleasant, I was 24, moved back in with my folks, and you know, my European immigrant parents were not thinking “Oh, Eric must be a poet, a writer, he’s finding himself.” Their attitude is “You should find yourself a job.” The only thing I could do to make a buck was I got a job as a proof reader at Union Carbide. It was an awful, awful time. I mean, it was to work at a corporate environment as somebody who thinks himself a humorous and a poet and it was just horrible. In the middle of this agony, I met a guy, he was a graphic designer at Union Carbide, a little bit older than I was, he had a wife and a kid and he sort of befriended me and we just hang out and talk. He clearly was serious about his Christian faith. For a long time that made me uncomfortable because I’d been trained at Yale, you know we avoid people like this, these are weird people. I remember this guy saying to me “Eric, you know, you should pray that God will reveal Himself to you.” And I remember thinking “That makes absolutely no sense because if I don’t even know if God’s there, how am I going to pray to Him?” I don’t even if He exists. But if you are in enough pain you’ll do stupid stuff. So, I’d be like jogging and in my pain I would just pray to God: “I need a sign, you know, I’m just trapped. I’m trapped in my own mind, in my own way of seeing the world, there’s just no way out.” Then my uncle Takis, he had a stroke. I remember this friend of mine, Ed Tuttle, this graphic designer, said to me that some of the folks at his church were praying for my uncle and I’ll never forget that I was blown away by the kindness of this. I said “Wow, that’s kind of amazing, that you don’t even know my uncle and you and people in your church are praying for my uncle.” And I also was blown away by the intellectual concept that you’re praying to this God that you think can heal people so it’s not just you know some vague energy force, you believe there is this God who cares. I was moved, I wasn’t persuaded that this is real but I was just moved by the concept of it. And then one day that week, he asked me: “Would you like to pray for your uncle?” And I said “Yeah”, you know, up until then I was like, no I don’t want to pray, or do anything weird, go to church or do bible study. But my uncle’s sick, let’s go pray. And so he takes me to this bleak, fluorescent lit conference room at Union Carbide, just awful, and we go in there and close the door and he prays, I close my eyes, I had never done this before, ever. Now, imagine, I grew up in a church, I was an altar boy. Nobody like, prays actually prays like that. My uncle passed away but I remember at the funeral, the priest asked me if I would read the Psalms, it was just kind of this thing, I thought, yeah, I want to do that. Like something was engaged basically for the first time. And right around this time I had a dream, sort of around my 25th birthday, so 25 years ago. I had a dream and that dream changed everything, it was like a life changing, mind blowing dream. In the dream, I’m standing on Lake Candle Wood, in Danbury, Connecticut. It’s winter, I’m standing on the ice, I’m ice fishing with my buddy John and his dad, it’s one of those glorious winter days where the sun is bright, the sky is incredibly blue, there’s white snow and ice, and we’re standing there, and I look down into the whole were we were fishing, and there is a fish sticking its snout out of the hole, now if you ice fish, you may know that that never happens. And I reach down, and I pick it up and I hold it up. And in the dream the light from… the light from the sun was so bright, and it shone on the side of this fish in a way that it made it look not bronze, but actually golden. Like it was made of gold, and then suddenly in the dream I realize that no, it’s not looking gold, it’s not just appearing to be gold, it’s actually golden, I’m holding up a living golden fish. The way I look at the dream in retrospect is that God was speaking to me with what I call a secret vocabulary of my heart. This dream would have meant nothing to anyone else. It would have been just bizarre. In my twenties, after college, I finally came up with what I though was a suitable answer to the meaning of the universe. I came up with this idea that, okay, it’s kind of a literary image, you have a frozen lake, and the ice on the lake represents the conscious mind and the water beneath the ice represents the unconscious mind with a collective unconscious and so that’s Jung’s idea of God, this kind of Eastern God force. And so the goal of life and of all religions is basically the same, OK, it´s the drill through the ice, the conscious mind, to reach the collective unconscious, this was this kind of idea that I had come up with. So when I had the dream, obviously, it has unbelievable resonance. So I’m holding this fish and I realize in the dream, it’s like this paragraph just dropped into my head…boom, boom…like I know. God has just one-upped to me with my own simple system. In the dream I’m aware, looking at this golden fish, like it’s out of a fairy tale, that God has just said to me, without a word, “Eric, you wanted to touch water, you wanted to touch inert water, this collective unconscious, this Eastern idea of this God force, but I have something else for you, I have my Son. Jesus Christ, the son of God, your savior.” This was huge. In fact, I remember specifically, and this has meaning here, that when we would see the fish in the back of the car the chrome fish, when they started popping up, in the 70’s, my father got really excited about telling me that this is a Greek word, that the Greek word for fish is Ichthys. and that’s an acronym Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr, Jesus Christ, son of God, our savior. that’s where the Christians came up with the fish symbol, so in the dream I instantly knew all this came together and just blew my mind. You know, it was transcendent. I went to work the next day, and I told my friend, Ed Tuttle, that I had this dream, you know, and he says: “What do you think that means?” And I said “Well, it means I’ve accepted Jesus.” And I never, never would have said those words. I would cringe to say those words, in fact I would have cringed if anybody else would say those words. I cringed when people said stuff like that. I just… But I mean, what can I tell you? It was absolutely mind blowing. People have said “Faith is a leap into the dark.” Let’s switch the cliches: “Faith is leap into the light.” If it’s not true, I don’t want to believe it. If it’s just kind of helping me, a little bit, but it’s not ultimately true, then what are you believing in? I remember the guy who I was talking to, my graphic designer friend Ed Tuttle, shared with me a scripture before I had become a Christian. And it was that famous scripture from Jeremiah, where God says: “I know the plans I have for you. Plans not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There is no doubt in retrospect that God is real. And I wish I’d known that a lot sooner. To think that I can grow up in a church and go to one of the finest universities and never encounter any credible witness of this kind of faith, that says a lot about the culture we live in. I mean, God didn’t just create us. He invented the idea of us and He invented every single one of us. He knows us so intimately, so you cannot ever really know who you are apart from Him. To know that my life is not a mistake, to know that my life is not meaningless, to really know…that’s freedom. That’s real freedom. My name is Eric Metaxas, and I am Second.

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