Towards the end of my freshman year at Calvin, an upperclass student approached me and said God had told her to talk to me.
Q: What was I studying?
A: Stubbornly finishing out the pre-med classes I had signed up for because my parents were in the sciences, but really more excited about the history cluster I took my first semester.
She told me she had a vision of me opening a chest and looking at old coins. She thought it meant there was value in my studying history. I felt more like it was an unsolicited fortune telling, but part of me was desperate for any reassurance I could come by.
I’m never quite sure how to respond to witnessing. The traditions I grew up in didn’t spend much time on the movement of the Spirit. Such encounters usually leave me with a mixture of skepticism, guilt, awe, and confusion.
I can’t relate to receiving such a clear directive from God, but I can appreciate the literary, meaning-making nature of it all. If I’m reading my life like a novel, as I sometimes do, that episode builds on the theme of faith and doubt. However I choose to interpret that encounter, it continues to haunt me.
Last Sunday, I stopped to get coffee before church when a woman hesitantly approached and asked if I was a Christian. I told her I was.
The Spirit had told her to seek out someone near Rockefeller Chapel. The coffee shop is down the street. The Spirit told her the color red. The novel I’ve been carrying with me, which has started to feel like a talisman, is a particularly bright shade of crimson. I had set it on the counter beside me.
We had a nice conversation about my church down the street, her internship at the University library, and her experience looking for a Korean Christian community while she was in the US.
I thanked her for coming up to me. I apologized for not being the nonbeliever I assumed she was seeking. We parted ways. I went to church. We believed in the same God but in very different ways.
The Spirit told her a verse. She left me with a slip of paper on which she had written it.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. – Hebrews 11:6
Half an hour earlier, coasting down Lake Shore Drive, surprising myself by switching the radio station to the impossibly positive, incorrigibly encouraging K-LOVE because classic rock, alternative, and Top 40 all sounded too jarring on that Sunday morning, I had choked out a half-prayer, half-thought to myself: I want to be doing God’s will.
The slip of paper felt like a retort. I held off reading too much into it, let it sit for a few days, used it to mark my place in the red-covered book. In this new chapter of my life, I was wary of too perfect a recurrence of the theme of faith and doubt.
I didn’t open my Bible until yesterday. The letter to the Hebrews is meant to encourage them in their faith. In the midst of admonitions against falling away and explanations of Christ’s sacrifice, the eleventh chapter pauses to explain the meaning of faith through examples like Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
The sixth verse refers to Enoch, the patriarch who walked faithfully with God and suddenly was no more in Genesis 5:24. God took him at 365 years, making his life considerably shorter than the rest of Adam’s family line. In contrast to the rich narratives of other Israelite heroes, Genesis doesn’t give us enough of his story to learn from his walk of faith or even know what it means to be no more.
Apocryphal literature colors in several versions of Enoch’s life and afterlife. New Testament writers recognized these works; Jude 14 quotes a prophecy of judgment on ungodly sinners from the Book of Enoch. But in the canon I’m working with, he remains an elusive figure, as if he faithfully wandered off into the sunset, becoming a smaller and smaller speck with each step.
This isn’t a verse for an unconverted soul. This is a verse for when you’re doing the works but neglecting your faith.
This is a verse that lures you in with an unexpected reference but stymies you with a dearth of reliable background information. This is not a verse to be taken out of context and yet it defies contextualization. We know Enoch walked faithfully with God; we know very little else.
This is a verse that is tripping me up.
It is causing me to question my meaning-making, my skepticism, and my day-to-day steps.
But it has also reacquainted me with a verse I love, Hebrews 11:1.
Faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
This is a verse that lends me a firmer footing.
India Daniels (’17) studied English literature and history at Calvin. She is serving a year as an Americorps VISTA curriculum development specialist for Turning the Page, a nonprofit promoting literacy and parental engagement in Chicago’s North Lawndale schools.