Monday, 5 December 2011
Faith in the Dark
I don’t talk about my “faith journey” much. I don’t write about it. Sometimes I try not to think about it.
I have faith (some). Jesus still captivates me and moves me, inch by inch, toward Truth. I still believe. But most days, I’m not sure what that means anymore — all the familiar landmarks smack false to me, the faith of my youth all tied up in a problematic youth pastor, an American evangelical Christianity I no longer recognize, and lots and lots of “feelings” (feeling close to God, feeling a fire in my chest, feeling his presence close to me) that have gone blank.
Years ago, we stopped going to church. We stopped at the very moment most people keep going “for the kids.” I thought that after we did that, clarity would come. I knew that church as I knew it — meeting on Sunday morning, learning piety, AWANA, a caring community sometimes filled with too much small talk — was no longer where I found Jesus. It wasn’t them, really, it was me. There were too many trappings, too many triggers. Everything there reminded me of the faith of my youth, an easy belief that didn’t come so easy anymore.
So we left. And clarity didn’t come.
I felt my faith withdrawing into itself like a cocoon, distilling what was essential, closing up and hibernating. I waited. I expected an unfolding, an unfurling of a new expression of my faith, a butterfly emerging beautiful and whole, a phoenix rising from the ashes.
But it didn’t happen like that. And all these years later, it still feels dark.
In many ways, I’m still in the messy middle.
And I’m not sure why He still has me here, what else I’m supposed to work out, how in the world I’ll be able to reconcile what I knew with what I know, and why I have to make it so complicated.
I have to believe that something is still happening here in the dark, that God is still at work, that everything will be illuminated in time. But even in the darkness, He speaks.
In the dark, I’ve learned that God never leaves me.
I’ve learned that He’s sometimes silent, and sometimes I need Him to be.
I’ve learned that He’s not afraid of my doubts or my questions or my anger or my fear.
I think I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be a dramatic unfurling of knowing, or a sudden rush of belief, and certainly not a moment of blinding clarity. If that’s all I’m looking for, I’ll miss the little sparks that illuminate the next step forward.
I’m learning that it’s going to be slow. I’m learning that it’s OK to try new things. I’m learning that Going To Church doesn’t have to be a Major Event, it can just be something I try. Or not.
I’m learning that if I pay attention, sitting in this darkness can be a kind of prayer.
I believe; help my unbelief.
Here’s another thing I’ve learned about the darkness: Not only has God been here the whole time, but there are others here with me, too.
I’m so grateful for people like Addie, my blog-acquaintance-turned-immediate-friend when we met a few years ago. I think we saw some familiar topography in each other, a knowing that comes from being where we have, from the fading of a youth faith on fire, the wondering what now. And being honest about it.
Addie has now written not one, but two beautiful memoirs now. The first was recalling the days of her on-fire youth and what came after. Her second memoir, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, releases today, and it’s required reading for all of you. She says she thought her second memoir was going to be about “finding a faith home” until she realized it’s not all that neat and tidy after all. She’s hosting a synchroblog today about faith in the dark; you should click over to her site to see all the beauty gathered there.
And if the winding journey of your faith has taken you to unexpected dark places, I think you’ll love this book as much as I do. Addie has a way of piercing the mundane to see the meaning and life in all of it, and writes it out with such beauty you can’t help but see something that wasn’t there before.
Happy book release day, Addie. I’m so thankful that you’re willing to dare greatly and share yourself. We’re all better for it. xo