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.

Night-Driving-Synchroblog

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

  • http://faithhopeandreality.wordpress.com Faith, hope and reality

    Hi Kim – I’m so glad to have found you through the synchroblog – a little bit of my own story of faith in the darkness is over there. My unravelling came too at the hands of a pastor, but it was a different story. I’m finding my way to lighter places now, but everything looks very different now. There are very few certainties for me anymore, but I too know that God has been with me in the dark. I’m so glad you have known that too. and like you I’m so glad of others who are talking about faith and life in the dark places too. I think I’m your kin. I look forward to reading more of your journey and getting to know you a little more. Thank you for sharing this today.

    • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

      I love the serendipity of the internet — which is the exact thing that brought Addie and me together! (I didn’t know internet friends could become in-person friends but here we are.) You sound like my kin. If we’re unsure of everything else, I think we can be sure God is there in the dark with us, no matter how it feels. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note.

  • http://www.alinawrites.wordpress.com Alina

    I learned, too, about the importance of small moments and God’s presence. Blessings! I’m glad to have found my way here.

    • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

      Glad you’re here, Alina.

  • http://www.fellowpassengers.com/ Rachel Riebe

    I raise a quiet echo to “in the dark, God never leaves me”. Church is a messy institution marbled with our memories of yesterday and our analyzing of today… but sometimes you find a place – a place that wholly seeks the good of others for the sake of Christ – and you’re drawn in. I firmly believe that can be your front porch, with a book like Addie’s in your hand, just as well as a formal meeting.

    • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

      Thank you, Rachel. It’s still a struggle for me to work out what that “place” looks like, I think mostly because of shame-based “shoulds” that I gleaned from evangelicalism. “Do not give up meeting together” and all that. I love your image of my front porch with a book, and especially “a place that wholly seeks the good of others for the sake of Christ.” I’ll be mulling over that one for a while.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    “I’ve learned that He’s sometimes silent, and sometimes I need Him to be.” I love everything about this post, particularly this line. Thank you for joining in friend. xo

    • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

      I love how my whole week has been filled with YOU. xo

  • Kate Alexis

    “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.”
    Wow. Uh-huh. Especially the last bit.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

      Thanks for stopping by, Kate. I still wonder what it is I have to unlearn, you know? Why is it all still so jumbled? And then maybe that doesn’t matter so much anyway. And maybe I don’t have to figure it all out.

  • http://prinsenhouse.blogspot.ca/ Jeannie Prinsen

    Hi Kim – just linking up from the synchroblog and loving all the posts I’m reading there. This line really spoke to me: “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.” Like you, I’m coming to realize faith can be slow and simple — “little sparks” that move us ahead one step at a time. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

      I love that, Jeannie. Little sparks here and there. And that can be enough.

  • Lizzie Goldsmith

    Thank you, Kim. I’m in my own darkness right now, both with faith and otherwise, and these synchroblog posts are such a balm, even more than I thought they’d be. Thank you for your courage in sharing, and your courage in not going to church when you discovered it wasn’t what you needed. There are so many of us in the dark, and each story reminds me that it’s okay. So much to hold onto here. Thank you.