So I read this blog post yesterday that really stuck with me. Go here to check it out: Losingmyreligion
Here’s a quote to get the general idea: “Last fall, I finally moved past guilt and admitted to myself that I no longer believe in Jesus or the god of the Bible. Surprisingly it was a relief. Not because I wanted to run wild and sin freely, but because I no longer felt the weight a Christian carries. The weight of guilt, unworthiness and fear of god’s judgement. I continue to spend my days striving to be a good husband, father and son. I help others in need around me as often as I can. The big difference is I do these things today because it brings me joy, not because I believe it brings an imaginary god joy.”
Wow. I read that and felt–I’m not sure what. I appreciate his honesty. I think for people who’ve been “in the faith” for so long, that kind of honesty isn’t so easy. Maybe that’s a small part of what he’s getting at when he talks about the weight a Christian carries. Here’s the thing, I wonder how many people–Christians–experience these exact feelings but feel too much guilt or fear to say them out loud. I know there’s supposed to be freedom in Christ–but, and I’m just being honest here, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. There’s fear too. And reaching that place where you are truly honest with yourself (and everyone else, another tough one for some Christians) is a difficult journey. The guy who wrote this post included 20 reasons for why he’s abandoned his faith. I can tell you that more than one of those reasons are a part of that unspoken-avoidance section of Christianity.
I know I’ve asked a few of those questions to different people before and the answer is usually something like “We can never understand God. His ways are not our ways. We just have to trust Him. He sees the big picture.”
And that’s true. It has to be. Because I don’t understand all 20 of the reasons (and more) that I just read. Most of them are really disturbing. And I don’t think anyone can rationally give me explanations for things like reason #3. But the fact alone that He’s God means He sees everything–and that includes the small picture, right? Not just the big one. The small, everyday picture of our everyday life.
Then there’s that fear factor. Maybe it’s ingrained in us, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a healthy fear of God. To me, His existence is not a question at all. And that means He’s bigger and stronger than me and everyone else and I really don’t want to upset Him. But does questioning the basics of faith upset Him? I hope not. I think the usual answer to this is that He’s big enough to handle our questions and He wants us to ask Him. But then there’s that other fact that in Scripture, He’s not always totally cool with people questioning Him. So which is it?
Hmm. Hard to know. I think for some people, taking a hard look at these kinds of questions leads to a really uncomfortable place that they just don’t want to go to. So they avoid it, and seriously, I can’t blame them. And I’m not saying they’re wrong.
Then there are people like this guy, who wrestle with the hardest questions. He’s come through this and decided he doesn’t believe anymore. So would it have been better if he’d never even gone there to begin with? Or would that level of faith (for him) have been shallow and based on only thinking of God in ways that he’s comfortable with? I don’t think there’s a right and wrong answer here; but for some of us, never questioning, never admitting that sometimes everything doesn’t add up–these things don’t go hand in hand with having an authentic relationship with God. And I do believe that there are people (Philip Yancey and Brennan Manning, for a couple of examples) who have truly wrestled with the most unattractive and scary parts of who God just might be–and have come through it with more faith than before. It can happen. And that’s so comforting to me.
I read this guy’s post and can understand where he’s coming from. And I can understand where he ended up. But for me, it all starts with truly believing in the existence of God. That’s the starting point. If I believe in God (which I do), then I want to have more of an opinion of Him than just “the Force” in the sky. That’s where the journey can get tricky. Because knowing someone personally who absolutely never speaks audibly to you (at least not to me) can sometimes feel really one-sided. But that’s just how it is. I think faith involves crossing that barrier and being okay with it. But I also think questioning the role of faith in our world is inevitable for some of us. And while God may not be thrilled with the questioning (I really can’t say how He feels)–I do think He’s not someone who writes people off because they feel unsure or afraid or really, really frustrated. And I think there’s plenty of evidence in Scripture for that. I know He’s more patient than we are and more tolerant (and if you think He isn’t it, then mercy and grace means something different to me than it does to you). So I don’t think He runs when we feel like we’ve hit a wall with our beliefs. There’s a beautiful hymn by Fanny Crosby that says “Help my unbelief.” That part of the song has always been my favorite, because even a woman of faith like Fanny Crosby had to pray about her unbelief. And hearing that tells me that she wasn’t afraid to be real with others and real with God.
And for me, that’s what it’s all about.