Monday, August 28, 2017

When the big picture shifts, part 3

Monastery of the Holy Spirit
2017 has been one hell of a ride for me.  The scariest personal struggles came this spring, the summer saw both my husband and I become unemployed, and I'm currently in the midst of my second big "is God even real?" dilemma (and this go round is lasting much longer than the first one in 2010).  With the first hard situation, relationship problems if I'm honest, it was a very few close friends and my faith that pulled me out of the darkness.  I couldn't have made it toward the light without either of those two strongholds.  Here in August, I have this new, hard, jobless situation on my hands and my faith is weaker and not as steady, and it absolutely sucks not having that assurance in my heart in the midst of the turmoil.

What makes the job problem easier to bear are the skills, experience, and professional network I have on my side.  Sure, God may be there, too, but the tangible safety net feels much more real these days.  For those of you who don't walk in faith or religion, please understand me when I say that having the physical safety net without the spiritual is very, very uncomfortable for me.  For as long as I can remember living, I've had a near constant belief that there is a God, that this God loves me, and that this God provides for me in everything.  This concept is such a comfort and encouragement, and I have my own experiences where that reality, the reality of God's existence, was made glaringly true to me.  I even have collected stories of the miraculous and supernatural in the lives of my friends and my immediate family.  (My immediate family.  As in, I can call up my sister right now and have her tell you about her back being healed through prayer and the laying on of hands.  Strange happenings, my friends.)


This spring, a friend of mine introduced me to The Liturgists podcast, and while it has been a breeding ground for my doubt, I think that's only because it's a safe place for doubt.  One of the first episodes I listened to wrapped the warmest blanket around me when the speaker said doubt only has the power we give it.  It doesn't have to be dangerous, and you don't have to be afraid of it.  Our perspective of God changes as we change, just like all our relationships change.  And as we grow and learn more about ourselves, our history, the Bible, and whatever else it is you're delving deeper in, our beliefs and ideas will naturally shift.  This is what life looks like, everyone goes through this, and where you are right now with your faith or lack thereof is okay.  You don't have to pretend everything's fine if it's not.


I can't tell you how thankful I am to not be in the environment where I grew up anymore.  I went to a Southern Baptist church and went to a private Christian school ran by an Independent Baptist church.  Philosophical curiosity wasn't encouraged much in either of those arenas, nor in my home, for that matter.  (I remember taking a break from my encyclopedia computer game, pausing on a snake I clicked that brought up information about the snake's significance in Hinduism.  My mom saw the screen and forbade me from playing the game any longer.)  Perhaps it's a good thing my mind was so young and eager to please at that time.  I never had theistic doubts or concerns.  Instead, I got straight A's in my Bible classes.  I do know, though, that wrestling with these things in school or maybe even at home wouldn't have been met with much understanding or kindness.  And that's why I'm glad my mind waited until adulthood to start looking sideways at what I've been brought up to believe for 29 years.

Now I have a live-in best friend who tells me it's okay, that he loves me, and that if I have any questions or if I'd like to talk about it, he's there to listen and chat.  My BFF in Oregon is a rock of faith herself but doesn't force anything in our conversations and gives such beautiful rest from worry.  Other friends around me are going through similar doubts and also have no judgment for me whatsoever, which is an amazing and unexpected breath of fresh air.  The lack of condemnation makes this struggle easier, safer, and much less scary.


As bizarre as it may sound, at this moment I am content as I wait for answers and confirmation, and I think I'd be content if I never have the certainty I used to.  I'm starting to accept that God, whatever or whomever God is, is mystery.  One of our pastors shared last year that, if there is a God, we're not going to understand Him/Her/It completely.  It doesn't make sense to try to put God in a box to we've made to better understand the divine, either.  Furthermore, if God were someone or something we could explain absolutely and comprehend absolutely, it wouldn't be much of a God.

So this is where I'm at.  Generally comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing.  Open to the possibilities of having my mind changed.  Hopeful that I will find the truth and that the truth will be a benevolent God who's on our side, working everything for our good.  The moments when my mind goes deeper and starts to consider the possibility of that not being the truth are terrifying, especially when considering the afterlife, but I've started to move forward and to search for answers.  I hope what I find is beautiful.

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