Wrestling with faith …

23 Mar

Let’s get something out of the way straight away … faith doesn’t make sense.  I know, faith by definition kinda means that it doesn’t have supporting evidence.  It seems though we always want it to make sense.  We want it to be logical, to have rules or to somehow make something a little more predictable.  We regularly find preachers on TV or publishing books arguing that life will be better if you buy into their brand of faith.  Many of them will argue that your life will actually be financially better. 

i don’t know what it is like to be an adult who grew up in the church, who was taught a particular belief system, who was guided in the church.  My experience was more diverse and very open.  Something that at one point in time was particularly frustrating, because more than anything I wanted to blindly believe in something.  It isn’t to say that folks who have had that experience have blind faith, but rather I didn’t have anything to hang my hat on until I built my own proverbial coat rack.  So many people it seemed had their hook provided for them and as they got older they could decide whether to use the hook they had been given or seek out one that better suited their hat, but if I wanted to have a hanging hat, I had to find the hook myself … OK, so I totally killed the hat analogy, but I hope you understand what I mean.

In my quest for a religion, I would try other people’s churches on for size.  I loved being with them.  I loved how confident and shiny everyone was.  The trouble came when I began to ask why.  The answers I received where not much better than the mom response, “Because I said so.”  My reasoning mind could not accept that answer.  My reasoning mind wanted something that made sense and had observable supporting documentation.  Not too likely, I know.  Well, after a dramatic year and half period, I finally made the big step … I believed because I believed and I accepted my beliefs on faith without measurable, quantifiable documentation.  It felt remarkable.  I was anxious to join the whole church clan.  I was ready to put on my new faith and take it out to church to show it off a bit.  “Yep.” I would say, “This is my new faith … did you notice that I believe ALL of this without one shred of evidence.  Pretty faithful (ha ha) of me don’t you think?”  I anticipated that people would find me quite mature and quite an example of the modern Christian.  I loved Bible study where I would smile confidently and share my insights and give it all up.  It seemed I was in good shape.

However, somewhere along the way I gathered the impression that folks who have faith are some how vacuum-sealed away from trouble.  That they have faith so they don’t have suffering and strife the way the rest of the population does … the way I had prior to my revelation.  Unfortunately, life got hard.  Some of my other faith friends got mean and did unkind things.  Our family continued to face hardships and life was quite a struggle.  While I never really had bought into the “prosperity doctrine”, I had somehow thought that some sort of white picket fence and Donna Reed lifestyle would come along with my cross.  I was disillusioned and hurt and very confused on where to place the blame.  Over the last several years that issue never really resolved itself completely.  I continued to work on it and work on it.  As I did friends died, financial struggles hit, family suffered and the reality of life pressed on.  The good news is that God was good … He didn’t forsake me … He stayed present in my life through the Holy Spirit who guided me.  He never left me alone, but allowed, perhaps encouraged, me to wrestle with these questions.  It just occurred to me in much the same way he wrestled with Jacob.  Time and time again I was confronted with scripture that actually supported a rather unappealing perspective on the Christian life.  Throughout the Bible, particularly the New Testament, we are told the truth of our situation – prepare to be persecuted … prepare to suffer for your faith.  (for example:  “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”  2 Timothy 3:12)   For whatever reason it seems churches don’t include these bits of scripture on their doorhangers 🙂  I was hooked though.  I couldn’t not know what I knew, so the only choice was to reconcile how could the God that loves me … the one I accepted without any empirical evidence … allow me to suffer.  There are a lot of answers to this question.  A lot of people have a lot of perspectives on this.  One thing I know to be absolute though is that Jesus (God himself) suffered and his suffering has changed the world.  If I could have even the smallest percentage of this impact on the world for good, I will have lived a life fulfilled. 

Today, life is often pretty crummy … OK, honestly, a lot of times its much worse than that.  Many days I wake up and have no idea how I’ll make it to the next day.  I have suffered heartache that seemed unbearable and in between my mournful wails (because, yes, they are there), I am able to smile and shine knowing that no matter what reason I must be in such dark places, God is with me there … “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:  For though art with me …” (Psalm 23:4)  I am able to persevere.  I have learned that my understanding of the world is infintile compared to God’s (and yes, here I literally mean as an infant.)

Like Jacob I will walk with my crippled hip.  I have been forever changed by my wrestling with God, but through it all I can’t conceive of being there without him.  So I will hobble along no longer flaunting my shiny faith, but rather humbling acknowledging my limp as my mark of faith.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”  But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”  The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.  Genesis 32:28-31

Please forgive whatever may seem incoherent … after a day sick and a night catching up on work, it has gotten late, but I wanted to make sure I honored my commitment … hopefully if I have rambled too much, there have been bits of insight that can be gleaned 🙂

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One Response to “Wrestling with faith …”

  1. Barbara March 24, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Great post – it’s been nice getting to see you meander. It is always funny to me that almost in spite of no formal religious upbringing, we both ended up embracing our faith so strongly. Just in different ways – I haven’t ever been one who looked up when struggle hit … At times to my benefit, but also at times to avoid any challenge to a belief system that I treasure. As you know, years ago God gave me a message – I gave you this life to be lived joyfully and fully … And even though it wasn’t a message for me, I have celebrated this in the face of many odds. I still challenge everything and doubt tons, but when I face obstacles I feel confident that there is a plan and it will be revealed. That faith has helped me and in fact the four of us over here, survive a lot. I hope you continue down this path – I really believe that your faith specifically is a gift to all of us around you and will make miracles happen when you celebrate it. Love you!

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