As I peruse the internet and read through blogs, adjust my Amazon wishlist to explore new authors, and devour kindle books whole (and sacrifice precious sleeping hours in the process), I could easily surmise that this whole doubt and angst thing is nothing more than the latest fad. The new way to be authentic and vulnerable in your Christian walk. When I was in seminary, it seemed that questions and doubt were a badge of honor in some circles; you weren’t cool and truly, authentically Christian unless you were questioning stuff the Church had settled centuries ago.
I certainly don’t want to hitch a ride on that bandwagon; I also don’t want to dismiss all the questions by labeling them as such. Where is the balance, the elusive middle ground? I would tend to think that forces bigger than ourselves have shaped the landscape that has come into view; the vacuous nature of so much of American Evangelicalism (henceforth AE – I love acronyms!) has, in my opinion, led to this collective crisis of faith. You can thank my generation for getting the ball rolling; MLs are simply carrying the torch forward into the future. The mass marketing of everything – and I do mean everything, including faith – has burned us out.
But I can’t dismiss AE altogether. Most importantly, it was a saving grace for me when I first became a believer and didn’t know where I should land. I felt like a stranger in the Black church, even though I had spent my entire childhood there. Somehow, as an adult, the trajectory of my life pulled me away, not toward it, and I have spent many years mourning that loss. From time to time nostalgia causes me to want to lean back; but in the end I stay put, largely for theological reasons that I can’t even begin to explain in this post. You think yesterday’s post was long…yikes!
I landed at Harvest Bible Chapel before it “blew up”, and loved it. When I moved to the Atlanta area, I found Crossroads Community Church (now 12Stones) and discovered that I had leadership and teaching gifts. When I came back to Illinois, I found my way to a church that is solidly in the main AE stream. After leaving Trinity, I landed in the Evangelical Free Church and stayed there, even after my move to Charlotte, North Carolina.
I returned to Central Illinois in spring of 2013 (greeted by a snowstorm; welcome to spring in the Midwest…) and set out to recreate the life I had before my adventures in Chicagoland and the South. But something had changed. Perhaps the church had changed. Or maybe it was me. It has taken me the last two years to figure it out. And quite honestly, I still don’t know if I’m there yet. But I least feel a sense of hope that was absent for so long.
Circling back to my first statement: I am not seeking to be cool, to be in on the latest trend of authentic Christian living. In fact, I would say this is nothing new for me. I’m just more willing now than ever before to name it, claim it (oh, that did not come out right, but I’ll keep it!) and hand it over to the Lord.
I became a Christian in 1999 at the age of 26. In the sixteen years since, I have on more than one occasion sat on the edge of my bed, literally or figuratively, and thrown my hands up in defeat, wanting to give up on the whole faith thing. Being the hyper-analytical, structure-loving girl that I am, I wanted to formula, a set of rules that would make sense and have predictable outcomes. I have gone through so many iterations of “Seven Step to Spiritual Bliss” I’ve lost count. And with the same result: me, on the edge of my bed, tears steadily falling, sometimes along with every stitch of eye makeup I carefully applied, barely able to mutter the words, “I give up”. Suddenly I start hearing the Israelites’ words falling out of my mouth, “Was it that there were not enough graves in Egypt that you led us out into the wilderness to die?!” Oh the melodrama – all too real to me.
And then, these words begin to creep up in my heart: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-67). The crowds had abandoned Jesus because He started talking about things that were too hard for them to bear, too much sacrifice to consider. They were enthralled with his flashy miracles, but not so much His teaching of dying and sacrifice and denial. At the end, the only ones left standing beside him are the original twelve, and Peter (oh, I love Peter!) affirms: how can we leave You, Lord? You are it. There’s nothing else besides You.
The ground below my feet is shaky right now. Sometimes I think I’m going through a midlife crisis. The steadily increasing number of grey hairs on my head seem to confirm that. Whatever the case, my faith is a little wobbly, and I feel a visit to the edge of my bed coming on. But in spite of all this, the one thing I know is that I desperately need Jesus. I can’t stand before God by myself. I need Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He is all I have. I have nothing without Him. If I lose Him I lose everything. And in a way I can’t explain, I know that I won’t lose Him, that I am not the one holding on. It’s like He’s boxed me in, so that no matter which way I turn, there He is.
So, even in my doubts, my fears, my struggles – especially when I am staring my sin in the face with tears burning my eyes and destroying my makeup – I know I can’t get through it, through any of it, without Him.
And right now, that’s enough…it’s always enough…