Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Friends on the Journey

I started this blog looking for a safe place to figure out my faith. I was desperate and scared--and I felt all alone in my crisis of faith. Turns out, I am far from alone, and I have more peace with my life and faith now than I did a few months ago.  So much has happened internally with me--it would takes months and months and years and decades to describe the inward journey I have taken toward God this past winter. So instead I will list the books that have been good friends to me along the way (in no order whatsoever other than the way I piled them on my desk to see all of the titles):
  1. Dear Heart, Come Home by Joyce Rupp
  2. Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans
  3. In Search of Belief by Sr. Joan Chittister
  4. Losing God by Matt Rogers
  5. Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer
  6. The Early Church by E. Glenn Hinson
  7. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris
  8. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
  9. Loving What Is by Byron Katie
  10. Everything Belongs by Fr. Richard Rohr
  11. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  12. An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
  13. The Mosaic of Christian Belief by Roger E. Olson
  14. Spontaneous Healing by Anddrew Weil, M.D.
  15. Healing for Damaged Emotions by David A. Seamands
I'm also thankful for my real-life interactions with supportive friends. A turning point for me was meeting with my pastors a few months ago. Prior to that meeting, I found myself sitting in church week after week, and thinking 'What if I don't believe any of this--or if I'm buying some beliefs of Christianity but rejecting others? What if this journey takes me too far afield of 'Christian Orthodoxy?' Would there still be room for me here as I am? I'm exhausted from pretending that all is well with me week after week when it really isn't.' So I decided to lay it all out before the pastors--to be  honest with them about the depth and intensity of my crisis.

The thing is, I have been in a church community all of my life, and the thought of just quitting wasn't something I wanted to do. I love church. The place where I go every Sunday is so much more than a set of doctrines and beliefs that I have to a) Agree with at all costs  or b) Disagree with this or that, and therefore leave. The place where I go on Sunday is filled with people who love me and have supported me through the grief and awfulness of life. Regardless of my beliefs (or unbelief), this place is my community and my family--where I live and work and bring meals to friends who have babies and help a neighbor with grocery shopping when she is not up to going out and where we laugh and cry together. I guess I just needed to know that I wouldn't be cast out or burned at the stake as a heretic--I needed to know that there was room for me, too. And I was so afraid of the answer.

So I met with them and cried my eyes out and told the truth that has been eating away at me for so long--all the questions, doubts, uncertainties--about my anxiety about it all, and my loneliness. I needed to know that even though it SEEMS like everyone else is sure about this Christian life--surely I'm not the only one struggling? And can I still be a part of this church family even if my theology leans further to the left? And is this a place where I will be welcome as is for real, and not in words only?

And they heard me with compassion and acceptance and welcome and love. I am actually crying right now thinking about it as I type.  What I suspected was true: I am definitely NOT the only one in the congregation wrestling with intense faith questions. And I'm not the only one who has come into their office wondering if they are still welcome if their theology doesn't line up exactly with the tenants of the Wesleyan Church.

As we talked and met together a few more times, I felt the claustrophobic, frightened space that I had been occupying all winter open up. It felt so good to be authentic and honest--and to be accepted and understood. What I loved was that they didn't give me a list of Bible verses to look up (I probably already know them all, anyway) or tell me I needed to pray more or read more or do more stuff for God. What they did was give me space--space that I wasn't even giving to myself. Space to be confused and doubtful about the goodness of God. Space to grieve the loss of my sister, and what that meant for my faith--the whole question of why bad things happen to good people and where was God when the doctor made the mistake and she died? They gave me space to sit with the questions that have no answers on this earth, and to be a little more ok with this mystery called God.

I feel like I can breathe now, and where I am is exactly where I am supposed to be on this road.