Dive deep or walk.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was little, basically as long as I can remember. I found it somewhere in between Young Authors Fairs and doodling fashion sketches (if you can even call them those, but little fourth-grade me would’ve have stuck up for them) and falling in love with the way the newspaper looked when my aunt and uncle would unfold them and refold them at the kitchen table on the mornings after I’d spent the night. I remember pretending I knew what was going on in the depths of those pages, unfolding them and refolding them like a little copycat. I’d sip out of my little Alaska mug, the one with the otter on it, 4/5 creamer and 1/5 (maybe) coffee.

I have to stop here and tell you I’ve been in a knock-down-drag-out-ugly wrestling match with God lately. If he’s up there listening. Do I tell people about my doubts? Am I capable of working in ministry while I’m doubting? And what do I even mean when I say doubting? And it’s not sudden. I sort of wish it were, that way it might not be as tangled and disgusting to untangle and look at, like an evidence board in a detective’s office, a ton of pins all messy and connected in some way. I kept moving so fast, staying super busy, checking off to-do lists, making new ones, and it felt really good. I was doing everything right. I was being productive and doing my papers perfectly and studying so well and making the good grades and LOVING the content I was learning about and I felt fulfilled. And then I slowed down.

It started sporadically. I would just have these moments during dinner or at lectures or sitting over a cup of coffee where I’d think, Do I believe in God? What caused it to explode now though? Nothing catastrophic happen. It was like it was sitting right under the surface.

And then it happened on Tuesday afternoon. I sat on the couch in my boss’s office and told her we felt attacked by numbers, when in reality all I needed was to break down crying and tell her I might not believe in God anymore. I’d lost my faith. And I don’t know if I believed I’d ever found it in the first place. And I didn’t know how I had gotten here.

Then, we sat in a car with John Mayer playing in the background, and I told my best friend that I didn’t know if I believed in God anymore. She asked me if I had prayed about it, and I told her I didn’t want to. I didn’t know if that was from being stubborn or from the sheer fact that there’s so much energy in talking to someone who doesn’t answer for so long. It is a hell of a lot easier to keep walking past everything in order to not overthink.

If you had to choose today, would you believe in God or not?

Today? No, because there is so much brokenness in the world that I think we just disregard to look at the good things, but why would there be a God that helps in this much destruction when he could control anything? Why would he allow for this much hurt and discouragement and not come through?

What’s stopping you?

I don’t want to wake up and realize I spent 4 years believing in something make believe, because then I would just feel like an exhausted fool. How do you pour your life into something and then decide to walk away?

Why does God allow us to stand by and watch people be self-destructive and awful? That’s the part I can’t believe: that He supposedly wants good and then there are these people who lie and treat you quite terribly when all you’ve done is try to love them. I’ll never understand that part.

Hands off the brakes, coming undone.

I can feel something making me come undone lately, and I still haven’t quite figured out. I don’t want to just not believe in God anymore. Please hear that part loud and clear.

I woke up this morning, and it felt unreal that I had even had those conversations in the past few days. It’s like my secret right now, that I may or may not believe in God. Well, now it’s not the secret because you’re reading this on the other side of your phone or computer. Right now, it seems like He’s just been this figment of my imagination for the past 4 years, and waking up to realize that is really scary.

What’s it like to pray desperate prayers and really mean them from the core of your bones and who you’ve always thought you were? That’s the golden question lately.

I don’t know if I ever had a deep faith to begin with, and I think that’s the most difficult part. I came into the church, and I just started plowing in, with such fervor, and leading because I felt called to do that. And I never figured out who God was, even in the slightest, because I hurled myself into church culture instead of into Jesus. I wanted the quiet times and the coffee dates where we talked flowery words about who God was, but I never got down in the trenches and learned who this god was that I was supposedly pouring my whole life into. I romanticized my religion, and that’s how I’ve gotten to where I am. And that sort of faith, that doesn’t hold up at all. What if this god that I was “getting to know” was just as romanticized as the last couple guys who just woke up one morning and decided, Oh wow, I actually don’t love you at all. What if God’s mind could change that quickly too? And I didn’t know Him, so what’s to say He couldn’t be that sort of God?

I’ve heard it described as the perpetual first date with God. As in, I come to my Bible, when I finally feel like it, and I have no idea who the hell I’m talking to. Is it the angry God who hates when I do wrong? Is it the God who calls me Beloved, whatever that means? Is it the husband God? Is it my Father God? Is it this Holy Spirit somewhere in the air that I still don’t fully understand? I want other people’s flavors of God, and that’s the problem. I’ve been seeking the gods constructed by the culture around me, and I haven’t dug into who or what this god is.

As you can tell, there have been doubts. Way too many to count. Walking between classes. Doubt. Cleaning my coffee mugs. Doubt. Waking up in the mornings. Doubt. Eating a meal. Doubt. Listening to a lecture. Doubt. Falling asleep at night. Doubt. Sitting in the church pews. Doubt. Working in ministry every single day. Doubt. 

And the only place I’ve found peace lately is in the research I’m plowing through. Like, if I could spend the rest of my life researching and reading books and writing books and reading The New York Times, I would feel full. And it’s hard to sit here and tell you that maybe that feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment could wear off because right now it doesn’t feel that way.

I also don’t want to disregard the fact that there are sacred moments I find myself in almost every day. Like when I get into the office at 7:30AM to make the coffee on Thursday mornings. I start my mornings slow, before the sun has fully risen, my boss’s office still mostly dark, except for a couple lamps, and no one around. There’s something special about standing in that office, in complete silence, and looking out the window to see the campus slowly lighting up. The world’s just waking up. Or when we’re driving in the car after studying for a while in the morning, the one with the friend who has held my hand before and tried to explain God to me and how she also doesn’t understand why he said he didn’t ever love me. It’s still dark outside, and we leave the coffee shop when the sun has just started to rise, it really feels like the heart of the morning, listening to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Hall & Oates.

Those are the sacred moments.

What I’m asking is that you’ll walk this with me. If you’re reading this, I want to figure out what’s going on because I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. I don’t want to not believe in God anymore. If anything, I want to know why I’m still in this. There’s a reason I haven’t totally walked, and I want to know what that is. And I wish there was a more eloquent way to say this, but there’s not. And it’s really jumbled, but I think that’s okay because I’ve tripped over a lot of the mess of church culture and Christian talk to get to the place where I wonder when this God I’ve constructed is going to show up. Of course He’s not because the god I’ve created and romanticized isn’t the real God.

I’ve been able to sit right at the surface, dangling my feet in the water for a really long time. Not feeling the way the water hits you when you rush into it or are completely covered in it. Right now, the only options I have are to dive deep or walk. And I don’t know why, but I’m ready to dive deep.


All the toys of the world would break.

When you’re so in love with the world around you, it’s absolutely impossible to not see every thing and every person as absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. That’s how I feel when I look at the people God has put around me.

In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a tendency in myself to look for the fluffy words and keep looking for the busy and the beautiful, but I realize it’s because there are some pretty raw wounds sitting at the surface I just keep trying to forget about. I sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s van, and I thought, You should ask her what God’s trying to teach her right now, and then I wanted to hold back because I didn’t want her to ask me and there was this lump in my throat, knowing I should ask and not wanting to. This was my thought process at one stop sign, about 30 seconds. I finally spit it out, and she asked what He was teaching me, and I told her He was trying to teach me what forgiveness looks like. I keep trying to move and navigate my days like I’m avoiding Him and He’s standing on the other side of the door trying to knock and tell me, and I keep ignoring Him. I felt this lump in my throat as I talked to her about forgiveness and reconciliation, and I felt myself telling God I just didn’t want it. It would be easier to keep busy and ignore what He was trying to say and plan a concert and study for media law and write research papers and keep exploring creative writing and I didn’t want to know forgiveness because I knew I was going to have to feel some more pain in the process.

And if I stay busy, I don’t have to feel the hurt and pain of brokenness. I don’t have to think about the death of a friend’s mom, the weight of sin in other people’s lives, the pain of broken relationships, the hurt in not forgiving, the weight of my own sin, the tragedy of sickness in people’s lives around me, and I could honestly keep this list going for a while, but for the sake of my own sanity and yours, we’ll stop there. But that is what half of my brain has looked like for the past month. I have not figured out how to lay down other’s burdens at the foot of the cross, and I have not figured out how to be the oil rig. I have figured out how to stay busy and keep the hurt right below the surface, micromanage, and release the anger and hurt in writing and personal, dorm room concerts, singing at the top of my lungs for some sort of release.

And reading a lot helps with that, finding the release. Sometimes we get to go through seasons where we can’t find the perfect words to say or write, and other poets or novelists or journalists get to do that for us. I know I’m falling back in love with people in general, and I love that God has given me an eye to be super aware of the beauty in others right now. There’s a stanza in one of my favorite poems that says, “Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—, I will study wry music for your sake. For should your hands drop white and empty, All the toys of the world would break.” And it’s this whole poem about the things one man loves about one woman, and forget the fact that it’s romantic, but it shows me that there is something worth noticing in every person I encounter. And I love that.

If I could pinpoint a prayer for this time it would be:

Show me where I need to accept Your grace.

And to that He would say, you need to get lost in it. Drown in it. In a sermon one of my bosses gave about a month ago, she said, “We are made to be free, and we walk around with a lot of guilt,” and if that isn’t true, I don’t know what is. When we don’t fix our eyes on God and His grace and Truth, we can get lost in the crowd and swept up in the chaos and sin and confusion. I don’t truly believe that everything I have is in Him. I don’t truly believe that He has my best interests at heart. And I find it incredibly difficult to believe that He delights in me.

I think God is pulling me into a season where I get to sort through some of the past again, and I am so resistant to it that I just try to stay occupied, and I’m grasping at straws trying to do that because I don’t want to know pain right now even though I’m sitting in the middle of it. And don’t get me wrong, I am happy. I definitely wake up and feel discontent and dissatisfied some days, but I am happy. I know I’m doing what I love, and I know that I’m passionate about journalism and research and event planning, and I know these are things that fill me up. But that’s the thing: they are things. I am very grateful for them, but when it comes to community and loving people well, I have not been doing a great job at that. There were so many times in the past few weeks when I just wanted to put all of my relationships on hold and crawl into a dark tunnel of research for a few days and not have to exert that energy with people, but I know that’s not what God calls me to do.

I pushed through to last Friday and ended up in Ellijay with some of the best people I know, and God showed me the beauty in my relationships, and I am so grateful for those filling moments He has given me, whether it was studying with my roommate or walking through apple houses with some people who reflect His light so beautifully or sitting at home with my brothers or riding in the car with my mom and dad. Those are all very filling things for me, so I don’t want to disregard the good work He is doing in my life because that is so evident.

Right now, it’s like I’m wading through the ocean, sometimes it picks up and I’m tossed around and sometimes it’s this stillness that I get to learn how to navigate, but I’m wading around searching for that oil rig, something solid to grasp. And I would like to think that something solid to grasp is somewhere deep inside myself, but I know there’s something I’m missing. That is one thing I have felt a lot lately, I’m missing something.

I remember when I used to write everyday, and it was the best release in the world. And I know right now this is the most I’ve written in weeks because I know the truth may hurt and if I start writing, it’ll come out. I’m challenging myself, and publishing this because then the challenge is public, to actually sit down, read through Hosea, and write the things that are scaring me. Just writing that out terrifies me, so say a prayer. I know I’m going to do fine on the media law exam I have on Wednesday, and I know I’ll get the essay done that I need to, so I don’t need to make those excuses to not sit down and take care of myself. I think that’s what God is trying to teach me right now: how to take care of myself, mentally, physically, emotionally, all of the above.

This long weekend ought to have been a break, and I know I still have time to turn that around. Here’s to taking time to do laundry, clean the room, and lie in fresh sheets. Go on a long run in fall weather and write down the things that scare me.

It’s all going to be alright. Breathe for a minute. Open the folder of all the writing that inspires you. Read a few pieces. Sing a song at the top of your lungs that makes you feel every emotion. Read some things from when you were an angsty teenager. Open the windows. Only drink one cup of coffee today. Remember to breathe. Don’t read the news for a day. Turn off your phone. Take a deep breath. Be alone. You’re going to be okay.

Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and listening to music that for some reason is really getting to your heart. You’re just standing there thinking about going to work and picking up your dry cleaning. And also more exciting things like books you’re reading and trips you plan on taking and relationships that are springing into existence. Or fading from your memory, which is far less exciting. And suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. There used to be the comfort of a number in your phone and ears that listened every day and arms that were never for anyone else. But just to calm you down when you started feeling trapped in a five-minute period where nostalgia is too much and thoughts of this person you are feel foreign. When you realize that you’ll never be this young again but this is the first time you’ve ever been this old. When you can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done. You’re going to breath in and out. You’re going to be fine in about five minutes.” (something found in the depths of the inspirational writing folder on my old laptop – not mine)

And one more piece, just for fun, because this one’s a favorite:

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.

// Love Poem by John Frederick Nims

And I think it’s important to remember that the road is long because we have to learn courage and people are fragile, so we must be careful with the way we use our words. Use your words for good, and remind the people around you of how beautiful they are. And I’m probably saying that because I’m feeling all whimsical this afternoon, but I also know that using our words for good is an art that seems to have been lost, so let’s find it again.