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.
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.