The Great Stumble of My Faith

Since my kids are older now, I don’t get up in the middle of the night nearly as much as I used to. But I still remember those nights vividly. Hearing my name called out into the darkness. Waking with an abrupt, violent jerk. Stumbling out of bed not quite prepared to interact with my surroundings.

The world is a peculiar version of itself when you’re suddenly thrust into it. Everything is simultaneously familiar and mysterious. It’s like walking through a thick mist, recognizing the environment around you and yet unsure about what might lay just beyond. It would be much easier to stay or lay back in bed than to forge ahead.

But it’s that voice. That voice that calls out from the darkness that makes me stumble onward.

So I lumber ahead with my arms outstretched toward the dark, feeling for something to gain bearing on my position. And every now and then I would find a doorknob or a dresser that would make the path much clearer for a moment, giving strength to my rigid legs and clarity to my hazy mind. And eventually I would make it to my destination and find my way back to bed, still stumbling between awareness and sleep.

We want to talk about faith in these next few weeks. Faith and doubt have been major themes of our writing here at Sacred Margins. They’re subjects we bring up and revisit here because they are subjects we talk about amongst ourselves. So we’re going to continue the conversation because it’s one that is always present with us, always evolving. And we’re even going to invite some other voices to join the conversation.

I struggle with faith.

walk-in-the-fogI’m not sure if that’s a kosher thing to say as a minister. Could be hazardous to job security, I guess, but I’d rather be honest. There are times when faith feels easy, like a basketball player “in the zone” shooting the ball into a hoop that for a few precious moments appears 50 feet wide. There are times when it’s so easy, when everything works. God feels like he’s sitting right next to me and life simply makes sense.

It seems like some people live in this place. They speak of faith in a way that just rolls off their lips. Natural. Effortless.

My faith feels much more like stumbling around in the middle of the night.

Growing up, faith was always explained to me as this thing that brought clarity into the world. Bible class teachers would reference Hebrews 11 and talk about words like certainty and assurance. Faith was described as a light that would shine out on the dark world and bring clarity.

Faith made life easier. Faith was rational. Straightforward. Obvious. Secure. This was my early experience with faith. It made sense.

The funny thing is, the more I read the Bible the more questions I have. The more I learn about God the less I feel like I have nailed down. The Bible is full of paradoxes and mystery. Die to live. Seek weakness to gain strength. Give to receive. Surrendering life in order to find it. Christians act like these make perfect sense, like they’re rational concepts.

In reality, these ideas bring tension to the world. They are fundamentally nonsensical and awkward. Maybe these come naturally to others, but that’s not my story. I do not follow Jesus with dexterity and skill. I rather lumber all gangly and uncoordinated, trying my best to make sense of these fabulous mysteries.

The older I get, the hazier and fuller of mystery the world becomes. And if I’m really honest, there are times when it seems like it’d be easier just to let it go. Times when answers do not come easily or the world seems fundamentally broken. Times when it’d be easier just to go back to bed and avoid the hard walk through the haze.

But faith won’t let me do that.

In his book What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell quotes an interview with Jane Fonda from Rolling Stone magazine talking about becoming a Christian. She describes being drawn to faith because,

“I could feel reverence humming in me.”

I love that. Reverence humming in me. This is faith to me. It’s an itch on my insides that won’t ever leave me alone. When it’d just be simpler to lay down the whole Christian thing, it spurs me to keep going. And when I don’t have all the answers, it keeps me searching.

Faith is the voice calling me forward even when I feel like I’m stumbling around trying to find my footing.

My faith has not made life easier for me. It has drawn me into those paradoxes that Jesus presented all those years ago. It keeps calling me back to a collection of writings that can seem simultaneously antiquated and strikingly relevant. Faith calls me to live in the tension that Jesus brought into the world.

And while it often feels like I’m stumbling around in a haze, every now and then I find some truth like a familiar doorknob that gives me bearing and insight. And my legs are strengthened to keep walking.

Faith is certainly not blind, but I’ve accepted that it’s not always totally clear, either. I will not have all the answers. This is not going to be easy. The world will still be full of paradox and enigma. My faith will often lead me toward tension rather than away from it.

But I will still follow that calling voice of faith because it’s the best way forward. Because my faith may be a stumble, but it’s a great one.

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