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“Skepticism is the beginning of faith.”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
What if, some glad morning when this life is over, none of us fly away? What if the lights go out and our stories just end?
More than a few occasions in 2012 found me devolving into a non-violent, slow-motion panic—mostly over my God and his perceived absence. Enough flummoxed descriptions of my mounting crisis of faith and someone finally put a name to it: the Dark Night of the Soul, a temporary spiritual crisis marked by doubts about the afterlife. Reportedly, Mother Theresa was a notable sufferer, having spent nearly 50 years of her life in this state. Though technically correct, nothing that lasts 50 years should get to call itself “temporary.”
For someone outside Christianity, a more accessible term may be existential crisis. Whatever you call it, I’m just glad it’s identifiable. If someone recognized it, then it wasn’t some new mystery disease with no treatment, no cure. Someone lived to tell the story. Continue reading
Posted in Church Business, Faith, Human Nature
Tagged apostasy, belief, Christianity, church, crisis of faith, dark night of the soul, death, disillusionment, existentialism, hope
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During one of my weekly crisis phone calls, one of my friends suggested I pray the Lord’s Prayer. She emphasized the “your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” part explaining that I would be inviting in God’s perfect will for my life. Wait. Whose perfect will? Not mine? Are you sure it’s perfect? (This has been a point of contention in the past.)
I used to be afraid to pray the blank check prayer. “Lord, I will do anything you want. Have your way with me.” I just knew God would send me to Africa to be a missionary to poor children. Black and proud as I am, I have never wanted to go to Africa. My motherland is California. And missions do not turn me on at all. I’m also not a fan of poverty. Or children.
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In order to set up some background, I need permission to be narcissistic for a moment. Okay, here it goes. I am smart. It’s one of few things I know, and rarely doubt. I haven’t received a Mensa invitation, but I know I have an uncanny ability to comprehend complex concepts that don’t come so easily to most. While other children might have been hearing “you’re so special,” “you’re so pretty,” or “you’re so cool,” I was hearing, “oh, he’s so smart, so advanced!”
Intelligence is part of my identity. I’m known for it and, to an extent, it defines me. I’m thankful for it, but it seems to have a downside. I’ve long held that I had the ability to reason my way out of my faith. I think the two may be mutually exclusive.
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We’re still together. But sitting at opposite ends of the couch though. Not saying much to each other as we go in, out, and about the house. Sharing the same bed, but not touching. Going to church together, but not making eye contact. The honeymoon phase is over. Being together doesn’t give us the tingles anymore.
It’s been some time since we were on the same page. We’ve each made independent decisions that met with disagreement from the other. Some days I wonder exactly who I married. I’m not as attracted as I was at the start. I roll my eyes a lot now. I sigh hard and breathe out troubled subtext until our living space smells of it. One might say our relationship is strained.
When the dissonance between us gets so loud that I can’t stand to be in the same room, I wonder where we went wrong. People said we would always be together. We started off so strong. Couples have said they wanted to be like us. Yet now there’ve been several months though—I don’t know how far back to start counting—when I have not been the happiest in this relationship. It’s not looking so great right now.
But I remember our song:
“In the middle of the madness
When the time is running out and you’re left alone
All I want is you to know that
It’s strong still
Can’t pull us apart
Nothing can come
Nothing can pull us apart… can come between us.”
I don’t know when it officially became our song, but whenever I hear Sade’s “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” I think of Jesus and I. I envision us as a newlywed couple having a first dance in front of so many witnesses. They have sworn to hold us to our vows. He’s the groom; I’m his bride. The contract says “until death do us part,” but even then… Continue reading
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God prompted me to write out my testimony of why I believe in him recently. That was probably so I could have a more sure footing from which to talk about why I doubt him. I usually avoid disclaimers, but for this entry, it’s been as difficult to write out as it has been to live out. So please pray about what you don’t understand or agree with, and also be considerate in your judgments. If I deliver it correctly, you will do some judging.
For all we know
“And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know…”
—from “The Prayer”
For those outside Christendom who are unaware, apostasy, also known as “falling away,” is the act of abandoning the teachings of Christ to become an atheist or agnostic. It is essentially the opposite of conversion to belief in Jesus. This is one of the most feared things that can happen to a Christian. It can get you ostracized from your community of believers, and though some believe in “once saved, always saved,” most believe this loss or rejection of faith results in eternal damnation.
For those inside Christendom who are unaware, where Christians believe Jesus Christ is Lord, and atheists do not believe God exists at all, agnostics say “we don’t know.” Agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist. It does not reject that God exists, but it does not prove him either. It’s like the spiritual embodiment of “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
As un-Christian as this viewpoint is, I can honestly say, I have leaned toward this philosophy for years while professing belief in Christ. It’s not foreign to me. I’ve just never really allowed myself to examine it until now.
Here’s the scenario. My “salvation” is a car.
Not long ago, it was as smooth a ride as it ever was. Suddenly I find myself in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that has spun out, hit several objects, and flipped upside down. It all seemed to go in slow motion. Something sent me careening. Brakes ground. Tires squealed and slid. Airbags deployed as glass shattered and rained down. I couldn’t stop it.
Once I confirm my body physically unharmed, my attention turns to the inverted faces of bewildered onlookers whose expressions beg for an explanation I’m too shaken up to give. I imagine they assume I’m either a bad driver, or worse, a drunk one. But before the weight of blame can fold in on me, a heavier thought lands with a cold thud…
“My car is totaled and I have no idea how to fix it.” Continue reading