Day 13: the struggle

Recently I have been connecting with old friends through Facebook and it’s been refreshing to catch up after many years of no communication. Some of them are friends from Tacoma, WA, some are old Maui friends and some are friends from the church I use to attend in WA. What I appreciate is the humanity that I see in the lives of my old friends. For the past 17 years of being a Christian or Jesus believer I have been a bit disappointed in the lack of transparency and authenticity that one doesn’t find much in most circles of believers. “How’s your week been?” “Good! And yours?”

I have usually worked myself out of a faith crisis during any given year but there was one season of life in particular that I found myself a bit desperate and in need of a listening ear. I wasn’t even sure if I could muster up the faith I needed to cry out to a living God. So I vented anywhere I thought was safe. Usually my frustrations and tensions were met with the typical answer or comment. “You see, Tracie, you just need to worship when you feel the way that you do.” Or my personal favorite, “God’s grace is big enough to carry you through your trial, just reach out for it”. Reach out for this!

My friend Philip says that everyone needs to go through a faith crisis at least once in their life. It’s crucial for your values and it’s healthy for the soul. The last sentence is my own personal belief. There is something about doubt and the dark night of the soul that binds us in the human experience. It is humbling and it takes away the arrogance of the common believer to think that we have all of the answers to give and the ‘heathen just need to receive it’.

As I’ve gone through my own faith crisis, and it was a crisis (we are so indoctrinated with the idea that doubt is sin and when you freak out you really don’t know where to turn), I’ve become more compassionate for the ‘outsider’ who questions the goodness of God in a world of pain. I’ve come to embrace the tensions of living a life of faith while taking a road that the evangelical church may not be promoting or advocating, such as voting for a democrat or hanging out and celebrating life with friends in a pub or at my house on a Thursday night. I’ve never really fit the conventional mold and at times it has been isolating and confusing, kinda like that feeling of having a dark grape juice stain on your white shirt but no one tells you it’s there they just stare at you.

All that to say I am catching up with old friends here and there who have gone through the ringer in terms of their personal faith and piety and it makes me feel fresh and alive. I am thankful that we struggle. It gives us authenticity in our journey with Jesus. He’s not intimidated by our questioning and, at times, our mistakes. Look at Peter for crying out loud! I love the fact that Jesus hung out with ragamuffins and sinners as his posse of choice.

I guess I’m thankful for the struggle of old friends because I too have  had intense seasons of questioning and have feared that I may have been bordering on unbelief or disillusionment! I’m thankful, not for any mistakes friends may have or are presently making, but more that they think and ponder; they wonder what the crap all of this life stuff is about. It bothers them to have dilemmas, ie why do the weak and vulnerable suffer the most while the smug and arrogant walk away with millions? That one has kept me staring at a dark celling for hours in the wee hours of the night among other dilemmas such as slavery, the history of Africa pre and post colonialism, human trafficking and hurricane Katrina. Pick and dilemma, any dilemma. I’ve spent hours of mind space trying to find the goodness and grace of God in the middle of it.

A single thought always brings me back out, even if my season of crisis lasts longer than I anticipated….In the center of real life pain that you can read about on any sort of google search about Africa or the Middle East there is a God who loves, dreams and hopes for humanity. He’s real and we know it but don’t always know it. I’m thankful that He’s ok with our freak-out moments and He’s still awesome in spite of our weaknesses. I feel alive that we wonder and doubt. It means that we’re alive. We’re real!

I have come to resent the shallow answers for very deep issues we face today. The death of a friend’s daughter recently was waxed over with a slew of Hallmark grieving card statements that really blew. “God took her away to a better place” “Now you can relate to those who grieve and give them the gospel”. I personally believe that Jesus wept!

Even though dilemmas suck I am certain they make us more mature if we will keep walking the tension while loving honestly and pursing our hope in Christ even in the midst of our pain and confusion.

What are you thankful for?

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