This starts with midnight. It starts with a conversation. Because people tend to lay aside their inhibitions late at night. It starts with midnight, and I am sitting with a woman I respect. Someone I trust. She is asking me about spiritual things and it’s good in a confusing way. My faith is confusing sometimes.
Things I used to measure in concrete terms are much more blurred to me now. I used to measure my spiritual health in terms of works. I used to say “I’m part of a great church, I go to home group every week. I’m on day X of this bible reading plan, I’m memorizing this passage, I’m hosting this Bible Study, I have these accountability partners, I’m doing great.”
These are all true statements. And I almost begin to tell her these things. But if the Gospel is the embodiment of grace, not the result of my own works, how can I use religious rituals as a measurement of how the Gospel is changing me? I can’t. So, with her, I said the true thing: “I’m not really sure.”
I question a lot of things a lot of the time. But I am learning that my questions are not the spiritual death traps I once believe them to be, but rather, openings to and opportunities for transformation. What I do now, when I find myself in moments where I must define what I believe, is follow the technique of one of my favorite literary heroines: Katniss Everdeen. It sounds silly, but it works.
“My memories swirl as I try to sort out what is true and what is false. What series of events ed me to be standing in these ruins? My thoughts have a tendency to jumble together so… I use a technique one of the doctors suggested. I start with the simplest things I know to be true and work toward the more complicated”
God is real. He is personal. He is good. He is just. He is mercy. His mercy is the means of His justice. He loves me. Jesus is God fully revealed to man. God is like Jesus.
If God is like Jesus, I should be like Jesus too. Jesus healed the sick, cared for the broken and the poor, he didn’t put up with people who thought they knew all the answers. He loved deeply, selflessly, wholly. He is restorative, redemptive, healing.
These are the things I believe, need to be, and want to do.
I spent almost all of 2014 wrestling with theologies and spiritual disciplines that were only blinding me from the lover of my soul. I turned my faith into its own idol. But, in the words of Richard Rohr, “the great and merciful surprise is that we come to God, not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong.” I often do this wrong, and God’s love for me means he meets me inside of that.
God is present with me, I do not need to search or look for what I already posses. I need only train my eyes to see what is already there. How I came about this relationship with Him, hardly even matters. Was I chosen or did I choose? I have no idea. I have given up on those questions because they aren’t the point. What matters is that He is here with me. What matters is that He loves me. What matters is that I learn to see him, and learn to be like him.
So I start with what I know is true: God is here. I will not spend my time waiting for him to “come back.” I will spend my time allowing him to take away my blindness and see his presence in all the moments I felt alone. For I was not alone at all. Even when I ran, I was not alone. In days to come, when I leave again because, dear God, I am so prone to wander, I will still never be alone.
It’s so easy to feel as though my story fell apart when my faith did. It’s so easy to ride on my past victories instead of being present in the place I am now. But what I am learning is that it is better to sit with the questions and allow Jesus to find me where I am, in his own time. And so, like the Father of the demon-possessed child in Mark 9, my prayer continues: “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”