I spent a good portion of this last year praying little more than “Jesus help my unbelief.” I had no particular reason, no emotional life event that triggered the change. Just a slow fade from knowing exactly what I believed to knowing nothing.
I remember mentally going down the list of my beliefs and crossing them off as I found them quite literally unbelievable. It scared me. Because I’ve never been in an environment where I felt it was OK to doubt. Even in the darker things I went through in high school, there was always an element of belief that fueled my anger. I didn’t doubt God then, I was angry at Him. This was different. This was a cold-water-in-the-face reality check. I couldn’t accept my acceptance anymore. And doubting God’s character is different than being angry at Him. I’ve always loved Lewis, and through this whole thing I found myself coming back to his laments in A Grief Observed, seeing myself in his words. “Not that I am in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him. The conclusion I dread isn’t ‘so there’s no God after all’ but ‘so this is what God is really like.'”
People say if you’re doubting God, you should question whether you knew Him in the first place. After all, His presence is supposed to be crystal clear to those who know Him. I don’t think that’s a good approach though. When I was looking back at things, I know I knew God. My struggle was less about doubting his existence and more about realizing, bit by bit, how screwed up my spiritual portrait had become. I knew that God is, but like Lewis, I suddenly wasn’t sure I actually knew what He is. There’s a difference. There’s this girl Amanda who writes beautifully and she phrased it perfectly: “It isn’t that I doubt a creator exists, I just doubt that maybe divine existence means something entirely different than what I was taught.”
I always used to speak of God as if He were only part of my clean-up process: His presence only to be found in the recovery after my storms. Yet, I have seen Him more within my storms than without. I used to think I could find Him only in my contentment, but lately I’ve been finding Him more in my questions. (I’ve found that Divine Care exists more in my broken mire than in my days, weeks, months, years of spotless theology.)
That’s the irony of the whole thing: I’ve experienced Him more truly in my doubt than I did in my certainty. The God I used to believe in was a monster. But when I started to look for God through the lens of the idea that God looks just like Jesus, I found something better. I am still figuring that out.
I am still tossing my inaccurate sketches of God and redrawing them. I am rebuilding. One piece at a time. I used to think faith and doubt were opposites, I don’t think that anymore. (Even Jesus Himself cried out “Why have you forsaken me?”)
The point of this whole thing is that I want people to know this is OK. It’s OK to burn your beliefs to the ground and start again if it’s in the name of truth. It’s OK to have moral frustrations that don’t quickly solve themselves. It’s OK to find God in filthy places, in fact I think it’s better to find God in those places.
I’m not going to wrap this up with a neat conclusion about how everything is OK now. I’m still searching. I’m beginning to understand I may always be searching. I’m beginning to be OK with that. I’m not going to act like I’ve arrived and never have days of feeling completely lost. But, as Micah Murray phrased it, “I am stumbling towards Jesus.” That’s enough.