Someone asked me out of the blue if I’d lost my faith in Jesus.
Context is key to making some sense of this, but the circumstances of this conversation are too bizarre and complicated for me to recount. I could choose to take this opportunity to give an after the fact, impassioned reply to the inquiry, but I would just be acting out of defensiveness, and I’m working hard these days at not giving my energy away to causes and conversations that aren’t deserving of it.
I must admit, though, the question left me stunned. More than a week later it still lingers in my mind and in my heart. Had I, this seminary-trained, faith-based advocate who consults full-time for a mainline Christian denomination, lost her faith?
Anything is possible, I suppose. There are stories of ministers becoming atheists. Even the evangelical ones. My theological credentials don’t give me a pass on the question, and for some they only create more suspicion about my status as a Jesus follower. Many of the spiritual views I hold and the work that I do, particularly around women’s reproductive health, don’t align with the narrowly-constructed idea of Christianity that some of my brothers and sisters promulgate so unabashedly.
As challenging as it is, I try to give those with opposing theological views the benefit of the doubt that they are acting out of their own deeply-held religious convictions. While I may disagree with them, I try not to question the authenticity of their personal faith. Who am I to know another person’s innermost thoughts or experiences? And if I truly believe as I say all of the time–that every person is made in the image of God with innate sacred worth–then I must strive even harder to see the divine in those who insist that God is a white dude, that an embryo is a person, and that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Lord, help me.
Stating the obvious here, but I’m usually not one to back away from controversy. For a long time my conviction has been that because I have access and privilege in so many areas of my life, I can risk the backlash of speaking out against injustice. I can take a hit. But those hits hurt my spirit. They cause me doubt. Just today as I was driving in the car I asked myself, why couldn’t I have followed a more innocuous ministerial path? Some days I feel too weary to deal with one more story of preventable maternal death or one more bad vote on the floor of the Capitol that will result in needless loss of life. On top of all of that, how do I deal with someone doubting my beliefs in the existence of divine love?
This is what I wish I would’ve had the wisdom to say in the moment: I haven’t lost faith. What I have lost are my desperate attempts to articulate my faith in a simple, logical, and convincing way. Letting go of this need has created space for faith to come in. I haven’t lost faith because faith isn’t something I even have the capacity to lose. It seeks me out and meets me where I am each and every day, pulling me gently but steadily onward even when the injustice of the world tries to shoves me back with all its might. It carries me, pushes me, and dwells within me all at the same time.
A mystery indeed.
Fr. Richard Rohr recently wrote, ” What I’ve learned is that not-knowing and often not even needing to know is–surprise of surprises–a deeper way of knowing and a deeper falling into compassion.”
A deeper faith may be to remain faithful in the mystery of that which we do not understand nor that we can explain, for that is the ultimate trust in the Great Spirit.
Katey Zeh says
I love this quote. Thank you, Larry. I’ve been amazed at how letting go of that need to know has liberated spaces in my heart for love, joy, and simply being.