Over the last few weeks, I have been struggling with writing on this blog. I want to stay committed to working through this year in practice, writing weekly as a discipline of working through my thoughts, and living present in the season in which I find myself.
But I’m rattled.
I have more questions than answers, and it is breaking my heart. I hurt, aching for simple faith, peace, and joy of “just knowing” God is real, that God is good, and all the Jesus words that go with that. But I’m not there.
I had every intention of writing on newness this Eastertide, week after week of encouraging thoughts of resurrected goodness. I had visions of green grass, baby bunnies, flower buds, and sunshine. But I’m not there.
A list of debates and questions seem to be endlessly running through my mind: how could a Father who claims to be good and is all-powerful just watch as his son dies a brutal death, why does God let evil persist, is there really a hell and how does that work if God loves everyone, what does it mean in the Bible when it says that Jesus saved “the world” yet we Christians say you have to ascribe to Christianity to “get in” with God… and the list just keeps going. Huge, foundational dilemmas that I just don’t have any clue how rectify in my mind. It’s so unsettling, but I can’t just coast into easy. Something won’t let me just smile and nod.
I fear what people will think of me if they know how unsure I am. I fear my Christian friends distancing themselves from my void of doubt. I recoil at the thought of people putting me on their “prayer lists,” thinking I have lost my way. But beyond my fear of people and their opinions, I don’t like how unsafe I feel in my own skin.
This “new” feels like devastation. I hesitate to write about it, because… well, it’s not very uplifting. “Yay! More doubt and sadness!” Who would want to read about that? Perhaps I should keep those thoughts to my journal and private conversations.
Also, I don’t want to share, because people get super uncomfortable when your boat is tippy. Some people need all the boats in the sea to stay calm, to row they way they row, in order to feel safe. After my last blog about lament and being mad at God, someone texted me Matthew 11:6 the next morning: “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Nice. Listen- I know I’m offended, and trust me, I am very aware that I’m not feeling blessed right now. Thank you for your “word from God.”
(Side note: You know what might be more helpful- Romans 8:38-39, that not even my slew of questions, my doubt, nor my rage at the storm can keep me from the love of God. A big, long embrace that says that all of me belongs here, belongs to God- now that would be helpful. )
Oh yeah, and I’m in seminary. Ugh. In a few months, I have to decide what kind of apprenticeship I want to do- church work, chaplaincy, or nonprofit work. Oh dear. I really thought I’d want to do church work, but I’m not sure who God is anymore. Not sure churches are hiring people who aren’t sure how salvation works, who have more questions than dogma or doctrine. I have often thought about starting a church, but our vision statement would have to be: “we really don’t know.” I want to walk with people, love them like I see Jesus doing in the gospels, but as far as having answers or evangelism… wow, I just don’t know.
And this brings me to what does feel somewhat solid: Jesus’s love. No matter what I question and strip away and dismiss and cut ties with, I just can’t shake what I’ve known of love incarnate. I’ve seen him in the stories, I’ve fallen in love with him in my heartbreak, and I’ve been loved at my worst. I know him. He’s real. And this I don’t know how to explain either. But the man who gets suffering- I believe him, and I can trust him. The man who eats with outcasts and seeks out wanderers- he’s the real deal. He’s love. I’ve know him in Whispers, in darkness, in Wind-song, in open fields under starry skies, in children’s faces, and in the laughter of friends. I see him in loving acts that catch me off guard, when the choice to give costs dearly, when I thought I was “helping,” but I came racked with need.
So here I am, shaken to my core, and all I have is one thing: Jesus loves me.
Oh brother, it sounds so “Christian” to wrap up this conversation around doubt and questioning truth with this nice tidy bow of “Jesus loves me,” but seriously, it doesn’t feel that tidy on the inside. All the other questions are swirling around me, longing to be answered. At the same time, this love helps me come up for air. This love sits with me in my sorrow and rage, making the uncertainty bearable. And sometimes, I am loved seems like enough.
Easter this year, this newness, is practicing the unknown of “new.” It is living into the aftershocks of a severe shaking. It is learning how to sit in the mystery, how to be okay with not being okay, and learning that new life isn’t always what I thought it would be.