Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Losing Faith

“Please pray for me I feel like I am about to walk away from my faith. Everything seems to be taking a turn for the worse and I am super lost.”
-Anonymous

I’m not sure who wrote this on a forum I am part of, but my heart broke as soon as I read it. Nope, I’m not sad that they are about to walk away from their faith. Nope I’m not sad they are lost. Nope I am not sad that things seem to be taking a turn for the worse for them. While this may seem harsh on my part I prescribe a deeper issue to my heart ache and profound truth at the core of this person’s outlook on their faith. Maybe I assume something that does not exist within this cry for help, but I know that I have had very similar prayer requests within the past 2 years. Naturally I sympathize with this based upon my experience. Maybe my assumptions are not correct for this person, but they guide me to revisit my own dilemmas and similar struggles I think many people these days go through. I left the church gathering I was attending and helped start when I first moved here about 2 years into it. The more I read the bible for myself and questioned things the more I felt like I was being moved in a different direction. I joined a new up and coming community that would commonly be referred to as a church. I’m not saying anything was holistically wrong with either of these gathering establishments, but bringing up the fact that any religious group united by common beliefs tend to be deemed as church. As I began to pull away from this community due to some personal issues and my life moving in a new direction with my fiancée I felt even more tension between myself and those who share my faith. While following the new direction I began feeling pulled away from the communities and practices of the religious organizations I had been involved with. The great debate was conceived with the question of, “What if where I’m headed is contrary to my religion? What if where my faith leads me is not where the religious organizations or traditions lead? Is my faith in question? Is there something wrong with my faith because it doesn’t neatly fit within the mass religious populace of my day?” What kept me awake late into the night and early morning was the maddening thought that I was leaving my faith or something was wrong with me because I was falling away from my faith. In all actuality though I found out, through much inner toil and turmoil, that my faith was secure, it was my religious preferences that were changing.

Faith is not religion. Faith is not tradition. Faith is not an organization. When the line between faith, at its purest identity, and religion is blurred and these two become homogenous the product can be and most often is painfully, gut-wrenchingly, yet beautifully difficult inner dialogue. It is a dialogue between the soul, Holy Spirit, and man’s natural tendency to choose other forms of affirmation rather than simply trust in what they have already. As I reflect upon the studies I have done within the Bible and Jesus’ ministry I see that He indeed was about changing the religious temperature of the day. This caused a lot of drama and ultimately got him inhumanely murdered. Jesus says to a bunch of Jewish men that he came to divide (Matthew 10). He says it in the context of calling them to be His disciples. I think this means that Jesus was dividing them apart from their religious culture. Jesus’ way and lifestyle divide Him and his followers from all those religious people of the day, all their traditions, and all their organized gatherings. This kind of stuff must have been brewing back in that day. I mean the early followers had to be questioning themselves, this new way of living based on this new idea of faith, and all that came with it. And as they did they were separated from the established religion of that day. If It happened then and culture is cyclical, as it has made itself known to be with the recent rebirth of plaid and bright neon clothing, then why would it be so farfetched that this is the same thing happening today to those exploring their faith deeper?

When exploring anything we look for stability. As a child when we make our first attempts at the freedom that comes with being a biped we look to grab a table or the nearest form of stability. It makes sense to me that when we are stumbling through our faith our innate response is to seek stability. At the core of our faith is a great mystery, it is harder to just rely on that for stability so we frantically grab for other forms of it. The nearest form of stability that is close to our faith is the religion that boasts the same faith. The problem is created when we depend on that religion for our stability of affirmation though. This is a problem because the religion isn’t as stable as it seems to be. If culture changes than the religious practices must, but we find a religion that still looks starkly indistinguishable from hundreds of years into our history. Since culture is inevitably changing one must also consider that religious practices or organizations will. If we look for stability in something that is truly unstable than how can we be stable at all when exploring? The question I’ve always has is, “Why can we not trust that the Holy Spirit lives in us (if we have faith) and will work it all out?” Why is it that we cannot trust the truth of the Holy Spirit indwelling us? Maybe if we trusted Him more we would trust and rely on religious affirmation less, thus avoiding such painful pondering like weather or not we are losing our faith. The Holy Spirit, God, Jesus are absolute. They do not change. Although they are not transparent and readily understandable in full we can trust in their stability.

So I’d say to this person and every person who is struggling with their faith and trying to wrestle through all this Jesus stuff, “Good for you! Continue to wrestle for it is through that dilemma that the most liberation comes.” Questioning your faith is always a better sign of a spiritual pulse than religious conformism. May you trust that your faith is intact even when you don’t fit within the religion. May you feel the freedom that comes from trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you rather than religion.

3 comments:

  1. Never really saw it that way...the looking for stability when exploring something new, especially faith! Guess that's a reason why so many people seem almost "brainwashed"...but that sucks! Thanks for the thoughts...got me thinking! :)

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  2. "if we trusted Him more we would trust and rely on religious affirmation less, thus avoiding such painful pondering like weather or not we are losing our faith. The Holy Spirit, God, Jesus are absolute. They do not change. Although they are not transparent and readily understandable in full we can trust in their stability."

    Enough said. Thanks for the thoughts and guidance as I continually seek to grab tightly to the unchanging Spirit of God and His path for my life. This is encouraging and thought provoking to say the least.

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  3. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Parke, I read your blog as well and you lead me to deeper thinking as well. If we could activate people's minds to cooperate with their hearts the world would begin to look different.

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