A couple of years ago, during a fall that I now call the very exhausting time, I walked out of my college house after one am, wrapped in my bedroom blanket, and crawled into the backyard hammock.
It had been a season that I was set on separating God from Christians, God from Christian Culture, God from Church, God from the- twenty years in the making- stone cold statue of anger peering down on me. I was trying to remake him. Trying to really see Him.
It was also a season when several pastors took to their pulpits and said really hateful things. Things that went viral in the media. And in the heat of it, my fingers slipped and that cold box of God and of Church and of Bad fell back into place again. They were completely indistinguishable from one another.
So I pressed God on this that night. I was angry that there were those who out there that had felt His call to ministry and yet, also felt the need to call for gays to go into concentration camps. I was confused as to how these men scattered about the nation could claim the same God that I did, the same faith that I did, it made no sense… and then, at once, I felt it. That great fear snaking it’s way through my mind, the one that hissed, God is with them, He is not with you.
Needing answers, I begged, and I begged and I begged for him to respond. When the silence went unbroken, I cursed him. Told him that was that. Farewell to this faith. Good Luck with things. And then I stared out at the sky, letting my mind wander distant, all the way to the moon. Letting loneliness encircle me, because I finally knew it to be true. God was not for me.
“I’m not like them” I heard.
I nearly flipped out my hammock.
No, it wasn’t a voice outside of myself, it wasn’t carried in the wind or written in the sky. But I heard it inside. I heard it like a foreign voice, a powerful voice, one that tore through my helplessness. One that whispered into my worn out heart. One that filled me with a light I had never felt before. It was mystical, and holy and it stopped me from me leaving this faith forever.
I know why you look like that, head tilted and brow scrunched, perhaps you’ve already clicked over to a new screen, and that’s okay. It is okay to question it. The truth is, I often do so myself.
I take out this moment and hold it beneath the light of logic and scripture and my own recollections of the moment. I ask myself, really trying to be objective, “did it happen? Did God speak to me in an inner whisper?” If I am most honest I will say, I just don’t know. And it’s true, I don’t.
But what I do know is how fast I was falling, I was falling and those five words dropped down like a rope. Like a breaking in of the cosmos. Like words I had been waiting my whole life to hear.
Choosing to live part of your life in the Christian blogging world brings on the burden of existing in both the light and the dark of it. Sometimes, it can be too much for me. It can become impossible to separate God from Unkind Christians.
I read Mark Driscoll as he clubs away at an entire group of people, as he draws Jesus with a sword and an unquenchable thirst for blood; I see John Piper tweeting comments that my faith isn’t actually real, that I should not be part of the body. I am acutely aware of how large the audience is, millions of devoted followers, and the pall of their persuasive rhetoric makes the target on my back feel all the larger.
Too often, instead of agreeing to disagree, calmly remembering that their interpretation is only one of God, that their followers are critical thinkers and the Spirit speaks to them too, instead of being rational- I write off the faith altogether. I close myself off from the body and unfairly cast God amongst the worst of it. I drift away.
Last week, when Sarah Bessey wrote a post about what gives her hope in the faith, it struck me deeply, in such a profound way. It made me think not so much about what gives me hope, but what keeps my faith surviving in a Church that is often cold to anyone atypical.
I recalled the words of Jesus when he said to his followers, individuals exhausted in their efforts to hold faith in a world of cold, that belief could be scarce, small as a mustard seed, and yet- powerful enough to move mountains.
And it’s that middle way of God. The nature of the personal connection to him. We come small, short of hope, and he grows us into something large, despite the world around us.
I am learning that my faith is enough. I am learning that some fleeting moments are resilient enough, strong enough to grow into a strong tree, defiant to the sharp climate that is sometimes Christianity. And it starts with those small seeds of faith.
My pouch of seeds includes the mystical moment in which God told me he was not like them, because I have hard time believing in a loving God when I see Christians who behave as if he doesn’t. Act as if I am too much for God.
I keep a seed of my freshmen night in college: I am sitting on the floor in the central lobby while the RA’s and RD’s act out the dorm rules in skits, talk about things like “everybody poops” and keeping the door ajar when the opposite sex is present, and then RD got serious. Looked out at all of us and said, “Gay doesn’t mean stupid. It doesn’t mean ugly or less than or bad. I have zero tolerance for Christians throwing around that word as an insult.” And it was the first time in a setting with my peers that I felt safe.
I have a seed that sings Song of Songs 2, the intimate, immortal lines of “arise my darling, my beautiful one, come away with me. See the Winter has past, the rains are over and gone, flowers appear over the earth, the season of singing has come.” Time and time again these words have been the wall that keeps the titanic darkness from crashing in. I cannot read them aloud without crying.
These are the things that keep the heart of my faith beating, thriving, defiant in an often inhospitable Christian climate. These seeds quiet the world. They wash away the dirtied up God until I can finally see his eyes. Until I feel his safety.
And in this time of extreme conditions for the Christian community, these moments are becoming my makeshift sanctuary, set up way out here in the wilderness. A place where God and I can sit together, growing this faith one holy moment to the next.
what keeps your faith alive?