TO CELEBRATE THE OCTOBER RELEASE OF MY BOOK THRASHING ABOUT WITH GOD, AND TO EXPAND THE CONVERSATION BEYOND MYSELF, I HAVE ASKED 31 BRAVE PEOPLE TO SHARE A GUEST POST WITH THE THEME OF #IAMTHRASHING. THESE ARE PEOPLE I HAVE PERSONALLY DIALOGUED WITH, PEOPLE WHO I KNOW HAVE RISKED A LOT TO WRESTLE WITH THE HARD STUFF THAT COMES WITH SPIRITUALITY. OUR FAITH MAY NOT LOOK LIKE YOURS, BUT WE WELCOME YOU TO THE DISCUSSION.
I don't know what to say.
I've been having some profound misgivings about this faith I've sewn my heart to. The questions aren't new, really. They've been around since the beginning, since I said yes to Jesus more than ten years ago. It's just now that I'm being honest about them.
Maybe you have nagging doubts of your own. I think most people who declare themselves Christian must. I don't know how a person couldn't. But I guess it comes back to that honesty thing.
I don't trust God.
There, I said it. I want to trust him, but I don't.
The gospel has stopped making sense to me. I am quickly losing the ability to see it as a story of purest love. Instead, I'm struggling with the knowledge I'm supposed to swallow the fact that the loving God who is supposed to be all strength and glory is powerless to save the people who haven't happened to fall in with his kid? I know it's a narrow road and all, but we're talking a sizable percentage of history's population suffering eternal torment on a seeming technicality.
I have a hard time with that.
When I look closer at the Word, sifting for meaning, for comfort, I find myself confronted with language that is unsettlingly familiar to the justifications my abusers spoke when they smacked and shoved and kicked me into submission. They said it was my fault; that if I wasn't so bad, wasn't such a problem, then they wouldn't have to do all that. And while much of the Bible's archaic abusive language is in Old Testament, isn't God supposed to be the same yesterday, today, and forever?
I have a hard time with that, too. A very hard time.
And then there's the whole suffering thing. I know, I know, sin has broken the world, has enabled death and pain and grief and wasting away and evil and the aching heart. But God made the universe. He made the universe. He took nothing and made it into worlds of sky and cells and salted sea, of rock and fire, of lacy gas. Where is that creation power working for the African parents who are feeding their starving children dirt? Where is it when genocide rocks Rwanda, when a young man is dead for no better reason than being black and his killer walks free and feels justified in his actions, when murderers spew bullets into kindergarteners, when my baby girl died inside of me after eight sweet months of pregnancy?
I don't know what to do with all the suffering. With the blindly narrow gospel message. With the abusive, codependent chatter filling my quiet time with nausea. And that's without getting into the claustrophobia of being a woman in patriarchal faith system or the way the church values the acceptance of abusers over the safety of past and future victims or the way the hope of heaven seems to lull us (me) into wasting this one single wild and so very precious life on earth.
I don't know what to do.
I feel stuck, here in this not-knowing. I can't go back, backpedaling into the seeming safety of hiding from all the unanswerable doubts. And I don't know how to go forward.
And so I thrash. I ask the questions. I ask them of God. I ask them of myself. No one else can help, really. All they have are the right answers, or the not-knowing. And the right answers don't feel so very right these days.
My friends who have no need for this thrashing, they don't understand why I do. They label it rebellion or pride and gently encourage me to toe the line. But there's something else they don't understand -- that I have two options. Either I thrash, and grope my way into a new way of being with God; or I don't thrash, and I walk away from him forever.
The stakes are high. This thrashing is my best attempt.
The results so far have been mixed. Some days, I can attend Bible study and feel comforted, connected. Others, I am ready to tattoo the word "heathen" across my forehead. I think I have spiritual PMS.
I am grateful that I have permission to thrash, to exist in the gray space. And yet, at the same time, this thrashing is also terrifying. I am scared that I will thrash and pray and seek, and that in the end I will find myself not-Christian. Then what? If I lose that spiritual label, I will lose my community. I will lose friends, family. I will lose the trust of my blog readers. My online business will suffer. Nearly every person I have relationship with is Christian. What if I suddenly no longer am? What will happen? Who will I be without the faith that I've held close for a lifetime, first as a Catholic and then as a Christian? And who will be here with me?
I think the price of this thrashing could be quite high. I wondered, as I read Mandy's book and blog, what the cost for her was, and if it was worth it (it seems worth it). But my personal price is dizzying when I start tallying it up.
What else is there for me to do but thrash with the fear, too? I thrash with all of it. I thirst for the words of life, for a daily diet of Divine whispers, but I can no longer stomach pat answers and Sunday school fill-in-the-blank replies.
So I leave those behind. I leave the answers and trek out into the desert, into the wildlands where John ate locusts and Miriam spun her freedom song out before the newly freed slaves of Egypt. I sit in the dirt and I wait for holy breath to meet my own.
I have not given up. I am asking. I am listening. I am here.
Beth Morey has stopped running from the questions, and all the old adjectives don't quite seem to fit anymore. You can find her throwing her soul into the mess of not-knowing and Divine-seeking at www.bethmorey.com. She also is the artist behind Epiphany Art Studio, and the rather dubious creator of the Made ecourse. Beth lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their rainbow son, and their three naughty dogs.