2019 is here at last. A new year. A time for new beginnings, right? I’m in wholehearted agreement. I’m okay with a new beginning. 2018 was tough for me personally for many reasons, so I say hello 2019. Please be kind.
If you have been following along, you know that in 2018, my “faith” took a radical turn. I went from being a true-believing, card-carrying member of Christianity, complete with years of experience working in a youth ministry setting—to completely stepping away from church and ministry in general. Some of you (and myself included) were left asking, where did it all go wrong? I still wish I had the appropriate answer, the means to end the speculation, the way to shut off my brain’s thinking patterns and just believe. I don’t, but I can still wish.
My brain is constantly working. I constantly examine the “ifs” and the “buts” of the world. I second guess most things. I always have. I’m afraid of disappointment, so I tend to come up with excuses. It can be a simple thing like seeing a movie, or it can be as complicated as a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I mean, we all have that “Netflix moment”, right? You know, where you scroll one or two movies to the right after first identifying something you are interested in watching JUST to make sure there wasn’t something better?
This is how I operate, this is my every day life. Imagine doing it for most things. And for a long time, I turned off that “if” and “but” filter when it came to Christianity. When it finally turned on, I found myself in turmoil. Scared and alone. Struggling to make sense of it.
And the worst part is, the answers I got when struggling. No offense to anyone who tried to help, but I’m sorry, when you are struggling with “Does prayer even do anything?” as a legitimate question, offering to pray for me or saying “just pray about it” offers little to no reprieve. It only fosters a tinge of resentment. “If Christians can only offer ‘Christian’-based solutions to problems, is it built on anything practical?”
When you are struggling with the idea of prayer as a concept, the last thing you want to hear is “pray about it.” It is almost like a kid coming up to you with a scraped knee, and all you can do is go “Well, go scrape your other knee.” There’s little to no understanding or practical application in that. I just want to hear why you feel it works. I want to hear your experiences of prayer. I want you to offer to clean the wound, in a way.
The same thing would go with struggling with the Bible. “Go read it” will not help me if I am looking at it through a context of it being the “Word of God” or not. I want to hear what it means to you. Point out your favorite passage. Say what it says to you. Help make it real. Ask me my doubts. Point to what you’ve discovered as evidence of its authenticity. And please, do not quote scripture as evidence. If you are struggling to believe the source is legitimate, you will not believe any quotes that come from it. Perspective is everything.
“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.”– C.S. Lewis
So, here we are, in 2019. But where does that leave me? I’m not going to say that everything is a-ok. It is not hunky dorey. But it is getting better, through the help of friends and also through counseling sessions with a therapist. I’m working on being a better person, being better at what I do, and I’m finding my way. I’m also opening up to the idea of faith.
I’m looking at it from the outside perspective these days. Almost as if I threw everything I know about faith out of the window, and am exploring it for the first time. I’m starting with my questions and working towards answering them. For really the first time, I’m allowing myself to question. I’m trying to be okay with the middle.
This might eventually look like attending another church service, whether that is at the doors of my old church, or a new one altogether. Or maybe no church at all. You might see me post questions. You might see me post articles. The bottom-line is that I’m working on coming “home” again.
It honestly started at a Matthew West / Jeremy Camp concert. I sat and listened to the lyrics. I listened to the singers as they spoke to the audience. I heard the words and I wished that it could be me. Matthew West put it this way in Broken Things…
If grace was a kingdom
I stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes that I’ve made
Oh but I heard a whisper
As Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown”
Matthew West – Broken Things
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours
Matthew put to words some of what I felt. I honestly feel that if I’m questioning faith, I needed to distance myself for a while. I should not be allowed through certain doors, into certain homes. There’s a side of me that wants the last part to be true. I am a broken thing. But if the lyrics are true, then that is okay. Then Jeremy Camp decided to interject…
All the bitter weary ways
Endless striving day by day
You barely have the strength to pray
In the valley low
And how hard your fight has been
How deep the pain within
Wounds that no one else has seen
Hurts too much to show
Jeremy Camp – He Knows
All the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the one
I fought hard every day. Every day was a battle to get out of bed. To move on. To live. Most people didn’t know, and it is something I very rarely talk about. My pain became a little too real and it could have cost me my life last November. But I decided that I would be okay with trying to live for myself. To prove my doubters and disbelievers wrong about me. I made the choice to live with the pain. The wise words of a friend told the truth. I AM STRONG. To willingly battle the pain and demons, that’s strength. So here I am. Stronger. Every day, I’m stronger and better.
While I’m not 100% back to being myself, maybe I don’t have to be. I’m growing to be comfortable in this middle. I’m honestly appreciative of everyone who has reached out with the offer of a hug or a coffee, with a “hello”, by opening up a spot at their dinner table this holiday season. For the first time in a long time, I was happy this holiday season. I got countless hugs, including a few “tackle” hugs by a 12-year-old who was happy to see me. I’ve felt the love. And I’m learning to embrace it.
Keep reaching out. Keep saying hello. Shoot me a text. Send me an email. Call me on the phone. I’m okay with that. I’m not hiding. I’m here.
I might be almost-30, but that may just be okay too. 30 could be good.
Thanks, as always, for reading.