I have a confession: I don’t really know what I believe. About God. About faith. About what happens after we die. I’ve been having what some might call a ‘crisis of faith’ for years, but I’ve been feeling the weight of these questions especially heavy for several weeks, and I wonder if opening up about them here might help me get closer to the answers. Or, perhaps it might help someone else who has questions feel a little less alone.
I grew up going to church every Sunday. Twice every Sunday, actually – we had a morning service and an evening service. I attended Wednesday night Bible Study, which was actually just another church service. I went to Friday night Youth Group, and Saturday night Prayer Meeting. To top it off, I attended a Christian school that was hosted by our church. I was at church every day. Every day.
Church wasn’t just something I attended. It was a part of who I was. It was family. It was home. With all of this Christianity surrounding me, there was very little room to question what it was that I believed. Even though I didn’t feel as though there was much room to question, I must have made room, because I still found myself questioning. Wondering about why we did things the way we did things.
A lot has changed since those early years. A lot has stayed the same. I still go to church every Sunday. I see so much benefit it doing life as a part of a community, so much benefit in believing in something bigger than myself. I still identify as a Christian. I believe that there’s a Creator, and I believe that Christianity provides a framework that makes it possible for me to connect with that Creator and with other people. I don’t still identify as any particular brand of Christianity, though. I’ve put away the letters that I think did more to separate me from other humans than they did to inspire unity among people or connection with God. For the most part, I feel pretty grounded in this.
What if there’s not a right way? What if there is? What if I’ve missed it?
But, I still have doubts. I still have a lot of questions. Like, is the Creator that I believe in only the God of Christians? Only the God of a particular denomination of Christians? Am I supposed to believe that, out of all the people on the planet, I happened to be born into the tiny percentage of them that had stumbled upon the right way to get to God? What about the billions of people that grew up believing a different way? They’re all doomed unless they do something I was taught that I could NEVER do – convert to another religion? How do we even know that there is a ‘right’ way? Aren’t we all doing this for the first time? What if there’s not a right way? What if there is? What if I’ve missed it? If there is a God (and, I truly do suspect that there is), shouldn’t he be big enough to handle my questions?
Of all my questions, though, the biggest one is this: Does my doubt mean that I don’t have faith? Do my questions preclude me from participating in something that means so much to me in so many ways? I hope not. It didn’t seem to for folks like Job, or David, or Moses, or John the Baptist, or even Jesus – and the list goes on and on.
Maybe I’m not having a ‘crisis of faith’ as much as I’m acknowledging that faith itself is a crisis – a struggle to believe in spite of the inability to know something for sure. I have the following words tattooed on my right arm:
קוֹלִי אֶל-אֱלֹהִים וְאֶצְעָקָה; קוֹלִי אֶל-אֱלֹהִים, וְהַאֲזִין אֵל
It’s the first verse of Psalm 77, in its original Hebrew form. A paraphrase would read, “I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.” (The Message) These words serve as a reminder to me – a reminder that I choose to believe my Creator hears me even if I don’t know that he does. On the opposing arm, I have inked,
It’s Greek, and it is recorded as being Jesus’ last words, “It is finished”. This tattoo reminds me that I believe I can’t earn God’s love. If the Gospel is true, no amount of believing or questioning can undo the work that Jesus did on the cross. This faith grounds me even though I often wrestle with it.
I think life would be a lot easier if I had answers to all of my questions. But, maybe there’s something sacred in not knowing. Maybe the quest for truth is a kind of truth in itself. Maybe the questions that inspire me to look outside of myself for answers are the conduit for connection. Maybe doubt doesn’t mean the absence of faith as much as it proves the presence of it. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the answers I’m looking for. Maybe if I have the courage to ask the questions, though, I’ll get a little bit closer. And, maybe doing life with other people that have questions is just as important as finding the answers to the questions that plague us.
What are your questions? I’d love to hear about your journey, so join the conversation by commenting below.