Today I want to write about my faith. I try not to dig too terribly deep into that part of my life on my blog so that readers won’t feel like I’m preaching at them or trying to convert them. If there’s anything that really irks me about my religion – it’s that type of evangelism that becomes all about the numbers. It’s that type of sharing where you go to walk among the poor, put on a passion drama, pass out bibles and offer to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’ with all the lost souls in the crowd – and then you move on to the next cardboard village. I think of bringing someone to Christ as more than sharing the good news but forming relationships and above all maintaining them. So – a disclaimer. My apologies to anyone reading this who feels as though I’m not opening up a fair conversation because I’m going to write about Christians, and refer to ‘we’ – the body of believers aka the church, etc. If you choose not to read on, that’s your choice and I respect it. However, my faith is important to me and I can’t pretend that part of my life doesn’t exist just to avoid any awkwardness. I value honesty and I’ve been trying to write that way, despite how scary it is to do so, and today I want to honestly talk about my faith.
Now…on to the honest-faith-talk. I came across another journal entry today and it really put this subject on my heart. So…here’s the entry:
“December 9th, 2012
Today is a terrible day. Lately everything has been terrible. I have dug myself into such a dark place and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it; today I don’t feel like I even want to. I just want to cloak myself with it, hide from the world, and be left alone. What really set me off today wasn’t the spontaneous family portrait (which we were only told about last minute, which made me late in getting ready, which made us miss church and will make us miss lunch with my family…..) I guess I didn’t get up early enough. I’m more mad at myself than anyone else. I don’t know why I set off like I did. I wish little things like that didn’t stress me out like they do. A spontaneous family picture and I lose it. What’s wrong with me?
What really set me off, I think, were those stretch marks on my hips that I saw last night. I keep thinking that I’m doing okay with my weight. I’m not losing but I’m not gaining either. NOT TRUE! Apparently I am doing nothing but gaining. It must be true if I’m getting stretch marks. Then I tested it. My favourite skirt doesn’t fit. I worked so hard to fit into that skirt and now it doesn’t fit. I feel disgusted with myself. I guesstimate that at my least I weighed 130 lbs and now I must weigh about 160 lbs. That’s 30 lbs! How am I going to get rid of that weight? I feel so ugly. I guess there’s nothing anyone can do about that. If it’s ugly, it’s ugly. Yesterday I noticed how incredibly thin my hair was. I’ve always known but yesterday it was undeniable. Am I losing hair? It almost seems like it. What if I go bald one day from stress and aging? I don’t know if I could handle that. I’m too insecure and vain. I wish I could like myself. I wish I could believe my husband when he calls me beautiful…but I don’t feel beautiful…not on the outside or the inside. I feel repulsive…and ashamed to have lost my way like this.
I wonder if God will forgive me for feeling these things. I wonder if God will punish me for feeling these things. I wonder if I did something so terribly wrong that all of these things have been punishment. My whole life has been so messy and I feel like the damage I’ve suffered is irreparable. I feel like a lost cause, wasted space, a wasted life. Is it too late to change? Is it too late to make my life worth living? Is it too late to save my soul? Have I made a chain so long and heavy that I sit here damned, like Ebeneezer Scrooge? How does a person become saved? How do I get out of this rut? How do I find the light in the darkness? Jesus seems like such a simple answer but He’s not always easy to find. God is so big and yet so far way; untouchable. I don’t even know who God is anymore. It’s no wonder I don’t know who I am, not knowing who my creator is. I can’t help but wonder if things will ever get better. It sounds pathetic and pessimistic but I’m so tired of riding this roller coaster. Will things ever be consistent? Will good ever stick around for a while? It’s so hard not to envy people who seem to have it all. What do they do to deserve a life like that? How can I be worthy of a life like that? I would be so grateful, but I know I’m not meant for anything but struggling. It seems to be my purpose, to struggle. Maybe I’m meant to be an example to others; inspiration, show them what it looks like when everything goes wrong.
I wish I could feel some hope, but I don’t. How can I when all I know is the darkness? After all, I don’t really know that I’ve ever caught more than a glimpse of the light.”
Reading this today really made me feel broken-hearted, but not for myself – for God. There’s a passage in the book of Psalms (Chapter 139) where the writer (David) is expressing wonder and awe at how God knows each of us intimately. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar…Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it…For you formed my innermost parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” He also writes in thankfulness for how God watches over us – there is no escaping His touch or His love. “Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to Heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” What a beautiful Psalm. It’s one of my favourites – but not just because of how it reminds me that I am special, loved, and full of promise and purpose. It’s because of what David writes later, “How precious are your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” David gets a little intense from that point on but it reminds me that above all else, my loyalty needs to reside with my King and my God. David pleads with God at the end of his Psalm asking, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous ways in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
As human beings, we tend to doubt a lot. We doubt our value, we doubt our purpose, we doubt that tomorrow could bring with it any more joy or light because it would only be overshadowed by the darkness of today. As Christians, we tend to feel really guilty about that, or at least I do. I often feel like thinking the things I do and feeling the things I do might land me a one-way ticket to the Underworld. I should rest assured, and so should you, that God loves you so much more than that. You mean too much to Him for Him to let you go that easily, and God is constant, not fickle – like many around us are. Relationships here on earth may come and go but God is always with us. There is nowhere we can hide from Him, no matter how hard we try or no matter how hard we push Him away – because God knows us better than we know ourselves. After all, He created us; every tiny little detail is something that He put there. Often I take for granted how good I really have it. I’m healthy and I’m good-looking and I’m smart and I have talents and passions that I have the ability to pursue. I have family and friends and I have always been provided for. When things have seemed hopeless there has always been a door that has opened somewhere. Something I forget is to switch my focus from myself to someone more important – God. I spend so much time and energy fussing over myself and the details of my life – past, present, and future. While I’m busy doing that I’m forgetting why I’m here in the first place. I forget who gave me life and who is responsible for all the good that I have seen and all the good I have yet to receive. I am so focused on my flaws and all the things that go wrong that I stop caring to acknowledge all the things that go right. I begin denying that good exists so that I can feel justified in my self-pity and covet. And then there is faith. Whether my wake-up call is delivered like a jolt of lightning or a subtle breeze through an open window – you can rest assured it always comes. At the end of each day, regardless of my mistakes and regardless of things good or bad, I have faith that God will give me a chance to do better tomorrow. I have faith that God’s work within me will overpower all else that is inside, and deliver strength and goodness enough that I will in fact do better tomorrow. Faith is tricky because, truth be told, there is no guarantee that things will go as expected. I may screw up again tomorrow, but again I have faith that God will make good of it all and create purpose in it. As we are in constant stages of growth and change, God is in a constant state of creating – breathing new life every day and further knitting together the complex web that we are all a part of. There are many dark days, like my own from my journal entry, where our strength fails us and we feel defeated, hopeless, lost, and even doomed or condemned – but faith…faith is a flame that cannot be snuffed out. Even if we diminish it to an ember it still has the potential to be rekindled. I think that we all have faith in us and we decide what to put it in. I put mine in God and it’s what gets me through the dark days – it’s what fulfills me, gives me purpose, gives me hope, and lights my path. Sometimes it takes me a while to see the light because I allow myself to become blinded by weakness and temptation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there – and eventually I make my way back and continue on my journey. My walk with God isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect, and honestly it probably isn’t what it should be – but I keep doing what I can in hope that one day it will be. One day I will reach my full potential…one day I will walk as closely and profoundly with God as He intended…and when that day comes, I think I’ll be ready to go home. Until then I live in hope that I’ll have one more day…and one more day after that…and one more day after that. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s all a bit of a mess, but I think most relationships are – and if they weren’t…if they were simple and seamless…well there wouldn’t be much to be passionate about, would there? I’m thankful that I have a faith I can be passionate about and a God I can be passionate about pursuing. Sometimes I need to remember that what looks like a mess to me…God is looking at from above…mingled with everyone else’s messes…and is seeing a masterpiece in action.
So…there you have it. A little bit about me…a little bit about my faith…and maybe, a little bit about you too. If things are messy and seem hopeless, know that you’re not alone.