Tue, 29 May 2018 15:31:04 GMT
It’s not an understatement for me to I say that in the past three-and-a-half years, I have gone through a major crisis of faith. My reasons were deeply personal. As a seminarian, I questioned the ethics and validity of Christianity in light of historical and cultural considerations. It was also the result of observing the effects, both good and bad, that Christian practices were having on the world around me. I also found myself deeply discouraged, let down by relationships I had counted on for support, companionship, and solidarity. I spent three years not only questioning everything I had ever believed and revolved my life around, but I utterly dismantled everything I believed to find something real — something worth believing in.
Most people I know who hold to Christian beliefs have gone through some kind of crisis of faith at least once in their lives. Many of them have stories similar to mine in some way. Others find themselves in circumstances where they feel that God has let them down or that the faith they were taught simply didn’t work. Others still consciously abandoned their faith for one reason or another — losing their way or letting go of values that used to have immense worth to them. And others find themselves drawn away from faith in one form or another: they’re convinced that what they believed wasn’t real or was misguided. There are lots of different reasons people find themselves in such a crisis. Some people are aware of it, some are not. I was painfully aware, and that awareness made it feel worse.
My own path back to faith was extremely long and complicated. This was both a component of the complexity of my crisis — my being a theologian sometimes means I am prone to complexity — and my own failings and vulnerabilities as a person. I wish I had not taken so long. Sometimes the length of our crisis points is determined primarily by ourselves. There are a lot of things I could have done differently and wish I had done differently. But the simple fact is that I got through it. It’s true that the faith I have now is not the same as the one I had before. In fact, much of it is dramatically different. These differences are good.
I was taught that unbelief was a terrible sin, one that pushed God away from you. I’ve known for a long time that this wasn’t great theology , but ideas like this are hard to let go of. A lot of us were taught that unbelief, doubt, and doing wrong things were keeping us away from God. As a result, I felt distant from God. At times I felt that God was gone. At other times I wondered if God ever existed, if all of the things I believed and my past experiences were just things I made up?
I never abandoned my faith over these past three years, but I often found myself asking a different question: if God was real and there was still something true to this idea of faith , had I gone so far away that I could never come back?
I would like to offer a simple idea to anyone who finds themselves in a crisis of faith, or who feels that they have abandoned or rejected their faith. This is a concept I have been personally coming to terms with over the past two months, and it continues to have a profound impact on me. My path back to faith began here.
Know this: God did not go anywhere. Your questions are okay. Whatever you may have done, it is not big enough, or bad enough, or terrible enough that God does not want you. The love and acceptance and peace you knew at some point in the past — that thing that made you believe in the first place — is still there waiting. It has been there waiting all along. You just need to let it in. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You will never have all the answers. You don’t need to. You just have to be willing to accept what you already have.
If faith is a path to be walked, you can always go back to it.
There are things about the path that will look different when you return. That’s okay. You are further along than when you left. It will not be easy but know that you will have help.
I recently heard this concept articulated beautifully in a podcast: “For thousands of years people have had this idea, that no matter how far you’ve wandered off a path, you can return. And the deepest forces and power of the universe are going to help you return to your path.”
Written by Joshua Boucher, a seminary graduate who lives and works in San Francisco. You can find him on Twitter.