I've been out of the country on business, and the Doubt Series has been on hold as a result. I've been trying some new techniques lately–like fact-checking and proofreading my posts. Luckily my friend Ty Silzer was ready to jump in and launch a companion to the Doubt Series: Friends of Doubt. Contact me if you'd like to share your story of faith gained, lost, or both.
i met mike almost two years ago.
i was in a very odd spot in my overall, general, big-picture view of life, but also in a very odd spot in the particulars of my day-to-day life and that moment we shared the same physical room by the sea. mike is a friend of a friend (and we've long since removed said friend from middle-man status), but i had the stunning amazement and privilege to be present for mike's return to faith. there were 50+ of us packed in that tiny room. i was in the back, he was in the front left. so, our interaction was little during the event. more happened in mike's story until i would see him afterwards as i walked with our mutual friend, stratton, down the main stretch. mike caught up to us in a haze of what appeared to be that level of deep-down-delight that can often be mistaken for delirium.
here was a man with a joy and a smile that could not be ripped away by anything on this earth.
we had no idea how our lives would intertwine and collide in the months to come. but there was a kindredness (at least for me) from the start.
i lost my faith, too, once upon a time.
i don't know of anybody who wakes up one morning and says, "i'd like to lose my faith today." in fact, most people go kicking and screaming (even if it's quiet on the outside).
in a way, it's often a loss of your own personal eden. your perfect world, interrupted. sometimes, it's something in your circumstantial world, the details around you, that crumbles, which leads to questions that you may not have any good or just any answers for. and if your system is based on answers, and having answers, or the answers you've had, well, it can all fall apart in monumental ways. this can be the loss of a person or a fundamental change in a relationship. your parents split. it can be a job or a status that you thought was promised to you, or you had earned,
or it can be the introduction of something new into that eden that forever changes the landscape. a few years back, the da vinci code raised all sorts of fuss in the midst of that, a bible scholar (and do realize bible scholar does not equal xian or religious) named bart ehrman shed a lot of fact on brown's fiction-purported-as-fact. this sparked an interest in me for ehrman, and so i started getting my hands on other materials he had written. in these i learned of his journey, how he had loved God, but had witnessed so much evidence to the contrary, that he no longer could. and out of this he mourned the loss of his faith. he would attend religious holidays with his wife, but for him they were sad, melancholy, and for old time's sake—almost like looking a pictures of a former love lost.
and so i find my heart reaching out to those who are fighting through this and those who have given up, but not in any sort of pity or therapy. i just sit alongside and listen and try to laugh with them when we can and be silent more than talk. these are questions of the soul and answers made of words often fail more than help.
my loss was similar to both that of mike and bart—a loss made on the plain of intellect (that is not to say those who lose it in another way are any less intelligent, it just didn't fit another category for me). but my return, at least when viewed alongside mike's, was very different. more on this to come.
a few things:
one) it's very possible that whatever it is you're holding onto as "the thing," well, is not "the thing."
this could be a belief, a framework of thinking, a "promise" that isn't so, or even a particular point of belief in God. as a man i dearly love puts it:
"some Jesuses should be rejected."
one of the most freeing truths i've ever learned is that there are false Jesuses (which can be paraded around as the real thing). this was not only freeing in my life, but also in relating to others. i consider myself to be a guy with no stupid friends, and so the rejection of a false Jesus, well—it turns out that's an incredibly healthy and smart thing.
he also said this:
"there's just nothing to be scared of. nothing. we don't have to be scared of strange ideas. we're free. and so many questions and so much push back that appears as faith is actually fear. it's fear that my whole system is crumbling. if the Jesus system you had coming into this is gradually being dismantled, then just let it completely fall apart. just let it go the whole way. Jesus will be there on the other side."
two) the story is not over.
the loss of faith, or perhaps the losing of faith, is a desert. it's lonely and dry and there are a lot of ghost towns. some may return (although it will never be the same). some don't. but even within both of those categories, the story isn't over. you may have a friend who's walked away and it's been ten years—we don't know what may happen in the next ten. or a friend who lost their faith only to regain it may put your heart in a roller coaster as they lose it again (it could very well be the replacement wasn't worth it).
three) there are no maps out of the desert.
that's not to say there are no ways out of the desert. it's just that every single way out will look different for every single person. and so there aren't rules (and thank God for that, as i know too many people who would wrongly try to execute them; and some try anyway). but Jesus is a rock (and there are rocks everywhere), and that Rock has many faces and many sides. and that Rock is strong and can be underfoot (while we are unaware) while we try to scale one side. and the particular side might not be our side. but the Rock is still there. and the Rock is good. and the Rock isn't going anywhere.