I wrote this a few weeks ago, but didn't publish it at the time. It felt too raw. I worried about being preachy. I'm more comfortable writing about politics and parenting. I saved a draft and closed my laptop. But then I went to church yesterday and, through tears and conversations with friends who embrace me right where I am, I felt connected in a way that I had not in a while. Today, I read a passage by one of my favorite Christian authors that spoke exactly to the struggles I've been having. So, tonight I reopened this blog post and decided to share it . . .
I've been going through a challenging time with my faith recently. I have so many more questions than answers. Some of what I read in the Bible, some of the significant differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament, don't make sense to me. My instinct has been to push God and church further away.
I know my many atheist friends are thinking, "Well, of course it doesn't make sense. It's a fairy tale that was created to make people feel better about death and the other great, unanswered questions about our existence." I've thought that in the past as well. That thinking sometimes returns even now.
I also have a daughter who is questioning faith (with my encouragement as I never want my kids to have a blind and unthinking belief) and I am struggling to share with her the ways in which God has shown Himself in my life time and again in a way that makes sense to her. I've never really been a good model of faith for my children, other than getting them to church twice a week. It's even harder when I barely can make the case for faith to myself. Still, we have been having long conversations nearly every night, trying to work through the big questions together.
This evening as we chatted, I told my daughter about the multiple times today in which God reminded me that He is still right there.
This morning, I got a text message from a friend who always checks on me when I'm not at church (which has been the case more often than not recently). She has a sense when I'm stressed or sad. She asked how I was doing and how she could help my family. She just wants me to know that she is there, even if I try to hide. In her, I saw God today. She reminded me of His love and His patience
This afternoon, my former pastor, Dr. Jon Roebuck, wrote a beautiful post on social media. Dr. Roebuck saw my kids and me through the difficult days of my divorce eight years ago. He held us literally and figuratively. He teaches and leads with humor and kindness. He also is someone who rarely writes on Facebook - maybe once or twice a year. But today, he shared some important words about being cognizant of his privileged position and putting his action into faith. He closed as follows:
Would that such words could be spoken of us… that we saw darkness and tried to illumine it, saw hatred and tried to reconcile it, saw oppression and tried to lift it, saw injustice and tried to solve it. It is long past time for us to begin talking and living in better ways. It is one thing to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is quite another to give expression to that prayer. For those of us who live in the grace of freedom, may we be willing to become shackled to the responsibility of working to set free, those who remain the prisoners of oppression.
In my pastor, I saw God today. He reminded me of what it means to put faith into action, of how being witness to men and women in the faith who loved their neighbors without ceasing and without exception drew me closer to wanting to learn more about God more than a decade ago.
Tonight, I went to the grocery store with my son. On the way there, I shared some silent thoughts with God. I told Him that I felt distant recently. I told Him there was so much I did not understand. But I also told Him that I was feeling His tugging that very day.
Money has been tight, compounded by several unexpected expenses, and I carefully added each item in my head as I placed it in my cart. I worried as I cataloged the other bills that I had to pay in the upcoming weeks. I took a deep breath as I deducted a bit more from my debit card.
As we pulled up to the light to leave the shopping area, the light turned red. I looked to my left and saw a man holding a sign that read, "Homeless. Anything helps. Please." I rolled down my window and told him I did not have any cash, but asked if I please could give him some food. I asked my son to open up the grocery bags in the backseat and grab whatever he could. I then held this stranger's hand as he told me how hard it was living on the streets. I squeezed his fingers into mine. I told him I was grateful to meet him and hoped the food helped his belly that night.
I don't share this last story to brag about helping another human. Not at all. Instead, I just want to express how thankful I was for the encounter. Because there He was. There was God, right there on that street corner. Exactly when I longed to see Him.
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Matthew 25:37-40
This doesn't mean that I will not continue to have questions. It doesn't mean that I will not doubt or struggle. It doesn't mean that I won't go through periods in which I feel uncomfortable at church. But, I needed to put today's moments into writing, maybe just to remind myself later.
If I really look, I know I can see Him every day. Whenever I see anyone choosing love over fear. Whenever I peek in on my kids sleeping and I am overcome with this physical aching in my deepest gut because I love them so much. Whenever I see someone brave enough to stand for peace over conflict. Whenever I am the recipient of forgiveness or when I will myself to forgive. Whenever I think about the many members of the village helping me to raise my family and who speak worth and precious value into the hearts of my children. Whenever I read or hear or watch exactly what my spirit needed that day. It is in all these instances that my God is near.