“A twelve year old girl was preparing to be confirmed when she told her father, the pastor, that she wasn’t sure she could go through with it. She didn’t know if she really believed everything she was supposed to believe and she didn’t know if she could proclaim in front of the whole church that she was ready to believe it forever. His wise response: “What you promise when you are confirmed is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise when you are confirmed is that it is the story that you will wrestle with forever.”
The Rev. Lauren Winner shared this story during her sermon at St. George’s Episcopal Church at 9 AM yesterday at The TABLE service. She’s the author of STILL: NOTES ON A MID-FAITH CRISIS which details the time when her faith hit a wall brought on my two events: “my mother died, and I got married, and the marriage was an unhappy one.”
Lauren outlined her confusion when she realized she had lost the fire and enthusiasm for Christ that she’d felt when she first became a Christian. She thought that she would always feel that way: excited to be at church, taking on more ministries and growing as a Christian wife. Instead, she found that many Sunday mornings she just wanted to stay on her screened-in porch.
I recognized the same crisis in my life in 2006 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my marriage was unraveling. When I filed for divorce, I cried out, “God, if you really exist and care about me, how can you let me fail as a Christian wife?”
I was comforted to learn that Lauren and I made it through our faith crises with the same recipe: Eucharist, worship, and the wisdom of good Christian friends.
I found a wonderful new church in 2008 and started attending worship with Eucharist (Holy Communion) every morning. Some days, the body and blood of Christ in the bread and the wine each morning were the only things that could overwhelm the pains in my body and my heart. I’d go to church even when I questioned if God really cared about me or even existed.
Lauren mentioned another important thing: Not every Christian “friend” acts like Jesus. One “friend” told Lauren after she had poured out all her misery, “You know, Lauren, if you leave your husband, you are leaving Jesus.” I, too, had poured out my sadness and found people that were judgmental and condemning, almost delighting in the superiority of their lives. When your faith is in crisis, it’s important to run far away from people who don’t love you like Christ loves you.
I admire Lauren for her honesty and transparency. Her story reminds me that doubts are okay and difficult life events will cause us to ask questions about our faith. If we say we never doubt our faith or God, we are lying to ourselves. Rather than feeling guilty or trying to bury those doubts, I’m going to embrace them and wrestle them to the ground. I’ve found that those are the times when God has really sharpened my faith in ways that I couldn’t have ever imagined.
God is always faithful and it is His power that overcomes our every doubt. I plan to continually wrestle with my faith through worship, partaking in the body and blood of Christ, and through the help of good Christian friends.
Your Sister in Christ,