There is a security that comes with being raised in a specific system of belief, but there is also a great struggle if one needs to questions this system. When educations, degrees, worldviews, spouses, friendships and sources of hope are all connected to a belief, it takes a lot of fire in one’s soul to ask even the smallest question of it.
I found myself here a couple of years ago, with a masters degree and a career in Christian work, not to mention everything else in my life wrapped up in a hope of a Christian God. It began with a few small questions about the specifics of theological understandings, which opened up more inquisitions. One after another the questions came all linked, each query connected to and dependent upon another. So further and further I extended into the unknown and an examination of my faith, I wandered with trepidation, until I was at the very base of it all –Is there a God?
My assumption through this whole process has always been that I would go on my little journey of faith just to find myself back where I started with nothing but a better understanding of why I believe the same thing I’ve always believed. It’s curious though, it turns out to be really authentic when asking a question you must be willing to find whatever answer is really true, and open to the possibility that you might have been wrong all along.
I remember listening to a ted talk radio hour about believers and doubters. The first interview was with the daughter of a well known Christian evangelist and when asked if her father ever doubted she said, “no, because God’s a gentlemen and he doesn’t lie.” I grabbed that phrase out of the air and held it in my hand as if examining a fly, something I had seen a million times but never really looked at. It was flimsy, and suddenly that statement felt like the mascot for all the defensive answers that have been shelled out to me when asking questions of faith. As I was staring at this philosophical fly in my hand another interview came on with a woman describing her experience of leaving the Christian faith and I related to her. She was honest, she felt authentic like she wasn’t covering for anyone or anything, and I had a terrifying sense of relief at what it might be like to just let it all go and to stop this scrappy fight for faith. I was petrified because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to believe, afraid it might not be true, afraid that everything my life was based on was false, but mostly afraid that this existence might actually be that hopeless. So I had a breakdown and sobbed in my car for the foundation that I felt was falling out from under me, the very basis for hope being ripped from my view of the world.
It’s all the risk we take to fully understand something, but a risk we must take all the same. Unclenching our fingers in hopes that the truth remains, that we might still believe at the end of our search.
In his book Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton describes his own experience of exploration of his faith like a sailor looking to discover new land, finding himself on what he thinks is an undiscovered island on the south seas, only to realize it’s still England.
“I fancied I was the first to set food in Brighton and then found I was the last. It recounts my elephantine adventures in the pursuit of the obvious. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it. When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing tradition of civilized religion.”
Maybe it’s a fools errand for there is no undiscovered land. Or maybe the whole point is that the adventure on the high seas is really what makes us who we are. So I’m getting on a boat to see what I find, tears streaming for the innocent faith I once held, but a heart pounding for the truth I’m desperate to find.
This is a place where I will recount such a journey, of learning about and understanding my faith from 5 perspectives within the Christian tradition. I'm hopeful along the way that I'll find God...
That He'll find me.
That I'll find me.