Before I begin with the subject at hand, I should probably say that I know I’m going through a difficult time right now. I recognize that my perception and thought processes are sort of stuck in a negative pattern, and I’m still working at trying to hit that re-set button that will get me back on track. It seems that my own long bout with the flu, which had me sick for almost four weeks solid, (that also happened to coincide with my dog becoming deathly ill, and then, thankfully, recovering), well, something about all that emotional and physical turmoil has jumbled up all my thoughts and emotions. I’m not sure why I’m throwing in this disclaimer up front, other than maybe because I know this is headed into fragile territory.
This post is not meant to offend, although I’m sure some of you reading it, will, at the very least, be disappointed, and maybe even possibly offended. That is not my intention. I’m simply trying to put information out there, so that I can quit avoiding the subject. This is my attempt at clearing the air.
Some of you that have been following me for a long while might have noticed two things about my blog as it has developed over time. One, I’ve tried to move my blog posts towards a more positive place. Meaning that I quit blogging about specific triggers or memories, and instead, tried to write blog posts that leaned in the direction of finding hope, and staying positive. Working towards improving the quality of my life by focusing on an attitude of gratitude.
The other thing you might have noticed about my blog is that I quit discussing anything having to do with spirituality or religion. Back in the old days, I had a little tradition that I called Sundae Sessions, and in those posts, I would reserve Sundays for talking about my journey through faith. I tried to put a little spin on it by always using a photo of an ice cream sundae to punctuate the post. In doing so, I was trying to keep the mood light and uncomplicated and casual. Just a few thoughts about spirituality, or faith. Nothing too serious.
I mention this, because today, I’ll be breaking both traditions. Today’s post isn’t going to be about hope or gratitude, and also, I’ll be talking about faith (and it’s not even Sunday, nor will there be any cute photos of ice cream sundaes). Today, I’m going to open the door on something that I’ve been avoiding.
For a while now, I’ve been well aware that I’m struggling with my beliefs. I won’t waste your time by detailing all the different chapters that have factored-in to where I’m at today. Let’s just say that there was a time that I was immersed in my faith, and there was a time that I had no faith at all, and there have been times where I’ve been pretty much everywhere in-between. Today, I find myself in a place where I never thought I would be, in that I’ve pretty much lost my ability to have faith. That bothers me. It bothers me a lot.
I’ve been in a similar place before, as I’m sure many of us have. We experience something that challenges our faith, and we either end up in a place that is strengthened, and our faith carries us through, or we lose sight of our faith completely, and spend months or years in a void.
As time has passed, it has eventually become clear to me that I’ve been trying to find my way back to my faith, and even though I’ve been opening myself to various methods of getting there, it seems that it just isn’t working for me. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that the death of my mother had a lot to do with this latest chapter in my struggle with faith, but I think that I’ve always expected that one way or another, I would eventually find my way back to that place where my faith was strong again. Except that hasn’t happened.
In fact, it seems the further down the path I go, the more I keep moving in the direction of leaving my faith behind. I can’t seem to get back to that place again.
I’m not intentionally rejecting everything about God. As someone who has had periods in my life where I have been completely immersed in my faith, I find myself constantly having subconscious thoughts that are literally and liberally peppered with the automatic knee-jerk responses that come from having an unshakeable faith. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I have automatically uttered “thank you Jesus” or “praise be to God” or “hallelujah” or even “in God’s name, amen”. These phrases are part of my DNA, and they surface when least expected. They roll off my lips automatically, and each time they surface, it is a bit like a prayer, in that they punctuate my core beliefs.
Even so, over the past several years since my mother’s death in 2009, I can’t deny that I’ve been seeking a spiritual home. I’ve been in search of that place that resonates with certainty; that place that offers solace and safety; that place that fills me up with the glow of God’s protection. It seems the farther I cast my net in search of this place, the more times I come up empty. The more times I come up empty, the more I have begun to believe that maybe this place does not exist for me anymore.
It is confusing to have this underlying base of knowledge dependent on faith and belief that once brought me so much comfort, because it now feels empty and false, and I’m having a hard time adjusting. It saddens me to have to come to the realization that perhaps my life experiences have moved me in a direction that I never expected. I find myself without a spiritual home, and even worse, I’m well on my way to accepting this as my truth.
It troubles me. A lot. I never expected that I might arrive at a place where I could accept a life without faith. Today, I’m documenting where I am in the journey. Do I hope I might find my way to a place that offers the shelter of faith? Sure. I’ve even been willing to expand my search in many directions, going down paths that I might not ever before have considered as possibilities, but here I still am. Living with that void that offers no shelter from the storm. I keep asking the question if what I seek is perhaps not mine to know.
Again, I never expected to be at this place, especially at this stage of my life. I’ve certainly put it out there, that if it is meant to be, that my faith might be restored. I throw that prayer out into the Universe on a regular basis, and keep the prayer alive. Today, in this moment, it seems that all I hear is silence.
This doesn’t change anything about my overall journey of trying to keep my focus on the positive, and I will still keep working on reaching towards hope.
But then again, when you don’t have faith, doesn’t it change everything?
It seems that I keep coming to the conclusion that I can’t authentically live a life based on hope, if that life doesn’t also include faith. I keep asking myself whether hope can exist in an environment devoid of faith. I keep asking whether I can reach a goal that I have set for myself, if my inability to find faith seems to be standing between me and my ability to truly believe in hope.
Do faith and hope have to live in the same space, in order for either one to be authentic? It would seem that one cannot exist without the other.
I want to improve the quality of my life, and I’m willing to do the work, but I’m not sure how to proceed when I’ve identified my (lack of) faith as a stumbling block that might prevent me from truly embracing hope.
Just asking the questions. Just trying to keep it real.
“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” Khalil Gibran, (1883-1931), Syrian born Lebanese Artist, Poet, and Author
“Our Heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts, and to help us understand that He is sufficient for all our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.” Charles Stanley, (born 1932), American Author, Pastor, and Televangelist
“If you will be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” Rene Descartes, (1596-1650), French Philosopher and Author
“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” Paul Tillich, (1886-1965), German-American Existentialist and Theologian
“All who call on God in good faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard.” Martin Luther, (1483-1546), German Monk, former Catholic Priest, and Professor of Theology
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” Saint Augustine, (354-430), Algerian-born Italian Theologian
“Faith is the very first thing that should pack in a hope chest.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, (born 1948), American Author of self-help books
“Faith makes all things possible.” Dwight L. Moody, (1837-1899), American Evangelist and Publisher