I was on the phone with a friend last night who was describing, through tears, the confusing, sometimes lonely, often uncertain journey of re-evaluating your faith. When you’re figuring out what you really believe versus what you’ve been taught to believe. When you have more questions than answers. When you see more grey than black and white. When you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere. I found glimpses of my story in my friend’s story and thought back to a time about a year and a half ago. It was quite a lonely time and I felt this innate desire to be understood; for just one person to say, “Yes, I’ve wondered about that too…”
Eventually, I would come to understand these feelings better through Ed Cyzewski’s “Divided We Unite” (free PDF version found here).
“For some of us who have been rooted in one spot for a while, sometimes the old answers and ways of doing things stop making sense. ‘Transplants’ are often in vulnerable positions, as they don’t feel like they fit anywhere, their beliefs have been shaken in some way… [One problem transplants may have] is they sometimes rush into something new without dealing with their previous hurts and disappointments. I saw this a lot with folks who were disappointed by the church and then jumped right into house churches or emerging churches without seeking healing first.”
Transplant! A-ha. It was the word I had been looking for but couldn’t put my finger on. A season of uprootedness is where I’ve been since my senior year of college, when the teachings of the Evangelical world didn’t fit in with how I understood gender, sexuality, salvation, and social justice. I’m still in “transplant.” And that’s ok. It’s nice here; I’ve finally found some fellow flowers in the field and know I’m not alone anymore.
This conversation with my friend brought back visceral memories of the past year and a half, when I was just beginning to verbalize my discontentment with “Christianity as usual.” I was only just starting to write out my truest feelings through a new outlet I created- this blog. I was only just beginning to speak up and share my truest feelings and opinions around other believers, as I didn’t want to ruffle too many feathers; rather, I just wanted to somehow arrive at a semblance of settledness and peace about my faith and wanted to get there as placidly as possible- you know, just kind of slide out of the back doors of former Churches and Christian groups and enter into an unprecedented dawning of a new era in my faith: freedom. Of having a voice without fear of being choked for voicing a different perspective, another way of living faith, another way of trying to love a God I can’t understand completely, but long to know deeply; a God I revere, but will no longer appease with praises and prayers that are null of the complete struggles I have with the Bible- with its violence and oppression of women– and gender, and Heaven and Hell and all the other stuff that I needed to be freed from and hash out with none other than my Maker.
Somewhere during this time span, God gave me an invaluable gift of freedom that I’m still exploring. The girl who finally left the “non-denom world” (Christianese for Churches that aren’t affiliated with any particular denomination and usually consider themselves Evangelical) for the United Church of Christ (and trembled the whole way, wondering when an Evangelical was going to tell me that denominations were bad or that the UCC is too liberal). The girl who was almost too afraid to post “6 reasons why I support question 6” for fear of retaliation from former conservative acquaintances became the girl who would speak at the UCC about how the church can be proponents of recognizing the imago dei in all by supporting marriage equality. I have much work to do on this road to freedom, but the familiar tears of my friend reminded me of the faith metamorphosis I’ve been through this year, as God brought some fellow stumbling, bumbling (whatever that means anyway) folks who love God and love people and don’t care for the dogma of anything else that takes away from this love. In my desperation, God brought such people into my life and they have shown me that I’m not alone; that there are more of us out there than we think.
So where are you right now? Have you ever been in a place where you weren’t sure what you believed and struggled to reconcile what you’ve been taught about Christian faith with what your experiences have been outside of the confined walls of doctrine and “shoulds?” Are you in that place now?
And find us out here in these open spaces…
Have you been through uprootedness before? Go reach out to someone who’s currently experiencing this. You remember how vulnerable and shaky it feels when your whole faith world gets thrown upsidedown. So go have that conversation. Go get that coffee. Go on that walk. And find a way to remind a fellow brother/sister/soon-to-be-friend that they aren’t the only one who feels this way.
Because no matter where we are in our faith journeys, we need each other. We need to know we’re not alone with our thoughts. With our questions. With our inability to sit still, hands folded on our laps, seated at our pews, secretly dying inside to a faith that is out of touch with reality, that’s not listening (just shouting), and that’s not loving (just pointing fingers).
We all need to know that we can love our God even if we want to release some of the things we were taught to believe about Christianity. And may we always come to know, deep, within our core, that there is and always will be room for us all at the table.
You may have heard you won’t belong if you doubt, or you won’t be “in,” if you question the way you do. But hear it crystal clear: you do belong. So come; have a seat. Or, if you’ve been sitting for way too long and need a fine place to stand, find your space to stand. Or run. Or cartwheel upon these endless fields of freedom. Come. There’s room for you. You’ll figure out what you believe in time. You don’t have to have it all figured out now. In the meantime, we’ll be here, in the muck and mire and mess and in the starting over and the joy, with you, beside you, learning with you, growing with you, questioning with you, passing around the cup and the bread and the Kingdom will Come, oh if but a taste of it in the now, and also in the forever and ever. Yes, yes, amen.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR3HRMO7nZg . About sums it up! A big thanks to you Melissa.
Thanks Bri! Indeed that song does sum it up well.
Thanks for mentioning my book! I’m so glad it was helpful.
Your book was VERY helpful, Ed, and I’ve recommended it to others!
Wow… Wow! WOW!!! This is where I am right now. Confused, angry, disappointed in a God in not even sure exists the way I’ve been taught since birth. This hit too close. I cried reading it. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind and honest words. Your authenticity in wrestling with the God you have been taught about is a holy and worthwhile pursuit. Keep on the journey of wrestling with those hard feelings as you find your way toward peace in your spiritual expression!
I am in tears right now. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I hope it’s okay, I’m a stranger, but I needed to comment after I found your blog. (I typed in something like “I don’t know what I believe anymore” on Google and found your page). I just feel so out of place with my beliefs and I don’t even know what I believe anymore. It’s so uncomfortable and I was starting to believe that I was a bad person. This is the hope I have to continue searching even if I don’t know what I’m doing…I guess I just need to find someone who also has been “uprooted and transplanted” like me to talk to, but I don’t even know where to begin O.o Thank you so much for your genuine, honest words.
I don’t know what to believe. I am quite happy saying ‘I don’t know’ what the meaning of life is and why we have a consciousness. I personally feel i would rather focus on what i do know. There’s a feeling called happiness and it is overwhelmingly good. If we can strive to attain this and give it to others along the way, then it feels positive! I don’t believe in any of the organised religions, i feel they’re just as likely to be ‘right path’ as believing in a giant pink elephant that floats around space farting out planets. I do believe in love and happiness though and possibly one day we’ll come to understand their meaning. Possibly not. It isn’t something that really matters. We’re here one day, gone the next, in the blink of an eye. So don’t worry yourself by trying to make sense of something you’ll never 100% be able to make sense of.
I believe in myself. I believe in my friends and family and good people that I know. There are still amazing people everywhere. And I believe in helping one another. Beyond that, I know nothing for certain…except that life is fleeting. Make the best of it while you can.
Thank you for this post. I found it when I googled how to find out what you believe. I’m in the midst of this and I feel utterly alone. I’m lost drowning and I dont know what to do. But your post helped me see I’m not the only one.