“I think of myself as the owner of my faith. Worried about losing it. Afraid of breaking it. Afraid I’ll let it slip through my fingers and will turn away, resigned.”
I’m worried I will lose my faith.
I’ve come close several times in my life. Circumstances, like depression, or alienation from Christian community, or (dear Lord) reading the Bible can make me question my faith. It’s always frightening, but it’s happened enough that it no longer surprises me.
I lose a lot of things, not just my Christianity. My husband carries keys, documents and anything valuable when we leave the house, because we both know I could just as easily lose them as not.
Here’s a fun for-instance: the day before we left for our current family sabbatical in Argentina, I opened the drawer where I’d put the $300 in pesos I’d gotten the week before.
Only it wasn’t there.
I knew I had taken the envelope from my purse and placed it into the drawer. I hadn’t (I thought) opened it since then. Neither had anyone else. I emptied the drawer, the other drawers. I looked behind the dresser, under it, took out the drawer. Nada.
Then I had to tell my husband. He blinked a few times. Then he sighed.
That’s when fatalism set in. I try. I try not to lose things, but they get swallowed by black holes. It’s so inevitable I feel like shrugging my shoulders.
I’ve realized that’s how I imagine losing my faith—by accident, through a kind of unwitting negligence on my part. One day, I will read the wrong thing, or ask the wrong question and “poof,” I’ll be looking at a garbage truck carting away my Jesus. And I’ll shrug my shoulders and head inside the house because I’m too depressed to run after Him.
The day I lost the pesos, I started packing again, ignoring the problem. My husband asked if I had looked in the small recycling box in the garage. Just in case. I ignored him the first time (the fatalism). Then I decided to be a grownup and stopped packing.
I looked in the garage. Nothing. Then I squared my shoulders and went out to the big blue bin outside. Still no luck. And finally, I tipped the filthy grey trash can on its side, and I stuck my head in. I cleared away the plastic bags of dirty diapers and lifted up an old coloring book I’d tossed from the drawer.
An envelope, full of colourful Argentine currency.
The trash pickup was the next morning.
My hands were disgusting, I was cold. I was also terrifically jubilant. I went inside, washed my hands, and carefully put the money in with the bag of passports and boarding passes.
Alone and desperate
One night during my most recent bout of misplacing my faith, I had trouble sleeping. My usual cure is yoga.
It was midnight. I took off my shoes and started a sun salutation. I decided to make it a Son salutation because it might help, and why not. I raised my head and hands to Jesus, and I bent double, and prostrated myself on the floor in the cobra position. Be with me Lord, I thought.
And then something broke inside me.
I began to sob. Please, Lord, don’t leave me. I need you. I need you desperately. Please. Please.
Yoga forgotten, I curled into child’s pose and cried. I begged Him to strengthen my faith. I begged for community and connection to Him.
I could feel Him there with me, for the first time in months. I imagined myself curled in His lap as he held me, rocking me gently.
When I rose to go to sleep, I was pretty sure my faith crisis was over. I felt tired, and limp, and free. Because I knew I might need to change the way I read the Bible, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to let go of Jesus’ hand. Better—I knew he wasn’t going to let go of mine.
In thinking about losing things, I remembered all those parables Jesus told about forgetful and forgotten people. The lost sheep out of a hundred. The prodigal. The lost coin. In the last, the owner scours the house, making a shambles of everything in her desperation to locate the treasure.
I think of myself as the owner of my faith. Worried about losing it. Afraid of breaking it. Afraid I’ll let it slip through my fingers and will turn away, resigned.
But I have the story backwards. Jesus is the one looking for me. If I lose myself in the trash, he will be listening for my cry for help. He will run after the truck, down the street. He will wade into the horrid mess and dig me out. He will hold me up, jubilant, and rejoice, because he has found his precious possession, his lost treasure, his beloved daughter.
I’m learning I am free.
I am free to be confident in Jesus, even as my faith ebbs and flows.
I am free to ask questions.
I’m even free to change how I approach the Bible, church, and Christianity.
I can be free because when I get lost, Jesus will find me, wherever I am.
Heather Caliri’s work has appeared in Skirt! Magazine, Brain, Child, and Literary Mama. You can read about her journey to Buenos Aires, plus her pursuit of little yeses and small bravery at heathercaliri.com.