In the Messy Middle of Faith

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F_Claire

The first time I felt deep in my core that God was real I was 17, kneeling on a cold hard pew in a Catholic church that always had a lingering smell of incense and snuffed-out candles.

At the time, a group of Christian musicians was visiting from another church. I’d never heard worship music like theirs before. Hymns I loved—singing them brought me joy—but they did little for me spiritually. This was different; these people lost themselves somewhere in the music and beyond.

And so did I.

There in the space between those notes, God found a way to reach me. Perhaps it was the modern lyrics that spoke to me, the idea that I could know God as my father, instead of a distant idol. Perhaps it was the soul behind the notes.

I felt a sense of calm I had never known before, noticed the warmth of tears on my cheeks. I wanted to hold my breath, for fear this newfound sense of peace would slip away from me if I dared exhale. Not once had my eyes lifted to Jesus in the 17 years before. But that day, I was His.

When the music and the band were gone, I disappeared too. Back to the way I was, to that distant lonely place where God didn’t seem real at all.

Through my twenties and early thirties, I was no longer obliged to go to church by my parents. God became little more than a question mark in my life, a passing thought in times of trouble. The more I floundered, the less I believed, holding on to the misbelief that if God were real, God would save me from my pain. And the day came when the gap between us was so large, I didn’t believe I had the right to ever try and fill that space.

But I did find God again. After having my first child, I wanted to give her a chance to let that question mark hang over her head too; to maybe explore. I had no idea that God was pulling me back in.

Sitting in the warmth of the church I now call home, listening to the words of my pastor calling me to a life and place that so connected with my heart, I couldn’t stop the tears. I believed without a doubt, just as I had for that brief moment in time on the rise and fall of a single melody all those years ago.

I still believe.

But I find myself in the messy middle of my faith where this question weighs heavily on my mind: What happens when we reach a place where it seems God has turned God’s back and we’re walking alone? When grief hits? When relationships die? When illness sets in?

When there are just no answers.

What do we do when God feels like he’s slipping through our fingers like falling grains of sand?

I’ve never prayed more than I did when I went through my worst bout of depression last year. Down on my knees, hot tears sliding down my face, the safety of darkness allowed me to breathe again. And so I prayed. And I begged.

I even gave thanks.

But my God—the one I have willingly given my life to time and again, was nowhere to be found. I looked for God in the moonlit shadows, the orange sun rising behind black spindles of trees and in the rhythm of the ocean waves. I looked for God in the silence of the night.

And I found myself alone. Completely alone.

I got to thinking, Am I missing something? Do other Christians know something I don’t?

I felt convinced that I must be doing something wrong. Perhaps I should be praying harder, reading my Bible, giving more, seeking more?

But is a relationship with God really meant to be that difficult? When I called on God’s name through six months of darkness, was I wrong to expect a glimmer of light? Do I ask too much in wanting to be cradled by the One who loves me beyond all stretch of the imagination?

Sometimes I find myself wondering if God even exists at all. I feel small in my faith, like a baby bird still trying to fly but who has seemingly broken her wing whilst flailing so hard.

My prayers have dwindled to a late night sleepy whisper. And I realize I’m holding a grudge. I’m mad at God for not seeing me through those dark times. Mad that I had to resort to medication for my depression, instead of being rescued. Mad that when I needed that long embrace, the only arms there to hold me were my own.

Then I pray for forgiveness for being mad.

And so the “middle” goes, like a walk around a mountain where I’m back at my starting point time and time again.

Why do I seek to get it right when I can never “get it right?” When my questions linger and my prayers go unanswered and I make the same mistakes over and over again?

Sometimes I just want to let go. Not “let go and let God,” but let go of God.

But I cannot. Not because I feel compelled, or because I think I’ll be damned. But because of that still small whisper that captured my heart at 17 years old, and again at 34.

I seek that whisper in my small daily steps, that breath that catches me and holds me as fleetingly as the soft quiver of a butterfly wing.

I know I will always seek.

Maybe in the middle of it all I’m starting to learn I can’t always expect to be rescued. Sometimes the hard stuff just has to be done alone.

But the one thing I am sure of in the smallness of my faith is that God will always pull me back to Him.

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Claire De Boer
Hi, I’m Claire and though you may only see my words here once a month I’m part of the wonderful sisterhood of women who edit, upload and brainstorm behind the scenes of SheLoves. I was born and raised in England but pretty much see myself as a fully fledged Canadian. I spend just about all of my spare time blogging, editing and creating stories. I’ve also ventured into the world of teaching and mentor students in using writing as a tool for personal growth. My passion is to help others find the value and beauty in their stories and to find healing or self-awareness via journaling, memoir, or just "soul writing", as I like to call it. To learn more about my journey and the work I'm doing visit The Gift of Writing
Claire De Boer
Claire De Boer

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  • Donna-Jean Brown

    I feel for you, dear Claire. It’s awful when we lose one way of knowing/experiencing God and are in a liminal time until a new way opens up. And if you are prone to depression, as am I, it’s even harder. I’m pretty sure that your sense of God’s tender presence will return in some beautiful epiphany one of these days. Despite all of my doubts and wandering over six decades, God has always eventually reappeared to open my eyes and heart again. Hang in there.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Donna-Jean. I know that God will always show up, it’s just in those times where he is silent that I begin to doubt. I think we all find ourselves in this desert place at some point or another. Thanks for your kind words!

  • Lauren Ward

    I needed this today, and I so get it: some of the most sacred and human moments are in the seeking and messiness of finding (or not finding). Thank you for your authenticity and vulnerability!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks Lauren! Such wisdom here: “some of the most sacred and human moments are in the seeking and messiness of finding.”

  • Yes. THIS. This is powerful, Claire. I have asked these questions and felt the ache and heard….nothing too. Oh love, thanks for baring it all for us today. Vulnerable, truthful, beautiful words. Love you. xo

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you my friend! Love you too. xo

  • Oh my, have I felt this, and still feel this. That sometimes I look for God and find myself alone instead. And yet I cling to faith, still, for the small whisper. Thank you for putting this into words so beautifully, and for sharing something I’m sure many of us feel.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Jenn – that’s why I wanted to share this post, because it’s not always so easy for we Christians, and faith is often a battle. Thanks for sharing your own struggles.

  • Amy Hunt

    Yes, Claire! yes to this: “Sometimes I just want to let go. […] But I cannot. […] because of that still small whisper that captured my heart at 17 years old, and again at 34.” He will always pull you back to Him. Not in the ways we want or think it should be. But still, He will. This is beautiful truth . . . the telling of the hard, gritty story of learning to live, as we are, and accept life, as it is — Now.

    • cjdeboer

      Aw thanks Amy! Yes that pull will never let up – I know this 🙂

  • Rebekah O’Keeffe

    Oh my wonderful. And timely I posted on my blog today about the first time I realised the Presence of God in the Eucharist was real.
    Please take a look, any comments are welcome. Very new to this blogging.

    https://rebekahokeeffe.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/mind-the-gap/

    Thank you.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Rebekah!

  • I do not have the words to express how much I can relate to your struggles. I feel your pain. I understand your tears as my wounds are also still deep and fresh. I pray you hang in there, friend. I have a feeling He’ll make it all worth it in the end. Thank you for giving a voice to the voiceless.

    • cjdeboer

      That’s my plan Ganise – giving a voice to the voiceless. Praying you hang in there too 🙂

  • And there you have it … Claire is in the house. LOVE you.

    • cjdeboer

      Awww – love you back. xo

  • Megan Gahan

    We often don’t think of faith as a relationship that ebbs and flows with time. It’s either/or. You have faith or your don’t. But there’s so much more to it. And so many question marks we bury deep inside. You’ve completely brought those misconception to light with this piece, my friend. I have felt alone and far away from God as well, in moments I thought I needed him the most. Proud of you for articulating these hard, personal feelings. You’re freeing a lot of souls with this one. Love you

    • cjdeboer

      You’re right Megs – there is so much more to it and faith has so many complexities and questions attached to it. Thanks so much for your support! xo

  • Nicole T. Walters

    I so know this place, have struggled with anxiety and not hearing His voice at times in my life. Trying to find His voice more loudly as I find my own in writing again. Thank your for this!

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Nicole – I find writing – especially in my journal – really helps as I pray and unravel my thoughts. I hope you will find both your own voice and His as you journey on.

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Claire, I love your honesty here. Thank you for being raw with us. xoxo

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you lovely! xo

  • I am a feeler and I t-o-t-a-l-l-y get your post. I am learning not to rely on my emotions so much though they truly can be LARGER than life itself. I, like you am learning to trust HIM in the absence of feeling like He is there ready to step in and rescue me. Thanks for the post.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Kia. It is sooo hard to just surrender and trust during those times when we feel His absence, isn’t it? But he is always there, always present. xo

  • Saskia Wishart

    Claire, I have been meaning to write a comment for a few days now, this post ( and your recent one at the gift of writing) have been swirling in my head since reading them. I am sorry for the heartache but in the midst of it, you are expressing yourself so well and it truly resonates! Thank you. Xxx

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks so much Saskia – sorry for the late response. I appreciate your encouragement! xo

  • Claire, you’re words and you’re example of faith are no small thing. They are real and they are life to someone like me who has found myself in a similar period for going on three plus years now. Thank you for being so honest and brave. Knowing that you are not the only one trying to hold on to, find, or rebuild some kind of faith in your life is like having a life-ring thrown to you just when you had abandoned all hope. I have had a few of those life rings thrown to me along this process, and your voice has now been added to the group. Thank you.

    • cjdeboer

      I’m so glad I have been one of your life rings! It’s good to know others are in the same boat with their faith and Christian writing can sometimes be so intimidating. Thank you for adding your voice here. xo

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