Faith, Cynicism and Toothpaste in the Sink

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I am, admittedly, really terrible at dating. But I have learned one very normal thing: break-ups are hard and usually happen a lot slower than they look to the outside world.

She hits the snooze too many times. He doesn’t pick up his wet towel off the floor—or his socks. She leaves toothpaste in the sink. He complains about her mother. She doesn’t like his friends. They look at each other and forget why they ever fell in love in the first place. She looks like a stranger. He feels unsafe.

They part ways.

This is the way I left church—slowly, disappointed, disillusioned, heart-broken.

I used to believe there was a way to be Christian. But when I tried to follow that way I found myself fighting against my own integrity—against the very words of Jesus.

My faith in that old system died a slow death by a thousand paper cuts. There was never just one thing—it was a breakup.

It happened in the smallest moments, these tiny cuts.

I couldn’t lift my eyes to the heavens while my heart was breaking from the weight of injustice that wasn’t being spoken of.

So I am left holding my faith in one hand and my doubt in the other and I am in a fight with my former self.

I am desperate to write about and explore faith and I am also devastated by an old way that cannot disconnect with injustice, othering and hate.

What do I believe?

I don’t even know anymore. I believe it’s possible to wash the toothpaste out of the sink and pick up the towels from the floor. I believe it’s possible to reconcile and redeem. And I still believe in love. And joy. I wail toward the sky for peace. I swear under my breath for patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.

I watch my faith get stronger, but so does my cynicism. I cannot reconcile the halves.

I walked to church last week because I really needed a good cry, but then it didn’t come. No tears.

The man offering the wine during communion was weeping. He could hardly speak the words, “Blood of Christ, shed for you.”

I envied his tears. My chest ached like I was sobbing, but the release of the hot, salted emotion didn’t happen.

I don’t know how to feel this week. This year.

But I am learning something about faith. It is persistent. I cannot separate myself from it.

So, some weeks I walk to church and I cry. And some weeks, I skip it to go on a date where we swear and talk about racism and sexism and that still feels a lot like church.

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Sarah Joslyn
I’m more likely to answer to Sars than Sarah. That’s because years ago my brothers started calling me Sars and, as the name implies, it was infectious. I’m a self-proclaimed writer-photographer-Jesuslover-painter-adventurer-foodie. I have a near obsession with ending injustice and I’m a sucker for a good cause. I blog about life and building a tiny house at sometimesscreaminghelps.com.
Sarah Joslyn
Sarah Joslyn

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  • Saskia Wishart

    All of this. So good my friend.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      Thank you, Sas. You always get me.

  • Church can be so messy, and the “further up and further in” you go, the messier it seems, but I always come back to the (comforting?) fact that this is because it’s full of sinners, and there’s really no one else available to come.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      I hear you, but there’s a problem still with this logic–in my other places of work life has been messy too, but not necessarily full of judgement and hate in the name of the work. I understand that not all churches are this way, but I have way too many triggers from years in ministry to be very comfortable in church. It hurts. 😢

      • Ugh. I wasn’t meaning to negate your very real disappointment and pain. Eugene Peterson has so much realism and wisdom in his thoughts on the church, and I’m thinking I need a Peterson fix early in 2017.

        • Sarah Joslyn

          Oh, Michele, I wasn’t upset. Just wanted to be clear.

          xoxo

  • Mike Phillips

    In my journey, doubt was a good guide. It helped me wade through the crap. But cynicism became a disease for me…it didn’t guide me anywhere good. I am hoping to find the difference between embracing some doubts and siphoning off cynicism in my own life. I hope the same for yours.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      Thank you, Mike.

  • Shaley Hoogendoorn

    Your real and raw writing touches me. I love how you can write honestly about doubt, anger and bitterness. Despite my best efforts to be transparent, I often hold my anger and bitterness inside. I am trying to find a way to communicate my anger about injustice without causing division. I haven’t been overly successful thus far. I love that you name all the feels. I still struggle with figuring out what I truly believe and what I think I am supposed to believe and it is sometimes hard and confusing. Hearing voices like yours helps me. Thank you for your honesty and always showing up in your writing. xo

    • Sarah Joslyn

      Wow, Shaley, thank you. That is high praise. I’m not even sure I’m that honest. If I was this would have wayyyyyy more swear words.

  • Bethany Olsen

    Love. Love love love.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      I love love love love you.

  • Leah Kostamo

    Ooooo, this is powerful. Sometime, when you get your cafe open, I’ll come down to the Red Elm (I still want a t-shirt!) and we’ll have a cup of coffee and commiserate and I’ll tell you my story of faith and lack-thereof (particularly the lack-thereof part :)). Thanks for your words. xx

    • Sarah Joslyn

      Oh looking forward to it!

  • Holly

    “I watch my faith get stronger, but so does my cynicism. I cannot reconcile the halves.”

    Standing with you in the crevice that has opened because our hearts are breaking. There may be wailing and rending of garments, yes, but there is also an openness that allows for growth. I love you my fierce and fiery friend.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      I love you and your unending patience with me.

  • Jamie

    I love your honesty in this. It’s so hard. I’m in this in-between of church too, and going to a new church feels like a rebound from the break-up… not a permanent solution, but a casual relationship to help me get over the last serious one… and that’s not how I want to feel about church, but sometimes I think that’s how I need to feel about church right now. I get the tension.