It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s just that I have a lot of unbelief living in my chest. Can you blame me? My faith has been deconstructed, my heart has been broken a thousand ways, and I have broken a million hearts. I don’t believe the way I used to, with simple, “pure” abandon, trusting that everything would make sense. God has shown me time and time again that life is just too damn messy for that. I have too many wounds that won’t heal to believe like that, wounds from old loves, from my own hands, and from divinity himself. So, I try to believe, but it’s always alongside this unbelief. Call me a cynic.
Yes, I am a cynic. I doubt that God will really show up, that worship music can move the heart to a holy place, and that prayer actually does a damn thing. I’ve seen to much hurt, felt to many wounds, and found too many holes in my own life to blindly believe any more. But I want to believe. I don’t want to be stuck in this place of cynicism, of unbelief, of distrust.
I may be a bad believer, but at least I’m an honest one.
What does it mean to be a cynic that believes? What does it mean to have unbelief living in my chest when hope is trying to burst out? The tension of these questions pull at my faith. There are no easy answers here, at least none that I have found. No simple solutions to this condition. Those of us who have watched God dismantle what we thought was our faith wouldn’t settle for the easy way out anyways.
The tension is where we live, where I stay. The tension is where I ask God to show up. The tension is where I am trying to find healing. It goes by many names: tension, wilderness, dark nights of the soul. It is this place between belief and cynicism, between faith and giving up, between doubt and trust. It’s in this place that I am trying to once again figure out what it means to have hope, to believe in salvation.
Living the mystery is such a romantic term for such a bloody mess.
Living in this tension, this wilderness, is hard. It hurts. There is no resolution out here, no end to the tug of war that is played with my heart. Faith and hope pull me one way but cynicism and hurt pull me another. It’s no wonder I find my self with a broken heart day after day. See I want to believe, I want to have faith, I want to hope that the words I’ve heard are true. I can’t seem to shake my desire to believe, no matter how cynical I get. No matter how wounded I am. No matter how disillusioned I become.
I can’t shake Jesus.
Even after all these miles, all this darkness, all these wounds, he won’t let go of me. My faith has been shipwrecked more than once. It left me thinking, “I can’t be a Christian anymore.” Even still, when I tried to walk away, Jesus walked with me. He won’t stop this weird relentless pursuit of me. It’s as if he loves me or something.
After all my faith has been tasked and taken apart, I’m left with nothing but Jesus. Just this man, this God, Who won’t leave me alone and who I can’t let go of. The bottom line is that he is my hope. My faith is in him, not in any dogma or doctrines I once held as life lines.
I’m not suggesting that theology doesn’t matter. It does, and how we do our thinking about God is fairly important, especially to our faith. But there is something that happens when your construct of faith is torn down by the God you are thinking about. You stop believing about god, and start believing Jesus. The Jesus who won’t let you go no matter how much you kick and scream. The Jesus who won’t leave your side, no matter how much your hurts make you lash out. The Jesus who will stop at nothing to refine your faith into true hope.
So here in the middle of the wilderness, in the midst of the tension, in this place between cynicism and hope, I have Jesus. It feels like he is all I have. I don’t have the hallmarks of faith I was told as a child that make a mature believer. I don’t have my devotion to church any more, my clinging to the inerrancy of the bible, my commitment to moralism. I don’t mean to say that I have given up on faith. I still want to believe, to think well about God, to see my life transformed by the word of God. I want to be a mature believer, walking in grace by the power of the Spirit. But all the old paths that I was told would get me there have been laid to waste. All I have is this dog-eared path of Jesus who won’t let me go.
These words were written as part 1 of chapter 1 of this damn book (#ThisDamnBook) that I’m writing. Maybe they will stay, or maybe they aren’t the words for my book. Either way, it felt right to share them today.