After I posted I Don’t Believe In God, I got the in car to run downtown to the craft store with my daughter. The comments started to trickle in. A family member called. Several old friends texted. In my naivete, I thought I was posting something vulnerable, not something controversial.
I sat on the idea of the I Don’t Believe in God post for a long time. Months. I wrote it two weeks before I posted it because I wanted to make sure that it had the right spirit, that wanting to “go there” on the internet wasn’t just a passing fancy. Safer subjects are definitely easier on the heart.
Someone who loves me very much lightly mentioned that the timing of the post didn’t seem like a coincidence. At first I didn’t follow what she was saying. I thought she meant The Gorilla’s movie success. I thought she meant the blog editorial calendar. She meant extenuating family circumstances. She’s probably right. In 2011, our family moved into a difficult season of life. A dear, dear friend died tragically. A devastating medical diagnosis hit a close family member. Another family member was hospitalized for months. It was a terrible year, saved only by the birth of our beautiful son. In 2012, still reeling and enduring most of those things, yet another family member fell into a coma around Christmas. She got better, life marched on, there were dishes to wash and a movie to be made.
This summer, at the lake alone with my children for nearly two months, I suffered a mini-breakdown that was, again, all of the other things compiled and then ten more things on top of it. Almost immediately after, we have enjoyed several months of the greatest joy our tiny family has seen. The highs have been high, the lows have been low.
I know that our family experience, and my place within it, is unlike most American families and also just exactly like it. To have been sent up, down, far around like a racquetball has certainly messed with my spiritual equilibrium. I can see that. I can see that my perspective is flawed. But is there ever a good time to write about a faith crisis? It’s not something I can plan. About my summer meltdown, I feel a little differently about it after a few month’s distance. But I am so glad that I wrote what I did when I did. I’m glad I have those thoughts from when they were raw. And I’m glad I shared them. If we waited until we had enough perspective to wrap it all up with a bow, then you’re not actually capturing the experience. You’re masking it in the lesson, in what it meant later. But I crave to read about (and write about) what it is now.
Several people suggested to me that my doubts were directly related to living in LA. I’m not altogether surprised by this assessment (it’s been said to me in various forms for 13 years), but it bummed me out for a couple of reasons. Living in LA hasn’t always been easy, but I am BETTER for it. Traveling and coming to love a diverse group of people is something I will never regret, and something I would encourage everyone from anywhere to do. I am so proud of that part of our decision to raise children here. It has changed my view of God, but it has made my God bigger.
If a faith can only sustain when surrounded by like-minded people, it is no faith at all. I’d like to believe that had I stayed in a small town that I still would have had these doubts. There is much worth questioning. I have many friends who have stayed in the middle of the country, and they have gone through similar bouts of wondering. They’ve ended up on different sides of the road, so to speak. I won’t say that California hasn’t seeped into my bones, but I have the same brain no matter where I call home.
In the last week, what has kept me up at night hasn’t been my wrestle with doubts, but the reaction it provoked. Over a hundred comments on that post. People I haven’t heard from in years texted me, messaged me, strangers sent email after email. The reactions were mixed. A heavy majority confessed that they felt or had felt the same way at some time. A large handful were saddened and/or concerned and I think I landed on some prayer lists, which I’ll never turn down. A rough few got it all so wrong, but that is the beauty and heartache of writing. Everyone reads their own experience into your words. Often this is healing for both sides. Sometimes frustrating. It took every ounce of restraint I had not to reply to each inaccurate assumption about my childhood or my family or my thought process. I realized (after deep breaths) that correcting every point by point is not what it’s about. I felt, from every single reaction, that we’re in this thing together. We live, we love, we die. There’s a vast middle. If you’re reading this, you’re somewhere there. Me, too. How lucky we are.
At the Jesus Feminist party, several different sets of HH readers approached me and mentioned the God post. Tears shining back at one another, we said Yes, this is so hard, isn’t it? It was no small gift to me that the occasion fell days after the post, and that a roomful of non-traditional truth-seeking women gathered in Hollywood.
Despite the incendiary title, I do believe in God. I meant for that to come through by the end of last week’s post, but maybe it didn’t, or maybe people didn’t read that far. That’s the clarification I’m making today. All week, with my heart open and sensitive, this belief strengthened. Signs, sentences, little things were a nod to the Big Question. I do not believe in the God of my youth, who grants parking spaces and favors certain nations. I do believe in a God who hears our muddled prayers, whose very essence is power and love. I believe in a grace not bestowed, but a grace that just IS, that lets us navigate this life and this conversation, together.
Theres more, so much more, that I’m seeking. I’m going to try not to hide from these things anymore, even though hiding has been pretty easy at times. I realize a bullet point list would be more digestible, but I’m not there, nor are many of you. As we move into the week where our country collectively gives thanks, I’m thankful for the freedom to discuss these things, and thankful that you (and God?) are willing to listen.
photo from the Jesus Feminist party, taken by Nish Weiseth