Two notes before I start:
My book Getting Naked Later: A Guide For the Fully Clothed is on sale for only $10 for a limited time! You should buy it.
Also, I am going on a tour through Switzerland, France, and Italy. If anyone has contacts for these places where people might want me to speak, play music, lead worship, or just let me stay with them, will you let me know? You can contact me here.
On to the post…
I had a friend tell me something really beautiful the other day. He is going through a faith crisis and is having to rethink everything he has ever believed.
He said to me, “Kate, I think that I am a lot like Peter. Peter had all these grandiose ideas about who Jesus was. That he was going to give him riches and fame and save his people from physical slavery. When Jesus died, all of those ideas of Jesus died with him. Peter was so confused. He didn’t know what to believe any more.
I don’t know what to believe any more, either. But maybe this is a process in which Jesus can show me who he really is. Maybe it will help me realize that he is different and bigger than I ever expected him to be. ”
I have been thinking about this for days. I, too, have been going through a faith crisis. My dad dying seven months ago really shook me up.
For the first few months, I didn’t mourn as much as I thought I should. I felt bad about my lack of emotion. But the other day, while holding his death certificate in my hands. I cried and cried. I will never see him again.
Where is my dad, really? I have ask myself. Is he really still alive somewhere? It’s hard to even touch the idea of him being in hell. I just can’t believe that. And asking myself that makes me question everything I believe. I have wondered if God is actually good. I have wondered if God exists at all.
Added to my mourning for my dad is the heart wrenching process of not being married, of not bearing children. I have questioned words that I was sure I heard from the Lord. I have been trying and trying to believe that if I never had a family, if those words never came true, that God would still be good.
Added to that is the pain in the world that is just beyond my comprehension. I wonder about God’s existence almost every time I hear of something horrible happening. That never used to happen to me. It has only happened in this season, and I don’t like it at all.
This is a wilderness time My ideas of Jesus are dying. It is a time when I realize that God does not just grant me everything I wish for if I pray hard enough or live an upright life. He is not a genie in a bottle that will give me what I want if I rub him the right way. There is no intimacy in that way of thinking. There is no mystery in that way of thinking.
I could easily believe that this faith crisis means that I am in a bad place. A place in which I am faithless and not following the Lord. I may kick and scream, asking that I can go back to that simple place where I was before.
But when I think about it, I realize that it is really a better place that I am in. A deeper place. And that comforts me. I am not losing my faith. I am walking into a place of mystery.
I have come to believe that there are levels to faith. Here is a simplifying of those levels.
Certainty- This is similar to the time when Jesus walked the earth. The disciples saw what Jesus was doing and put that through the filter of their own lives. Here is how Jesus will help me get what I want, they said. They had formulas. They boxed Jesus in . Everything was black and white to them.
Wilderness- This is what Peter must have felt when Jesus died. Everything he believed about Jesus was crucified. Peter denied Jesus because he was so confused about who he was. He questioned everything he believed. He saw all his dreams dying on that tree. And he was afraid.
Mystery- This is what Peter must have experienced when Jesus rose from the dead. He realized that Jesus was doing more than rescuing his people from physical slavery. He was rescuing them from emotional and spiritual slavery. He was setting them free in ways he had never imagined. The resurrection was a total mystery to him. He embraced the fact that he cannot, will never, understand the great mystery of who God is. His fathomless beauty. His frustrating hiddenness. His eternal, all encompassing, baffling love. The way he embraces us even in our deep deep doubting.
This changed Peter’s life. He no longer wanted to be famous or obtain riches. He wanted to spread the goodness of the Lord all over the world. He died hanging on a tree like Jesus did. He had embraced the doubt which led to the mystery. He probably kept doubting. But he also kept believing.
God has so many facets to him. He is like the biggest diamond you have ever seen. If I were to look at one tiny portion of that diamond for the rest of my life, I would still not have touched even that tiny part of him. He is beyond all comprehension. Eternity can’t hold him.
And yet, he is also like a tiny leaf that I hold in my hand. He makes himself small so that he can be with me.
That is the place that I want to be. In between the tension of mystery and intimacy. A place where I can’t see anything in front of me in this dark dark place, but believing that there is one who will catch me in that darkness if I fall.
A place where I don’t box him in, but I do let him in.