Sometimes, you’ll tune into a podcast, a sermon, a song, a poem or a story, and you will be surprised by tears. And as those tears wet your tender cheeks, you will realize you’ve been sad, sad, sad, for so very long.
When my son was battling cancer, I rarely cried. This is because I wanted to face the evil disease. I wanted to fight it. One day, when we were all at home resting between treatments, I read a Facebook post about another boy my son’s age passing away from the same type of cancer. My tears were instantaneous.
I could cry for that little boy and his grieving mother, I could feel all the shock and horror, for her, but I had been scooping all the same feelings for myself to the side, out of range.
I believe this was my body’s way of coping with a trauma powerful enough to break me. I’m grateful for that moment of grieving; like a mirror, it forced me to see all of me.
I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that I had been subconsciously-not-seeing heaps of personal grief over the breakdown of my former faith: I was listening to a message given by Sarah Bessey at the 2020 Evolving Faith conference and her words brought a sudden flow of tears.
And it wasn’t just grief I’d been holding; it was also pain, and hurt.
Realizing I’ve been grieving, well, I think that’s why I’ve felt so dead on the inside- because though I was grieving, I didn’t own it. I was living numb to my pain.
Brene Brown says, “You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.”
As I’ve begun to allow grief, I’ve felt a lightness in my soul; there were just too many things hidden there, tucked away, haunting and taunting and clinging, little vampires suckling my soul.
Like, I didn’t realize how hurt I was that the faith which had promised hope, sustenance and unconditional love to all had fallen short.
You know Jesus? The one who hung out with sinners so much he was accused of all sorts of sordid behavior?
Why had my faith painted that Jesus as some sort of ornate emblem of white male perfection?
That Jesus really didn’t care about the hurting, the homeless, the rejected and the weak. He cared about being good and perfect and about being God’s son.
He cared about WHAT we believed more than about HOW our belief worked itself out.
He cared all about the FUTURE and the PAST, but not at all about the present.
He cared about whether or not we believed the right things; nothing else mattered. (But wasn’t that sticklerishness for knowing all the things what Jesus was so pissed at the Pharisees about?)
He separated people into “you’re in” and “you’re out”; he was the same as God but he also had to martyr his body to appease his angry father-God.
Also, he hated queer people even though they loved him and wanted him to love them.
That Jesus brought no hope or healing, held no love. I was deeply wounded by him. And quite frankly, I was pissed, at him.
How could he say something like, that he did not come to condemn the world, but then turn around and condemn anyone who didn’t believe in Him, and, also, anyone who identified as LGBTQ+?
That Jesus condemned hypocrisy whilst asking his own dear children not to be completely themselves.
What a fucking liar!
Jesus, God, love, embodied, condemning so many people to a literal living hell on earth.
Yah, I was pissed, but really I was sad, and wounded too.
I felt so disillusioned by a God who wanted me to agree to beliefs that didn’t concur with science. I was tired, oh so tired, of trying to follow circular arguments, battling evolution, round and round, same, same, never changing, never changed.
Why did God hate science when God admitted to actively engaging in divine revelation?
Heck, why was there so much truly bad science within the pages of that supposedly perfect book of god-words? Like, you know, how it asserts the world is made up of three layers when it isn't? Or, or, saying the sun actually stood still at one time when that would have had catastrophic consequences for the whole entire earth?
Why had I needed to shut off my thinking in order to follow God? I didn’t want the wisdom of God, the one that didn’t make sense to the world, to be all about rejecting science, I wanted it to be about showing radical love.
Deep down, I longed for a God who was pitted against the dark forces of greed, injustice and evil rather than a God pitted against science and anyone with bad doctrine.
Again, that God, that Jesus I had believed in, wasn't actually about love, he was only about do's, don'ts and shouldn'ts.
As I entered my late 30’s, I found myself grappling with a faith that was honestly fake and ignorant. And that made me lonely and churchless, and sad, deep down in my bones.
Now, as I allow the grief, I find myself ever so grateful to those Israelites who wandered in the desert for so many years, alone and wishful. They never entered the Promised Land. They complained and cried out, and it was annoying. But, like me, they wondered allowed whether or not God was even with them or for them.
And yet, there God always was.
Only, God didn't look how they thought God would.
God didn't act how they wanted God to.
They were being beckoned to see God differently, to see themselves differently and most of all, to endure emptiness with hope, not hope for happy times, but hope that good, and love, existed, despite their circumstances.
Maybe they wandered in the wilderness for the sake of all those future folks who would find themselves similarly wandering, lost, bored, hungry and thirsty.
Those homeless, landless drifters, they remind me- it's okay to be in the wilderness. And, it's okay to be pissed and cry out.
Because, even in the wilderness, God somehow still is.
The wilderness has its place, and we may very well find our own place, in it.