I must admit, I've never really doubted my faith. I mean, I've entertained thoughts from time to time that this might not be real. That God might not exist. That this whole thing could be made up. But the thoughts are fleeting, always. There's a part of my brain that recognizes, in a distant kind of way, that it's possible this isn't true, but none of my brain or experience can believe that, having far too much evidence that God, Jesus, this whole thing-- is real.
My doubts have never been in Jesus. My doubts have been about the church. I struggle with the people. I've never understood 1 John 4:20, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." To me, it is sometimes the very fact that we can see our brothers and sisters that makes it difficult to love them.
The chapter Easter Doubt is about knowing that you're not alone. It is about her hope that those who doubt would have community that makes space for those doubts. And that those who doubt who do not have supportive communities would simply realize they are not the only ones.
And I cried.
I cried because, while I have not doubted my faith, I've felt alone. I've stood in churches where I once felt welcomed and then felt that I didn't belong. I've stood in churches and looked around and realized I didn't know more than a handful of people anymore. (Which, I imagine, might not be such an odd experience for the college-and-career group in a younger congregation. People go to school, get jobs, get married. Change services, change churches, move...) I've looked around to realize that the few who I recognize don't really know me, and that, often enough, I don't feel comfortable being known. And that I especially don't feel comfortable being known by these people.
Experience tells me that the way I think, the things I do, will likely offend them. They won't like me. They'll judge me. And I'll feel more alone than when I started. I keep to myself because I so desire community. I keep to myself because experience tells me that the only people who will accept me are the people who are like me themselves. So I read, I blog. And I begin to feel less alone, I begin to feel like I belong somewhere.
But the hurt grows. The community I've found exposes me to other hurts. Other corners of hurt and exclusion that I have never faced myself. I hurt for them, too. I hurt because of the unity I experience with my fellow outcasts. And I hurt all the more because I still feel like we are outcasts. I have walked into churches feeling judged the entire time I was there. I have been too sick with chronic illness and pain and fatigue to go to church. I have also had days where it was just too emotionally painful to be in church because I have felt so judged. And, when I went back, I felt judged because I hadn't been there. Damned if you do, damned if you don't...
Have you felt this way too? What are the things keeping you-- physically or emotionally- from connecting with the community of the church?
To Be Continued...