Viewing entries tagged
faith

No, You're Not Losing Your Faith: A Letter to Introverted Moms

No, You're Not Losing Your Faith: A Letter to Introverted Moms

Do you remember that quiet space?

I suspect you do. I think your body remembers it well, and feels its absence. You remember the days when you had access to that much needed alone time--when you could sit, read, pray, or just sip your coffee and stare at the couch.

Now? In those rare moments when you are able to get alone, you can't seem to settle your brain. Your mind is racing, screaming, "What do I do? How should I use this precious bit of time? Don't waste it. DON'T WASTE IT, WOMAN." In your brain, you've already spent the time on five different activities. You've taken a hot bath and read a chapter of the next Wheel of Time book and made coffee and written in your journal and exercised and mediated and read your Bible.

I won't tell you it's okay that you don't have any alone time, because it's not. You need it. But you don't need to feel guilty about wanting your alone time back. You're not a bad mom. You don't love your kids any less.

And don't worry: you're not losing your faith.

You might feel claustrophobic--like you don't have time to be spiritual, to cultivate the inner life. And that's probably true. You fight to get that quiet time, that quiet space, but sometimes you're tired of fighting and just want to sink.

That doesn't mean God is moving away or that you're moving away. It means you're in a different life stage.

There will come a time when you're able to sit more, to rest more, to calm your soul. There will come a time when you'll be able to do more--to do the creative things that make you feel alive. And chances are, as time goes on and you get to know yourself better, you'll learn how to carve out small spaces even in the midst of mommying. You'll find your rhythm.

But for now, just do what you can. Grab any quiet moments you can, and don't feel guilty or afraid. You're still you. And God is still God. No one's going anywhere.

Do We Have Control Over What We Believe?

Comment

Do We Have Control Over What We Believe?

How much control does a person have over what she believes? Can she choose to believe in God? To believe in no God?

I am not thinking of the tiresome debates about predestination and free will (though the close connections between these questions are obvious). I am thinking of the nature of belief and the frequent tensions between cognitive (and verbal) assent and what a person actually thinks (and how this influences her life in the world). In short: there is usually a disparity between what we say or think we believe and what we actually believe. One can give verbal and mental assent to all manner of orthodox doctrines and remain a functional heretic. I acknowledge the reality of the Triune God, but what does it mean to live Trinitarianly and to what extent can this be done?

Our beliefs are always based in experience even when those experiences are what might rightly be called 'revelation.' (One could argue that all right belief is a result of revelation.) What we believe is based on our encounter with the world and consists of what we have, in those encounters perceived to be true or real (even allowing for the locality of some kinds of knowledge). We may pay lip-service to all manner of belief -- that God is love, distant, all-powerful, ineffectual, non-existent or what have you -- but does this cohere with our experience of reality?

As Protestants, we like to think "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so," but is this really how we knew the love of the incarnate Son of God? I don't doubt that some (perhaps many) experience God's love directly through the reading of scripture. But when I reflect on my own experience, I realize it was probably the love of my parents (in particular, my mother) that first communicated God's love to me, not the Bible. Mom was the face of God to us. In many ways, my belief still operates this way. I believe in God's love because I have people who love me and whom I love.

The difficulty, as anyone who has suffered beneath the sun knows, is that we can just as easily (perhaps more easily) believe in God's unlove because of how we have encountered unlove through others. These people (if God, in fact, is love) are false images, images that do not embody the person of God.

Still, how much do we control what we believe? I don't mean to imply that we are simply sponges that absorb whatever realities we encounter. This is, I think, even impossible, since we daily encounter (what seem to be at least) competing realities, conflicting voices that vie for our attention, and we cannot absorb it all. (Or: perhaps we do. Perhaps we hold in ourselves more tension and conflict and reality than we can ever know or bear to know, the whole world warring within us, waiting to be born.) We experience both love and hate, both mercy and cruelty. And we also find ourselves capable of both great love and great cruelty.

We do not just absorb, however. We interact. We weigh our experiences in the balance and respond, shape, act, believe.

Where am I going with all this? (Perhaps that is the real question, a question of location and movement instead of stillness and immobile being.)

What we think we believe and what we really believe do not always cohere. You can say (and even think) the orthodox creeds of Christianity but live a functionally godless life. I suppose I am intrigued (and perhaps unwittingly believe?) in the kind of Christian universalism depicted in Lewis' Last Battle, where some who did not know Aslan by name actually honored him in how they lived their lives. 

If God is the creator of the world and committed to re-creating it through his Son, Jesus Christ, are all who re-create (those who facilitate the renewal of life) in some way serving God, albeit unwittingly? Perhaps they do not believe in God. But if they live as though God is in the world (and in some sense become God in the world), do they believe even when they do not believe, their bodies working against every cognitive objection to the presence of God?

I am not saying this is what I believe, though my own declarations of belief may bear only a distant resemblance to what I believe. I am speaking in order to get to my belief, to plot how I've experienced the world and what I've encountered as true.

These reflections are (of course) evoked by experience: the fact that many of my friends and acquaintances from Bible college no longer identify as Christians  (most are athiests or agnostics). And, no, these are not people who "fell into a life of sin" and became distant from God. These are honest, questioning friends who have serious doubts about the form (and content) of the faith bequeathed to them from their parents or Church community. Their questions are not unlike many of my own, and their critiques of Christianity are (often) valid.

All this makes me wonder about the nature of belief. Why is it that I say I "believe" in the God revealed in Jesus Christ and his Church, as witnessed through Judeo-Christian scripture and the testimony of the saints throughout history? Why do I (if I do) actually believe? In what or whom do I believe? What (perhaps more importantly) should or do my husband and I communicate to our son about belief in God? Faith, like any living, breathing relationship, must evolve or die. What shape does my faith take now and what shape ought it to take in this transitory life? And how much control do I have over its shape?

Comment

Do We Control What We Believe?

Comment

Do We Control What We Believe?

How much control does a person have over what she believes? Can she choose to believe in God? To believe in no God?

I am not thinking of the tiresome debates about predestination and free will (though the close connections between these questions are obvious). I am thinking of the nature of belief and the frequent tensions between cognitive (and verbal) assent and what a person actually thinks (and how this influences her life in the world). In short: there is usually a disparity between what we say or think we believe and what we actually believe. One can give verbal and mental assent to all manner of orthodox doctrines and remain a functional heretic. I acknowledge the reality of the Triune God, but what does it mean to live Trinitarianly and to what extent can this be done?

Our beliefs are always based in experience even when those experiences are what might rightly be called 'revelation.' (One could argue that all right belief is a result of revelation.) What we believe is based on our encounter with the world and consists of what we have, in those encounters perceived to be true or real (even allowing for the locality of some kinds of knowledge). We may pay lip-service to all manner of belief -- that God is love, distant, all-powerful, ineffectual, non-existent or what have you -- but does this cohere with our experience of reality?

As Protestants, we like to think "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so," but is this really how we knew the love of the incarnate Son of God? I don't doubt that some (perhaps many) experience God's love directly through the reading of scripture. But when I reflect on my own experience, I realize it was probably the love of my parents (in particular, my mother) that first communicated God's love to me, not the Bible. Mom was the face of God to us. In many ways, my belief still operates this way. I believe in God's love because I have people who love me and whom I love.

The difficulty, as anyone who has suffered beneath the sun knows, is that we can just as easily (perhaps more easily) believe in God's unlove because of how we have encountered unlove through others. These people (if God, in fact, is love) are false images, images that do not embody the person of God.

Still, how much do we control what we believe? I don't mean to imply that we are simply sponges that absorb whatever realities we encounter. This is, I think, even impossible, since we daily encounter (what seem to be at least) competing realities, conflicting voices that vie for our attention, and we cannot absorb it all. (Or: perhaps we do. Perhaps we hold in ourselves more tension and conflict and reality than we can ever know or bear to know, the whole world warring within us, waiting to be born.) We experience both love and hate, both mercy and cruelty. And we also find ourselves capable of both great love and great cruelty.

We do not just absorb, however. We interact. We weigh our experiences in the balance and respond, shape, act, believe.

Where am I going with all this? (Perhaps that is the real question, a question of location and movement instead of stillness and immobile being.)

What we think we believe and what we really believe do not always cohere. You can say (and even think) the orthodox creeds of Christianity but live a functionally godless life. I suppose I am intrigued (and perhaps unwittingly believe?) in the kind of Christian universalism depicted in Lewis' Last Battle, where some who did not know Aslan by name actually honored him in how they lived their lives. 

If God is the creator of the world and committed to re-creating it through his Son, Jesus Christ, are all who re-create (those who facilitate the renewal of life) in some way serving God, albeit unwittingly? Perhaps they do not believe in God. But if they live as though God is in the world (and in some sense become God in the world), do they believe even when they do not believe, their bodies working against every cognitive objection to the presence of God?

I am not saying this is what I believe, though my own declarations of belief may bear only a distant resemblance to what I believe. I am speaking in order to get to my belief, to plot how I've experienced the world and what I've encountered as true.

These reflections are (of course) evoked by experience: the fact that many of my friends and acquaintances from Bible college no longer identify as Christians  (most are atheists or agnostics). And, no, these are not people who "fell into a life of sin" and became distant from God. These are honest, questioning friends who have serious doubts about the form (and content) of the faith bequeathed to them from their parents or Church community. Their questions are not unlike many of my own, and their critiques of Christianity are (often) valid.

All this makes me wonder about the nature of belief. Why is it that I say I "believe" in the God revealed in Jesus Christ and his Church, as witnessed through Judeo-Christian scripture and the testimony of the saints throughout history? Why do I (if I do) actually believe? In what or whom do I believe? What (perhaps more importantly) should or do my husband and I communicate to our son about belief in God? Faith, like any living, breathing relationship, must evolve or die. What shape does my faith take now and what shape ought it to take in this transitory life? And how much control do I have over its shape?

Comment