Believing in Magic: Part II
In my last post I shared some thoughts on my misotheistic past, the Problem of Evil, and my eventual exodus from Evangelical Protestantism. My hope in this post is to offer some helpful advice for you if you're questioning your own faith. Let's get to it!
1. Embrace It
If you're reading this, you're probably past the point of no return. The comfortable luxury of an unquestioned faith life is behind you, and you will never be able to experience it the same way again―even if you wanted to. FUN!
Especially if you are part of a faith-forward religious tradition, or a tradition that prioritizes raw belief over moral outcomes (think: salvation by faith alone / sola fide), accepting your doubts can be one of the most challenging―and frankly devastating―parts of faith crisis.
It’s ok to be honest with yourself. If you’re doubting your beliefs, then you don’t fully believe your beliefs. All is not lost, but you can call it what it is.
Once you have accepted that you are experiencing a faith crisis, you may then start to embrace it. Your faith crisis is your friend! Doubt is a survival instinct. If you’re feeling doubt, it’s because your inherent wisdom is telling you that something might not be quite right. Try to welcome these feelings as a necessary part of your faith and biology.
Your ability to doubt is your ability to grow.
2. Talk to Someone You Trust
One of the heartbreaking aspects of faith crisis is that more often than not there is more than just a belief system at risk—there’s a community at risk. If you fall into the aforementioned faith-forward traditions, admitting that you’re doubting the foundations of your community might spell exile. Even if no one outright tells you "you can't sit with us," a certain common understanding is broken, and some relationships may never be the same.
In some cases, faith crisis can also impact your career. When I was deep in the process of spiritually separating from Evangelical Protestantism, I was also on the fast track toward becoming a leader in Evangelical Protestantism! Not only would transitioning out of my faith mean cosmic ennui (which, you best believe it did), it also meant rethinking my entire career path.
I was devastated.
Working in any other career besides one that directly involved helping spiritually nourish others sounded truly horrific. Hey. Turned out alright.
Finding a trusted friend with whom to process your doubts is life blood in this season. So much of life is turned on its head during faith transition, so having at least one person to serve as a constant and to love you unconditionally is crucial.
It can be challenging if it seems like everyone around you has squeaky-clean faith, or worse, that they would reject you entirely. You simply might not have anyone in your life that would be interested in talking about it. Whatever it takes, find someone. Whether they're a friend who lives out of town, only exist in a Discord server, or is someone you pay to talk to, talk to someone.
You may be shocked to hear that I think talking to a spiritual director would also be a good move (free first session schedule at fratresdei.com!¡!¡), and total, shameless self-promotion aside, meeting with a spiritual director was essential for me during this time. Having someone who not only offered a listening ear but also had non-trite wisdom for moving through it was indispensable.
3. TAKE BREAKS!
Yes yes yes for sure for sure no doubt no doubt you are deep in the thick of unraveling from the machine that possibly took you under its wing before you had a chance to nail down object permanence, so allowing those familiar, fuzzy feelings of unbridled devotion to fester is the last thing that seems productive right now. However, say it with me: SPIRITUALITY SHOULD BE FUN.
(Now I know that fasting, abstaining, discipline, etc. may sound like hard work, and certainly they are. But in the same way that you can get a runner’s high, there is at the root of every spiritual practice some measure of excitement in either the practice itself or the anticipation of its outcomes, but that is another blogpost altogether.)
Your faith crisis’s resolution has no deadline. If it would be truly spiritually nourishing to go tear it up at an Easter vigil, you have my permission to do so without feeling like a fraud or like you’re weak in your new convictions.
A break can also mean taking a break from religious practice or thinking about your faith altogether. I remember walking out of the seminary library and praying, “God, can you just…leave me alone for a minute?” (Perhaps with more profanity.) Best thing I could have done for our relationship.
Faith crisis is "happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time." Be patient with yourself, get the support you need, and remember that your ability to doubt is your ability to grow. If you are facing a faith crisis and would like a trained professional to help you move through it with integrity, safety, wisdom, and health, please visit fratresdei.com for a free first session.
March 4, 2020 | Denver, Colorado