One of my “resolutions” for 2021 was to explore my faith, what it means to me, and how I want to live it.
The other day I was considering my “resolutions” and the way I feel like I’ve been quite lax on truly pursuing them, only to realize that without fully meaning to, I’ve actually been really honing in on that faith one in particular.
Since the year started, I’ve really been attempting to find answers to the questions I’ve been waiting for someone to explain away for me. I’ve been actively pursuing better teaching, instead of just being continually disappointed by what I was being spoon-fed. I’ve been trying to understand what I should be doing with my faith and how it should be directing my life, instead of sitting in a pit of angst and worry generated by not understanding my faith and fearing a lack of direction.
In short, I’ve been trying to own my life and my faith, and reach out to truth for myself, instead of simply waiting for it to come to me and dump all the answers in my lap. It’s a good change, I think. I’m tired of being blown back and forth at the whims of those around me, allowing myself to be hurt and confused instead of simply resolving to move forward on my own.
Of course, that resolution itself comes with its own set of worries and doubts, and the main one I’m wrestling with now is how to deal with the fact that I’m moving away from the places where I’m most comfortable. I’m realizing that in a few years, the church I chose to attend will likely not look just like the ones I’ve attended growing up, or the ones that my parents have always attended. The way I choose to live my faith, the things it leads me to do, may not look just like the way my mentors have chosen to live their faith, and it may lead me down different paths. We still share the same faith. I hold as tightly as ever to the core values I have always believed lie at the heart of the God I am convinced runs this show. I feel more convinced of my faith than I ever have. But some things are different.
The difference is pretty cool, actually, but the doubts that come with them, not so much.
Maybe it’s not like this for everyone, but I can’t manage to shake the deep fear of being wrong. And specifically, of getting it so wrong that I just botch everything up completely, ruin it all beyond repair and lose all hope of ever being right again. I’ve written on this blog before about how I struggle with doubting that I can keep to the path I’m supposed to walk, fear that I’ll find myself utterly lost and alone and unable to find my way back. “Here lies Shay, who had an awful lot of potential, but tripped and plummeted off the narrow road right into the unending abyss of aimlessness, and here she will float for eternity. Such is the fate of all those who don’t happen to have the gift of all knowledge and perfect foresight.“
Honestly, it’s getting a little tiresome to keep struggling with different facets of this exact same fear. Where are those Bible verses and songs and encouraging little quotes that helped so much last time I faced this? Weren’t they supposed to get rid of this once and for all, destroy the menacing smoke with a fierce gust of truthful wind? How did the smoke come back? And why does it feel just as real and solid as it did last time when I’ve already disproven it, multiple times over, in fact?
And more importantly, when will it be the last time?
Coupled with the doubts and struggles have come a new fear lately–the fear that eventually, I’ll have reached my limit on the amounts of doubts and struggles I’m allowed to have, and all my friends and family and even God are going to throw their hands in the air and despair of ever curing me of these faults. “Hello, this is an automatic message from your Crisis Account. We are calling to remind you that you are allowed no more than 5 crises a year and a maximum of 20 in one lifetime. You are currently going on your 5th crises of the past 12 months, and all support will soon be removed. Please use your crises responsibly. Or preferably don’t have them at all. You’re already in the Guinness World Records, and you haven’t even had a bad childhood or anything. Seriously we’re not sure what your problem is??”
I don’t want to be a burden to those around me who are trying to help me. There’s a deep fear that eventually, I’ll bump into the invisible-but-very-real Crises Limit, and everyone I’ve ever drawn strength from will finally give up on me, including God. Of course he’ll always go back for those who run away and find themselves lost, but those who try to follow only to get scared and have a panic attack every five steps just aren’t worth it.
Yes, I know all that sounds silly. No, I don’t actually believe it. But there are parts of my mind that try to convince me this is the way it is, and I have to actively fight them, and choose to keep believing in spite of my fears. I will have more crises in the future, I will come back to this same fear again, I will fight it and believe it’s behind me, and then I will face it again. The only thing that matters is that I keep on trying. I’m coming to the conclusion that these sorts of struggles are chronic ones. You don’t fight them once and leave them in the dust–you face them again and again, and every time you beat them, you come away stronger, more equipped to do battle with the next incarnation of the same fear when it reappears. No matter what else might be true, I can’t just stop. I have to keep moving.
And that’s the answer I have to come to in my fear of being wrong, too. Maybe the place I started isn’t where I’m meant to stay.
If the places where I find fellowship and encouragement don’t look just like the places I used to find them, if the way I live my faith isn’t a carbon copy of the way my mentors lived theirs, if the way I view certain things about the world and about God is different than the way I used to, maybe that’s ok. Maybe it’s good. Maybe we’re meant to grow, not just find a cushy church pew and never rise from it again. And maybe the people who really matter will understand that, and they won’t give up on me as I continue to struggle with all my doubts and fears again and again.