Thursday, September 29, 2011

Faith in Doubt (Part 1): Why My Faith Died

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

My fall away from God began while I was at Moody Bible Institute studying to become a pastor. Somewhere during my time there, I noticed a shift in my relationship with God.  My passion for God cooled.  My love turned into commitment.  I relied on God less, I prayed less, and I read my Bible less.  I also learned how to obey God through discipline instead of love.  I could pray when my faith felt weak, I could love others even if I didn’t feel compassion, and I could obey God even when I didn’t understand His commands.   I was no super-Christian, but I could often fight through my own feelings and do what I thought God expected of me.  At the time, this felt like a victory over myself, but in retrospect I believe this was a terrible mistake.  As my obedient actions increasingly failed to reflect my true desires, I became hollow. My faith during this time was like a walnut as its insides deteriorate.  Instead of addressing my dwindling desire to serve God, I maintained my shell through discipline.   
Then, when I was twenty-one, my faith was rocked by a series of questions that challenged the vacant core of my faith.  If God is sovereign, then isn’t he responsible for all the terrible things in the world?  Why do so many “Spirit-filled” Christians commit so many blunders?   And most importantly for me, “Is this the kind of world we would have if there was a God in heaven?” 
These questions were percolating in my mind when I had another kind of crisis.  I fell in love with a girl (Jaymi), and I fell hard.  We’re talking like romance movie hard.  Within a few weeks we were talking about marriage.  Some people started telling us to slow down, but that just didn’t feel like an option.  It still doesn’t feel like it was an option.  We were in love and that was just the fact of the matter.  Along with this love came a desire for more physical intimacy, and before long we were getting into trouble.  Now waiting until we were married didn’t feel like an option either.  
For two kids preparing for ministry this was a devastating problem. We came to a moment where we needed to make a tough decision.  If we did not break off the relationship (even if only temporarily) we were going to continue getting into trouble.  I remember talking about it in the park near her old apartment.  The relationship I had with her felt more real to me than anything I had felt for God in a long time.  Could I really risk giving her up for my hollow shell of a faith?  When the question was posed, the answer was obvious.  No, I could not.  The shell of my faith collapsed, and together we abandoned our faith and left the Church.   

Friday, September 23, 2011

Faith in Doubt: Introduction

Welcome to a new series written by Luke, titled "Faith in Doubt."

Not everyone in our life knows this, but about seven years ago Jaymi and I left the Church without any firm intentions of ever returning.  We were finished with Christianity, or at least ready to look at some other options. It took us a long time to get back to where we are now.  Recently I have been reflecting on this period of our life, and a desire has been growing in me to blog about it.  So, over the next few weeks I would like to recount the history of why I left the faith, and why I came back.  My story overlaps a lot with Jaymi’s, however we each came back to Christ through different means, for different reasons, and in a different timing, so these posts will focus on my story and my thoughts.     

After telling my story, I would also like to write about some of the philosophical issues that I worked through during this period.  A lot of these issues are the same ones that many struggle with, both inside the Church and outside.  How can hell be just?  Why should we trust the Bible when it seems to have so many contradictions? If a sovereign God exists, then why would the world be as messed up and cruel as it is?  I would like to share my thoughts on these questions, and explain why I still believe in Christ in spite of these challenges.  Some of the answers are taken directly from things I have read, and others I came up with on my own.  In either case, I doubt that any of my thoughts are truly original, but they may be new to you. 

Someone asked me recently, “Are you really 100% sure that Christianity is true?”  The answer to that question is yes.  Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I understand it all. 
Yes, but there are still a lot of truths that I am uncomfortable with, though I still accept them as true.
Yes, but that does not mean that I stand behind every idiot who calls himself a Christian. 
Yes, because even factoring in as many seemingly silly things that I may believe as a Christian, my life makes no sense if Christ is not God. 

I left the Church for good reasons, and came back for better ones. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Faraway Place

I first knew her as a faraway place
With unthinkable violence
And pain
And strife
I was young
I didn't think of her again

Out of nowhere she reappeared
An unexpected tinge of joy
At the mention of her name
Friendly and loving
Beautiful and temperate
Seeking the things that we have
Calling for us to come to her

We went
She captured us
The flowers and rolling hills
The warm sun and the cool rains
Her outward beauty
Showing the true beauty within her people
And still she called to us
With her pleas for the knowledge of Truth
We were desperate to return

She stood as a mountain in the distance
We began our trek
We climbed
And crawled
And fell
And continued climbing
Then we found the cruel valley in-between
Mocking us and teasing us
It is so long and deep
And the mountain behind it so high
I turn away
I scold my thoughts for going to her
I avoid reading about her
I am asked about her and I change the subject
And still she lingers on the horizon

Oh, Rwanda!
Will we ever return to you?
Does the path in this valley lead to you?
Our love for you is a thorn
Will we ever see the rose?
We want to be led back to you
Yet you are so far away