This post is dedicated to my friend Gemma, who- unknowingly, I’m sure- made me ask myself honest questions. Thanks for keeping it real Pops.
Right before I went on vacation I was texting back and forth with one of my favorite friends and she mentioned that she was excited for me to have some time on my vacation to regain my “thoughts and faith.”
Hmmmm, I thought. Faith. What would I say about my faith right now?
A part of me really resented that question because I had no words, but I didn’t like anything that seemed to indicate that I had lost my faith. So, I decided not to think about it anymore and went on vacation with my brother Daniel.
In two weeks we went to three cities.
In Washington DC I was tired. Soul deep tired, the kind that knocks you out at night like a tranquilizer dart shot into an elephant. I slept a lot. Then, in the National Air and Space Museum my brother and I watched a planetarium show about dark matter, and my mind and heart couldn’t help but sing- God, God, God. The force that holds the universe together, beyond what we can explain, God.
In New York City I was overwhelmed. The crush and mania of humanity loomed in my mind with the possibility of tragic stories. I tried to turn my brain off, but I couldn’t. And then there was a beautiful day when we wandered into St. Paul’s Chapel near Ground Zero, expecting to see the memorials and notes left for rescuers and family members gone, expecting to feel the emptiness of loss again... Instead, oh instead, what we found was beauty, pure beauty, an eighteen piece orchestra with a chorus of twenty voices singing the words of Bach:
The Savior knows His own indeed,
When their hope lies helpless.
When flesh and spirit battle each other,
Then He Himself stands at their side,
So that faith triumphs in the end.
-From the second aria in Bach’s Cantata BWV 109
In Boston I was safe, loved, and cared for and my favorite person was there. While I sat in the quiet of a rainy morning with my hands curled around a cup of coffee that said favorite person had made for me, I finally let myself honestly think about Faith.
Have I "lost" my faith? It was a loud question in my mind.
And then the honest answer.
Honestly, no, I have not.
I do believe in the creator God, mostly because of the mysteries and patterns that I see all around and the all things that I cannot explain. I do believe in Jesus, because He did not do what His followers expected Him to do, and because- when I practice His teachings- MORE unexpected things happen and things really do change. And I do believe in the Holy Spirit, who seems to fill this world like dark matter, holding things together inexplicably and taking up my own void silently and softly. Those three things have not moved in this time of sifting and shaking.
However, after facing such a deep loss with my family, there are chunks of my Faith that are missing because I don’t know how to describe them, and I don’t know how they fit into the Truth of what we are experiencing.
It’s hard for me to use the word Hope, and it’s hard for me to talk about miracles.
And yes, these two are deeply connected and deeply disappointing, because I always have described myself as a “hopeful” person and I always have carried the belief that miracles can and do happen. Which is why, when the news came that my nieces had been born, I didn’t even have to think twice about it, because of course there would be a miracle story and of course it would spread hope to us all.
When Gwen and Fiona died, there was just ________. Nothing. There was no Hope in those moments, and no miracle.
I know that the theologians amongst you are gently shaking your heads, because we live in a “now and not yet” Kingdom of God, and because we are still waiting for the day when there are no more tears or sorrow. Also because our "Hope is in Him" and not in events happening the way we want them too. I “know” all of that.
But there is a difference between “knowing” and knowing.
In the spaces where my faith about Hope and miracles used to be, there is now a burning fire. This is probably what the grief experts call Anger, and they say it is a stage, but for me it is a slowly rising flicker that curls higher and higher. Swirling around like ashes are the words disappointment, disillusionment, sadness, and fear. And I think that the flames are feeding off of my deepest misconceptions about God. Like a rubbish heap in Tijuana, or the slash and burn of the fields in Peru, or the landfills on the barrier island off of the East Coast that smoldered internally for years- sometimes the ish that has filled our faith must be set ablaze.
At least, those were the images that filled my mind that morning in Boston.
So, I prayed then, feet huddled in close, watching the rain outside, and I asked God to fill the holes in my faith with a holy fire. Like the color in the autumn leaves, like the tongues that descended upon the heads of those gathered in the upper room, and like the pillar that led Israel by night, this flame might eventually mean something new- new growth, new life, new places. I'm going to try to be real to that process, and let it take from me what it will.
Such is my Faith now, still here, but full of holes and burning.