tension and balance

It’s funny. I set out to create a blog where one of it’s facets existed where I examined my faith openly. Somewhere along the way, I closed off that aspect of my life here. It’s easier to keep the difficult parts of our life out of the view of the ‘public’ eye, right? I mean, I create a certain persona that I want to convey to people that don’t really know me well and even to those that do know me pretty well. I wrestle between this tension of my blog being a ‘happy place’ to share accomplishments, crafts, recipes, etc and a place to be real. But how real do you get on a blog? How far can you go? I know that is personally up to the writer of the blog, but that just places the weight on my own head. Do I want to be real with people? So here we go.

The last couple of years have been difficult on my faith. Life has grown increasingly more complex and with it, so have the uncertainties that I face. I know I have expressed my doubt here before and that my word for the year is belief, but it’s been hard for me to continue to publicly talk about my faith. I wrestle with so many concepts that are partly from my American upbringing, and partly from my misunderstanding of who God is. I have a hard time reconciling the wrathful, judging God that I read about in the Old Testament to the ‘love your enemies’, ‘turn the other cheek’ Jesus. How can God embody both wrath and love? Why does Jesus needs to save us from the God that created us (I know the easy answer is sin)? Why did God even bother creating us when he is in perfect community with himself as the trinity? Why pray when God is omnipotent? Can prayer change God’s heart even though he already knows the future? And don’t even get me started on predestination and the elect! It seems the more I examine my faith and doubt, the more questions arise.

I feel those questions and more so intensely, but also can’t seems to pull away from Christ. There is something so intoxicating about who he was/is – hanging out with children, prostitutes, social outcasts and the unclean, calling sin what it was but still living among it with so much grace. I identify with those broken people so deeply and want his healing presence in my life. I believe that he would accept me even with my doubts and I believe he is so much bigger than I can give him credit for. God is uncomprehendible, right? How could our small brains understand Him?

Really, I know that there aren’t any answers to these questions – at least none that will satisfy the discontent that lurks in my heart. Some days, the questions are not as pressing, some days I feel like God is near and the questions don’t matter any longer – I am small in his greatness. But the days where he feels far? The questions feel suffocating. How do you keep faith alive during those times? Discipline?

I think time will mellow the intensity of some of my doubts. Circumstance too. I will never be able to pull away from faith, no matter how hard I try. I also think that this doubt will stay with me for the rest of my days on this earth. Somewhere, there is a balance that I am trying to achieve between my faith and my doubt but balance is an elusive ever-changing goal.

I do know that I love God even though I don’t completely understand him and I will continue to pursue a greater understanding and living out of this messy faith through laying down my self and loving people. I am so eternally grateful that I am called to love and share instead of to know all and understand all.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on faith from you guys. What have you been encountering in your spiritual life lately?

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7 Comments tension and balance

  1. Jan Rhinehart May 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Brava, Beth! I am proud of you for asking questions and for facing your doubts honestly. In my experience, faith (like love or forgiveness) is a choice. Well, not “A” choice, but a choice we make over and over…and over. Sounds like you have found the same thing. For me, that choice has grown easier with the years and it all has to do with the Faithfulness of the One in whom I place my faith. He has made so many promises and has never broken one of them. That sure makes faith/trust easier. I am glad I have eternity to get to know my Loving Promise Keeper better– I am going to need it:)

  2. Caren May 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    At this moment in my life I am walking through some trials, but no matter what is going on in my life, God is always there. I have found Him to be faithful, even when I am not. It’s not HIS fault things are screwy here on this earth.

  3. Holly May 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I agree with Jan above. It will take eternity for us to completely understand God and there’s no way we will here on Earth. But it’s good to question and good to study. His word is the first place to start. And as we continue to study, meditate and live God’s word, our relationship with him grows. I also agree with you Liz as obedience helps. Always trusting & praising God in the good and bad times. It’s a choice we make every day.

  4. Erin May 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I don’t talk openly often about faith, but since you asked and I love your blog I will. I am NOT a believer in God. I have read the Old Testament and New. I did not grow up with knowledge of religion. I learned more about religion in art school, studying art done by the masters than I had in my own home. I then went onto finish college at a Baptist University (after having to drop out of a different college), because it was the only school within driving distance. I learned a lot about religion while attending that college and it was invaluable. I think it is great knowledge to have.

    I cannot bring myself to go to church when the few churches I have attended were so (what’s a good word) unfaithful. I have had a pastor’s wife spread lies about me, I have had church workers not offer help when it was clearly needed and then asked for, I have seen workers in churches steal. I cannot support organizations that preach one thing and I have clearly seen another bred in those very walls.

    I do believe that people want to be loved and that if they feel love, they will give love. I believe that people want to feel accepted and that if I show openness and acceptance, I will receive it. I also know that everyone makes mistakes and wants forgiveness. I live my life trying to stay honest, giving my love freely, accepting others and their faults because I know I have mine. I also try to forgive those who ask for it. (Still working on forgiveness for some) I don’t think that one needs religion to have faith. I believe that they are two completely different entities, that at times, can be combined. I, however have faith, but not religion in my heart.

    I hope you find peace with your faith and live with your heart.

  5. Rachael B May 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I wish I had some words of encouragement to share with you, Liz, only that I struggle/have struggled with these same questions. Maybe it stems from our love of learning and being sure of things, or perhaps it goes much deeper. Do you ever think that maybe our belief in God is the most valuable thing we have, something you want to protect and understand and hold onto no matter what? Which is why it can be so troubling when faced with contradictions to who Jesus is and what the Bible teaches? If Jesus really is who he says he is, then there is NOTHING more valuable. Sometimes the grace the Bible talks about seems too good to be true, because nowhere on earth do we find this kind of grace, even, sadly, with those we love most. What helps me is believing that even the tiniest bit of faith can be used by God to grow into something we never would have expected. Sometimes that’s all I can cling to.

  6. JP May 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Let me start by saying I am a Christian. I am also an unperfect human being who stumbles and has issues like everyone else. I feel so trememndously upset that other believers have made Erin and any others reading this post stumble upon their faith in the One person who truly does love us unconditionally. I think as humans it is hard to understand a love that great. The best way I can relate to God is to think of Him truly as a parent. When you ask how He can be wrathful in the Old Testament and “turn the other cheek” in the New Testament, the best way I can relate is by thinking of my own children. I do not punish them because I am mad or being hateful, I punish them so they will learn from their mistakes and in future when faced with the same situation, maybe they will make a better choice next time. I have not always been a perfect Christian. In fact, I did not attend church for almost 10 years because of the same hypocrisy I found in a local church…then, I learned that when I had lost everything else-my home, my “friends”, even some of my family, and was clinging to my own existence by a thread, I cried out to Him for help–literally..I didn’t know what else to do…He was my only hope…He saved me then, and He saves me daily. My favorite verse is “Be still and know that I am God”. I don’t pretend to understand all the who’s and why’s and what for’s, I don’t pretend not to make mistakes, but I try daily to live as He wants me to and to be one of the good examples of my Faith, instead of the bad. Unfortunately there is good and bad in everything including some churches, but I can choose to live by my faith and try to be the example of love that I feel from Him…Remember…When you’re down to nothing, He is up to something. I hope this helps…

  7. Jenny June 7, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Hey Liz,
    So brave of you to share your struggles with faith. It has only been recently in the last few years that I have admitted to myself and a few close friends that I no longer identify and believe in the Christian faith. This was a long process and took lots of questioning like you did. Having lived in other parts of the world and meeting so many wonderful people on this earth, I just don’t believe in a man made religion. However, I am happy for those that find comfort and live better lives because of the religion they believe in. I respect it. What I found about myself, was that nothing was ‘missing’ in my life and I did not have this ‘need’ that many people who practice religion do. I find that I live a happy and heather life, with a decent moral compass without the practice of religion. I am in no ways perfect either. I began to look at Christianity from a completely different perspective, the same perspective as I do when I think about the other religions in this world. I still feel a presence of god when I am in a church, but I found that presence to be there in other sacred places as well. The only thing I do miss from religion is the community that it brings together. I am sometimes envious of that. And, looking back, I realized, when I was going to church, I was going for the people, not for the religion. Anyway, I am happy to be honest with myself. I don’t talk about it much because I don’t want to offend anyone else beliefs. Good luck on your journey. You will find what is right for you.

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