I don’t write very much about faith on this blog.
My last blog was nothing but, chronicling a spiritual journey started in the trenches of homesickness freshman year of college, following through to the life and death of Selah three years ago. The writing was irregular but passionate, honest. Words from a woman who stood firm in convictions even as she muddled along in faith.
Every now and then the ‘facebook memories’ feature will toss up an old post and sometimes, if I have the courage, I’ll click the link and rediscover the woman I was 2, 5, 8 years ago. Perhaps you know the feeling: equal parts connection and distance with your former self while you look at photos or read an old post written by younger you. Sometimes I feel embarrassed by my sincerity, annoyed by my enthusiasm or confidence or certainty. And then sometimes I’m surprised to find I haven’t changed that much at all – the same questions and doubts have been winding in and out of my writing for nearly a decade now and I’m no closer to answers or certainty now than I was then.
In those early years I struggled with the questions but still trusted and hoped in the goodness and love of God. I was leaning out, trying to get some perspective, but still mostly at home in the theology and language and practices of my childhood faith. And now? I don’t know how to go back to what was, but I miss the comfort of that faith. I miss the communion and community. I miss the knowing.
Lately I’m stuck on this question of who (what?) God is.
[As I sit here staring for many long minutes at the blinking cursor I’m realizing I don’t yet have the courage to share with the internet all my deepest doubts, or even what this particular one feels like, but perhaps we can chat, just the two of us sometime over email or skype or a mug of tea?]
This question looms large and weighty as the twins grow older. I want to protect them from the dark pain of the world and also from the dark pain in my own heart. I want to teach them the rhythms of this christian community, but I want to shield them from the dogma and protect them from the baggage. And my baggage.
But how do you explain that to a child? How do you teach a child to pray or study or think about God? Is it possible to dance in the mystery of it without taking advantage of their wholehearted trust that whatever we tell them is the truest way to see the world? I am so timid in my parenting around faith. Even reading from their storybook bible feels like a loaded gun. We have the one that everyone raves about, the one where everything points back to Jesus. And yet. The genocide. The rape and patriarchy and slavery and abuse. How many years of reading these stories will it take before my children spin off into their own doubt, wondering if it’s okay to question, puzzled at how everybody else has made peace with these terrifying and sordid details of our faith history?
And yet. I do believe in an ultimate Love. A way beyond the darkness, a lifting of the veil. I want to give them an imagination for God. For all that God is in the infinite universe and the infinite microcosm. For all that they were called out of the void and into this life to be.
[Typing those words I still wince, waiting for the doctrine smack-down that will surely come from some zealous friend or family member. But this too, is a step. A year ago I still believed it was God who would delight in smiting me for my less-than-orthodox view of God-self. Progress! Grace!]
More than anything, I want to deal honestly with my doubts. I don’t want us to be the family who sweeps the mess under the rug. I want us to be the family that has to wash their feet together every night because the grit is stuck to every one of us, tracked into the farthest corner of our home. I want us to muddy up that bath water, splashing and laughing and stepping on toes, watching the grime swirl down the drain before we climb into our big bed and cuddle and dream about what tomorrow might bring and how we can be for one another in it.
Whenever a little voice reaches across the hall at 2am (a blessedly infrequent occurrence these days!) and one of us stumbles into the dark towards the outstretched arms, scooping up a feverish or pee-soaked toddler to bring back to sleep with us, I remember what it was like to be that little one. I can still feel that dark eternity, alone and scared in my own room, not wanting to annoy my mom and dad but terrified about a dream or a noise or simply because I didn’t want to be alone. And I can still feel the instant safety and peace they brought to my little bedroom simply by being in it, tucking me back down beneath the quilts and covers, squatting beside me to wipe away tears.
And now I am that parent. That dispenser of 2am calm and comfort. How can this be?
Our bedroom, the comforting place for R&E, is unremarkable. There’s nothing on the walls. No headboard, just mismatched side tables with lopsided lampshades and piles of bills and books and crumpled up tissues. Everything left on a nightstand by morning will be dragged out to some corner of the house at the hands of curious toddlers who are especially fond of my disgusting teeth grind guard. All of our furniture is pushed up against one wall to make room for the parade of laundry baskets that run from the door to the foot of our bed. And if you climb into bed with any momentum, you’ll send the whole thing sliding across the floor, dragging clothes and shoes and heaps of toys with it.
This is not a bedroom I will look back on with any fondness. Except. Except for these snuggles and hide-n-seek games and the giggles that turn a cruel 5:30 wake up into a balm for my weary soul. I am safe, my truest fullest self, when I am nestled in my bed with my family. I hope they will remember this safe space too. The way their toes warmed when they shoved those little icicles underneath mama’s mighty thighs while they nursed. I hope they will remember how their Papa obliged every request for “shawies”, bringing all sorts of impressive shadow puppets to life on the ceiling. I hope they will remember what it felt like to be safe and known and loved.
I think I’m trying to find my big bed of faith. The place where I can retreat and warm and rest and wonder. The room where I can bring and make my mess and still be folded into the arms of love. The space where love is the first and only rule and if you are, then you are enough.
Holy week is always hard for us. For me. It reminds me of all I have not figured out in this year of faith. But maybe that is the whole point. A reminder of all I cannot do. A reminder of all that I long for. A reminder of all that can be. A reminder of the love that abides.
Peace be with you all this week, whatever your Easter longings. May you have people around you who are not afraid of big uncomfortable questions. May they lean in and embrace the mystery and absurdity of stumbling forward in a faith tradition that celebrates a God-man coming back to life. May you find hope together, and share it.