Apologies! I know I'm three days late with this post. Goes to show that my idea that "I'll have lots of time to blog during vacation" didn't pan out. There was the bad Internet, that bout of food poisoning and general exhaustion after a day of too much fun ... :P
But here I am, finally closing my long-running blog series, My Shifting Faith, which is inspired by Kathy Escobar's book, Faith Shift (which you should so get, of course).
My series covered the stages of faith that she describes in her book: Believing, Learning, Doing, Shifting, Unravelling, Returning and now, Rebuilding. (Do have a read at the past posts if you haven't.)
Kathy describes the rebuilding stage this way in the post, Rebuilding: Finding life again: "After the grief, blood, guts, release, shedding, wrestling, the lighter load, comes a season where we might be ready for rebuilding something new. We want a more integrated faith experience guided by freedom, mystery, and diversity."
JOY & PEACE
I enter this stage after another disappointing church experience, but I am not enraged this time. Rather, I am resigned.
There's a wonderful peace in that; you accept that you can't really change things. But the best thing out of Rebuilding is that I now have a quiet and increasingly happy acceptance of who I am.
If there's a message God is trying to give me this season it is this: "You have, for so long, disliked how I created you. Now I'm going to show you what a fantastic work of art you are."
It's as wonderful as it sounds, and God has been very generous. He first affirmed me through church prophets, and then led me to pivotal books that opened my eyes to my nature and helped me understand why I'm the way I am. (I found it endearing that He "covered all the bases" by first introducing me to a faith-based book - Prophets Arise - and then to appeal to my scientific and logical side, led me to a book rooted in psychology and neurology, The Gifted Adult. He knew just how much of information I needed to be convinced!).
Yeah, I'm starting to think I'm pretty awesome too!
I also realised, with quite a bit of joy and a "yeah, duh" that I don't care a hoot what people think about my faith journey anymore.
SAD & LONELY
Still, in the midst of this season of exploration and discovery is a deep sadness for things that I've lost - my faith innocence, maybe. Friends, most definitely. Community, especially.
The loneliness hits you hard, sometimes.
I watch with envy those who enjoy the love and support of their churchmates and wonder - will I one day find a community of my own?
Yet, I'm now redefining my idea of a community - need it necessarily be a community where everyone has the same beliefs? Might I do better in a community that is not rooted in religion, but perhaps in creativity or science?
Although I'm in a gut-wrenchingly lonely phase of my faith, I'm glad I don't feel as if I'm cut off from God.
COMFORTED & GRATEFUL
Yes, I often have "why won't you just be straight with me" conversations with God, but I've fallen more in love with Him because He has shown me how good and kind He is -- I can't even fathom the depth of His love.
Again, I am eternally grateful for that 5-year period in my Learning stage where I could not attend church. What a wonderful thing not to be distracted by the affairs of the church but to only have God to obsess over!
In a way, Rebuilding is both exciting and scary as I'm exploring all kinds of ways to do things I once thought was cemented in stone.
For example, I want to badly impact the world with the talent and gifts that God has blessed me with but now realise perhaps it is not suited within the confines of the church but out there in the messy world.
It makes sense to me right now. If we are to be the salt of the earth, wouldn't it make more sense to leave the salt shaker than stay in it?
The only thing I don't like about this stage is how topsy-turvy it feels. Kathy has a pretty interesting graph to illustrate the stages of faith, and the Rebuilding stage is like a doodle drawn by a drunk artist.
Up down, sideways - my emotions are everywhere these days. One day I'm crying over my lousy church and relationships record. The next day I'm smiling because God led me to a sermon which answered every lament I had poured out to Him. Electrifying experiences like these are so awesome.
So I plod on. I'm signing up for art classes. I'm writing many books. I'm joining communities online and hanging out more with people outside the church. I'm living life.
It's all good.
Thank you for sticking with me throughout the My Shifting Faith series. It has been a really cathartic to write my story and I hope it inspires you to reflect on your faith journey too. What stage of the faith journey do you think you're at? Share below, I'm happy to hear from you.
PS: Photo by Neil Kumar