Faith?

It’s nearly Easter again.  Lent has passed for another year and for me that it really all that it has done…passed. The three holiest days in my faith tradition end today and while I recognized that they were happening, it was nothing like it was.  I don’t believe that I know what it is like to lose faith completely, but I understand what a lengthy lapse in faith is. I also know that a lapse in faith, a transformation of some sort is absolutely normal after experiencing a life altering event.

During Dave’s illness and death, I clung to my faith.  As I was drowning in losing him and knowing he would die, I remained strong, steadfast and true to my roots.  I prayed for him, with him, with others, on my own, I trusted that this would be survivable.  I felt like his illness was about new life, in a good way, not the way I have actually experienced this new life following his death.  In those early years after he died, I begged God for mercy. I begged God to lessen the pain.  I begged God to wake me from the nightmare that had become my reality. I begged God to bring him back to me.  I surrendered myself. I was able to keep moving, but began to feel more and more abandoned by the God I had worked so hard for and trusted.

As the years go by, I try to hang on to the little miracles that I witnessed along the journey of his illness, death, and my life after his death. They were there. It gets much harder to believe in those miracles though when I didn’t receive the one miracle that I wanted most…his complete cure, recovery and survival…

I will never understand why he died.  I will never understand why my children didn’t get to grow up with their father with them. I will never understand why after so many years of searching for a love that brought me peace, it was ripped away from me.  There are no answers for those whys.  There is no reason for this…no matter what people believe about a “God’s plan”, no matter what I may have believed about “God’s plan.”

My experience of losing him, watching my children lose their father has transformed my beliefs forever.  I am still rocked to the core by the beauty and goodness that surrounds me daily.  Those moments of beauty that are overwhelming and move me in a way I am unable to put into words remind me that there is something bigger than me out there.  I see other people get the miracle I prayed so desperately for…there must be something.  I have also been rocked to my core by heartbreak, sadness, despair and loneliness. I don’t feel that we were unworthy of a miracle…but I don’t cling to faith the way I did when he was sick and died.  I still feel inspired, but it is rarely to the faith life that I knew so well, the faith life that I worked hard to let others see through me.

The best way I can describe it…disconnected.  I watch the church that I belonged to transform, for better or for worse, and I don’t feel like it fits anymore.  My heart is less tolerant of intolerance.  My soul longs for place to belong that doesn’t exclude others for how they look, who they love, or does the judging of character that is God’s job alone.  This land of milk and honey doesn’t come easily though.  Church is filled with people, their bias, their judgment, their intolerance, their need to be superior or have power…just like everywhere else humans exist.  The last bit, that last sentence is really the entire reason I worked in church…I wanted to show others that sinners, broken, hurting, forgiving, hopeful people were on the inside of church.  I have been all of those things and I was there.  I wanted young people to feel compassion, not judgment.  I wanted to show that the most broken could find peace through community.  It wasn’t always my lived experience, but I had experienced it throughout my journey and I wanted to be able to give back as others had given to me.

Here’s the hard part now…I’m not sure that I need to practice an organized faith to be that or experience those things.  I still try to do those things, but from my plain Jane, everyday girl role, not as a minister or representative of a church.  My largest struggle is how this affects my boys.  Unfortunately, only time will tell how they are impacted by my faith journey and choices in practice.  There are moments I feel that I am depriving them of something they deserve and other moments when I feel that I am somehow saving them from heartbreak.  My big boy has seen me in both roles.  He saw me in active ministry.  He saw me catechize, he experienced ritual and community in and through my faith life.  He now claims to be atheist.  At this point in our journey, I am ok with this.  I have enough experience with faith development to let him find his way.  My concern for him…what if I’m not modeling anymore?  What if my lapse in faith has caused his disbelief? Hmmm…

My little one has only really experienced mommy after daddy died.  This mommy went to church (sometimes), prayed, but didn’t catechize him.  His mommy felt betrayed, abandoned and has been searching for a place to belong.  He hasn’t had the experience of ritual, catechesis, and community that his brother had.  He hasn’t been initiated into our faith tradition.  It is his experience that brings me the most pain and guilt.  I wonder how I will share a faith that I often doubt and how this affects his ideas of God, love, permanence and eternity.  I wonder how it affects his grief journey.  I wonder how it will affect him all around…hmmm…

So this Easter, I continue to search.  I look to my heart, my soul, my very being and to God to continue to be open, loving and compassionate.  I hope eternally that my actions won’t ruin the relationship that my children are to have with God.  I hope that beyond practice and tradition, I will continue to experience the love of God and community.  Easter is about new life, that much I still know.  What I didn’t know is how many different ways we can receive new life…now, I do.  I have been transformed.  It is no surprise that my faith life has changed drastically.  The real question for me now is, how and will my faith transcend the change? How will I be different since receiving my new life…this forced life…and if faith will still be present?

A definite work in progress…maybe even a leap of faith?

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9 thoughts on “Faith?

  1. afichereader says:

    This was stated so beautifully and honestly. I’m sorry about your worries about your son’s journey. For what it’s worth, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months, and I find your posts to be suffused with faith and compassion and humanity.

  2. Teri lee says:

    I agree with so much that you have written. Much organized faith is flawed. I have seen ministers that are two-faced.
    Everyone needs a community to ge with others. You need to find one you are comfortable with.
    I do not attend regular services. My daughter is 35 and struggles with belief. She is expecting her first child and wants the child involved with religion but Is undecided on which Church.

  3. Hogan says:

    Religion is not perfect. In the end it should not be used to build a fence around yourself and your family and it is more about people than dogma.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Christine,
    I have been following your website for a long time now but this is my first time to write to you. I lost my husband of thirty years to bile duct cancer in 2006. I always look forward to your postings. You always seem to write just what I feel. But my difference is that my sons were grown when my husband died. I do not know how I would have survived if they were young. But I am sure you see your husband in them every day as I do my sons.
    I, too, continue to struggle with the WHY questions. Why did my husband die 3 months before retirement and why can he not see his grandchildren grow up. I am a nurse and I see bad things happen to good people every day and at times it really challenges my faith. I continue every day to ask God to show me the way and bring me out of my pain. I ask him to return me to comfort and peace but that has not happened. Most things in my life are just distractions. I wonder if I will ever be the person I was before. I know grief is a personal journey but sometimes it seems one of lonliness and isolation. I do occasionally have a few fleeting moments of joy. A friend of mine told me after her husband died she was looking forward to what God has for her in the next chapter of her life. I wish I could be that way but I am afraid to think of the future because I now know we have no control. I continue to walk forward and try to survive. Survival is all I know now.
    I do want to thank you so much for your opening of your heart and allowing me to read it and be part of it. I have to believe that we will make it to the other side and be better for it.

    • cmt says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for reading. I am so, so sorry that your husband died. I so get that feeling of trying to distract myself. For so many years I did that. I think for me, it was kind of a “fake it til you make it” face I wore. Like you, it started with moments of joy and very, very gradually increased…almost as abruptly as my husband’s death had me feeling great sorrow…I realized I was feeling happy and joyful again almost daily. It has been a long journey and the sorrow can still consume me, but my recovery is so much faster. I cannot identify with your friend’s words and feelings…I never looked forward to this new journey…I still don’t really. I think it’s just a balance of sort now. Please be gentle with yourself. Thank you again for reading and leaving me a note. ~Chris

  5. Beth says:

    I can identify with your post. What you say is true for me too. I struggle with my faith and how that struggle will affect my children. Before husband’s sudden death, I was very involved in the church…..teaching,etc. I was even much better at home with helping the kids learn scripture, etc. My late husband was very involved with mission outreach. He died suddenly and unexpectely in front of me and our 10,6 and 9 month old. I have tried to continue to go to church though I can’t handle going to the church that we once belonged to. I struggle with believing that there is a plan. How could this be a better plan? My three children to have their Daddy snatched so suddenly? I find I just feel numb about church and feel that I am just going through the motions……..I want to have strong faith again…….I just don’t know how. Church is one of the hardest places to be for me…….Thanks for writing…..your blog post was helpful to me……

    • cmt says:

      Beth,
      Your words resonate with me. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine such a traumatic moment…for me or my children. Each word you express here, I have felt to my core. I often wonder if it is that deep connection that I used to feel that makes it still so difficult to express my faith through community…I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’m acting like a stubborn child who is mad with a decision my parent has made…taking my husband too early…but then I remember the compassionate side that we are shown of Jesus in scripture. I have always been drawn to the scripture describing Jesus’ reaction to his friend Lazarus’ death…now I know why. Even prior to losing Dave, I was drawn to it. I continue to hope that God truly does understand and act on “blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I have clung to that for years, hoping that God understands my new found apathy. Be gentle with yourself. Thank you for reading. ~Chris

  6. His Sparrow says:

    You have spoken well of your searching and regrouping. Everything changes after we become widowed – including our understanding and relationship with God. It takes time to rebuild and regroup and find the place of peace. You are blessed in your mourning and you give comfort by sharing your heart with others.

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