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?