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Something is very gently,
pulling at me—a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven’t tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.
Source: Poems 1960-1967
I say it often and all the time – my faith is messier than most. And rather than make my faith seem like a laud of glories to God, my faith is more like a string of letters across the page when holding down the “shift” key on my laptop (#@!&*^) to be more truthful.
I do not write much anymore because of fear and laziness. There is much to write about – major life transitions of work and location – but I don’t feel much like being honest with people (since God already knows the truth).
I spend my days seeking certainty and clarity with an addictive bent, only to find that my faith must rest in trusting God more than the vicissitudes of certainty and clarity. I suck at trusting…God and most people.
I like Jesus though; he was unconventional, loving in spite of the odds, compassionate, disturbing, earthy, and human. That last part is more important to me sometimes than any other aspect of Jesus of Nazareth. I pray to Jesus a lot, but honestly, I am not comfortable with most anthropomorphizing of God and what ‘Churchianity’ has done to him. I know and confess Jesus as Lord but find the Church and most of the people in it to be more my adversaries than my family. I suffer from a bad case of Defiance, so I’m not so hot on religious rules and most spiritual do’s and don’ts. I love the rituals of Catholic Mass but find the boredom of religiosity and fundamentalism (catholic and Protestant) a boorish pain in my butt.
I find I’d cuss more in my writings if it wasn’t for the sweet and respectful love I have for my Catholic ‘Nana’ who acts as a grandmotherly editor in my blogs (Thanks Leona).
I have found that the spiritual principles of the 12 Step fellowships have afforded me the chance at a second chance, not only in finding recovery, but also in knowing and loving God as God is, not as all the voices and histories from my past dictate.
I say functional atheists because I profess with my tongue a certain faith – a deep longing for and love of God to be precise – but my actions speak more loudly to a lack of belief in a loving God Who pines for me and has me in his heart and hands. I say I trust. But I live in fear. I say God hears my prayers, but inwardly I dwell on doubt.
I am just being honest, words flowing from a softer, darker part of my heart, where perfection and false piety is no match for the towering warriors of truth and freedom.
These days grace is the place where my infidelity meets God’s fidelity. I still believe, so no panicking, but I flesh out my faith more as a functional atheist than someone who has been on a 25 year plus intentional journey and love affair with God. But today, that is where I am; that is my place of truth. And the truth I am told will set me free.
A Post Script: I came across this quote about “Practical Atheism” as defined by the Episcopal priest Eugene Sutton. He defined ‘practical atheism’ as “professing belief in God, but not acting in a way that makes it evident that one actually believes in God.” So, I’m not the only one who struggles with this and ponders it often. NC
Rainer Maria Rilke said, in one of my favorite books ever Letters to a Young Poet:
I want to beg you as much as you can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living; train yourself to it—but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your innermost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.
Jean Vanier, Founder of the faith-based L’Arche Communities, said about CHANGE in his great book Becoming Human that:
Change of one sort or another is the essence of life, so there will always be the loneliness and insecurity that come with change. When we refuse to accept that loneliness and insecurity are part of life, when we refuse to accept that they are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves; our lives become lessened…. Life evolves; change is constant.