Leaving Religion to Find FaithBy
My pastor committed suicide a few months ago. Life isn’t supposed to work like that. Pastors have it all together we assume. Even though, having been one, I know they don’t.
The devastation to his family and friends was indescribable. We found out later he had struggled intensely with depression over the previous months. He’d been on an extended leave and we were told at the time only that he was “working through some things” and we weren’t to call or email him.
In the aftermath, the official church stance sounded a lot to me like God had failed. God had created Jamie the way he was. He hadn’t healed him when we prayed. He hadn’t protected him when he needed it most. And now this.
I rebelled against that position. But then I’ve chafed under official authority most of my life so that wasn’t brand new.
I checked out of church to clear my thinking. Ask some hard questions. “If God is all powerful why did this happen? If God didn’t fail then what went wrong? Do we and God really have no power over depression if it’s simply a chemical imbalance or congenital defect?”
And I asked, “What should my response have been? What could I have done differently?”
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m still sorting through it.
Sunday mornings, right now, instead of going to a worship service I spend in our sunroom. I listen to some worship music and enjoy a cup of coffee, actually many. Sitting on the love seat I gaze out through the French doors at the beautiful garden God and my wife created. I pray, think, write and read. With our youngest cat curled up at my feet, unfortunately biting my toes, I think, “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
I’m not boycotting the church. Just at this point it feels right for me. And I’m resolving the issues in my mind and finding healing.
I’m convinced that many people who are turned off to organized religion are not turned off to true spirituality.
I believe in each of us there’s a yearning to connect with something greater than ourselves. We want meaning for our lives beyond our daily existence.
Yet, so often religion drives me away from God. The rituals seem to have meaning to others but not to me. The politics turn me off. I feel like an outsider looking in. I leave empty.
I read a great book recently, Blue Like Jazz, written by Don Miller. It resonated with me. The subtitle states what my journey of late has been about, “Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.”
There’s a passage in the bible that describes that. Seems odd doesn’t it?
Paul writes, “They act religious but reject the power.” And he goes on, “But true godliness with peace gives great gain.”
What’s the difference between powerless religion and powerful spirituality?
Here’s what I’ve found over the last few months.
I still believe in God’s unimaginable power. I don’t know all that failed with Jamie but it wasn’t God. God has the power to heal. He has the power to protect. I’ve seen it happen too many times in miraculous ways not to believe. Somehow we failed. But God didn’t.
Second, it’s ok to question God and our faith. It means it’s important to us. Questioning is not the opposite of faith. Ignoring and not caring is the opposite. I’ve prayed many times like the man in the story with Jesus, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
Third, during the time Jamie was on leave I felt several times led to call him. He likes working on cars and I wanted to invite him to our house to have a beer and work on the hot rods. Yet, I honored what was communicated. I’ve decided I won’t be so proper again. I’ll connect in love where I feel led even when not exactly socially correct. Won’t be the first time I’ve been accused of that.
Finally, I realize God is still there. He will bring healing eventually to his family and friends. He will bring wisdom to the church. And the good news? I’ll see Jamie again. When I do? I’ll tell him, “I’m sorry.”
And the result of all this?
I feel as close to God as I ever have. I’ve had a wonderful time of growing that came out of this horrible circumstance.
My faith is stronger than ever.
I have comfort I’ll see my friend again.
As for going to church? I’ll probably get involved again, somewhere, eventually. Yet, right now I’m enjoying Sunday mornings so much it’s hard to imagine going back.
What about you? Have you struggled with religion? Yet, do you yearn for true spirituality? What have you found?
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