“Sometimes God calls a person to unbelief in order that

faith may take new forms.”

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

 

I remember the day I stopped believing.

I see that day now for what it was: a doorway. Nothing would ever be the same for me having passed that threshold.

I thank God every day for leading me to that place. I thank God every day for giving me the courage to do what I had never yet done. For the first time, I doubted him.

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I am not a risk-taker. I am a play-it-safe, keep-within-the-lines, follow-the-rules kind of girl. Growing up, they told me God is Love, and I believed them. And then I followed the rules.

Church on Sunday.

Read your Bible daily.

Be good.

Rules which added up in my mind to this: you’ve been bought for a price so now live like you can make it up to him.

But, of course, we can never do that.

Which is why he never asked us to.

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I stood in church one Sunday and sang some song about God’s love. I was in pain, I saw no evidence that God had noticed, so I stopped singing the song. I no longer believed in a God equals Love. I no longer believed that this Love saw me.

Here is the thing about unbelief: it is like a fire. It burns away the truth, yes, but it also burns away the lies.

What is left is a heart like a dead, blackened field.

In other words, what is left is the perfect ground for new life.

***

I do not want to idolize unbelief, no more than I would want to idolize certainty. All I want is to say: Do not be afraid.

On the days when you believe, the days when God is near, do not be afraid. Do not imagine it is up to you to keep the feeling going, like a bicycle that might disappear the moment you become too exhausted to keep peddling.

And on the days when you cannot summon belief, on the days when God is a void, do not be afraid. These days are dark, they may be painful, but they, too, can be a gift.

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Which came first, my love for God or his love for me? Before I stepped through the door of this day, I’m not sure I could have answered the question. My view of divine love was a mixed-up mess of lessons I’d been taught, songs I had sung, parents who loved well, and my own lonely efforts to be a good person.

Maybe that has been the greatest gift of unbelief. Embracing it, I let go of everything I thought made me lovable.

And then Love found me.

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“We love because he first loved us.”

(I John 4:19)

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