“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“We love because he first loved us.”
(I John 4:19)
Thank you, Cindy. I am always grateful for your encouraging comments.
My fingers tremble with emotion so that I can barely type. Such depth to this, Christie.
You don’t know how I needed this today. Thank you, my friend. So glad our paths have crossed. So, so glad.
Oh, wow, Kelli. And here I was feeling all ho-hum about this post, today. We never know how God can use our small, simple words, do we? Praying for the encouragement you need today. And, yes, so, so glad our paths are now aligned.
Such a good reminder! Whatever kind of day, don’t be afraid.
Thank you, Aimee. I’ve been thinking of you this week. Hoping we can trade stories in person some day soon.
Our belief or unbelief doesn’t change God does it, Christie? We may have mess we can’t sort out but there is One who see to the heart of the matter. Thank you for this meditation. Love always finds us…
Oh, yes, Love always finds us. So glad you stopped by, Dea!
Stunning prose as always Christie. You know, I had my first experience doubting God last year. I’m not sure if it so much doubt but deep disappointment when my image of Him was shattered and I had find it again. The truth. And actually, the new image is much the same only I’ve discovered a whole new side of him I didn’t even know existed. I guess I would say, I fear Him in a way I hadn’t before. And that gives me peace.
“And then love found me.” This is so powerfully simple. Profound and yet so basic. I went through this a few years ago with a miscarriage. I realized I was believing the lie that I had something valuable to offer the Lord and that made me ‘more lovable.’ Letting go of that is SO hard. I love this post. Happy to have found your blog.
Oh, Andrea, how is it that the worst experiences in our lives can sometimes leave us with such good gifts? I am sorry for your loss but rejoice with you to know Love found you even in that dark place.
Christie, I’m sitting here in the dark, physically and a bit emotionally too, feeling a small shred of relief for these words. I feel like you’ve spoken directly to me with this post today, and that God knew I needed to read it.
I’ve slipped into this place you write about, and it’s all smoldering and thick with smoke. My eyes keep tearing up, and there’s a tightness in my chest that won’t quit. I don’t feel like singing. I’m ripe with doubts. And it’s uncomfortable, and it feels wrong because in my core, I know He’s real and that He hears me, but still–
So anyway. Thank you for this, because I truly needed these words. Love to you, kind friend. You shine a light into the dark, and help me to see.
I hear you, Kris. Since that long ago day of unbelief, I have had more of these “smoky” days you describe – days when I doubt even while I know, deep down. I’m glad my words were what you needed to hear. While I pray He leads you out again soon, I do hope you’re encouraged to know that there’s nothing wrong about where you find yourself. Yes, even these days can be a gift.
Oh, so well said, Christie. This is the truth, the hard, beautiful truth. Thank you for telling it.
Thank you, Diana! I’m always so grateful for your “amens.”
Blackened earth – perfect place for new growth. I saw the reality of that coming out of the Black Forest fire. Within weeks the blackened earth gave way to new green. We were amazed at how fast.
Sue, I remember the same amazement in Chicago. We had a tiny urban prairie near our apartment, and, each spring, the park district would burn it all back. We could hardly believe how quickly fresh green growth appeared. Of course, in Colorado, you’ve seen it on a scale I can only imagine.
Praying the new green continues to emerge and thrive for you and yours!
I feel a kinship here. This was my story. The details are different of course, but the heart of this post is one that I’ve lived. Thank you for wrapping words around some of the most tender parts of my soul. This is a gift.
Thank you, Jennifer. If there’s one thing I cannot get enough of, it’s the crazy, beautiful ways in which God weaves universal stories out of very personal and particular details. God has his ink-stained fingerprints all over our lives, doesn’t he?
Christie, thank you for honesty and this gift. This is strange, but I can’t shake the feeling that your words are like chimes ringing through dark hallways. I, too, love the painful image of the blackened ground where life bursts, for I’ve stood there and seen it and known it myself. Bless you, friend. So glad to be growing in friendship/sisterhood with you.
Oh, me too, Ashley. Friendship is such a gift – even when it’s long (very long!) distance. 🙂
And “chimes ringing through dark hallways”? I love that image. I often pray about the stories I write, and I think you’ve just given new words for my prayer. May it be as you have said.
I’ve been wanting to comment for a week, Christie. Thank you for your bravery, friend. My favorite?
“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.”
This was my story…the journey out of the church and into a fog of questions. How does a good God let THAT happen to a good little girl? I let go of God on the side of a mountain in Switzerland at L’Abri but He held onto me. It took 7 years until I was securely on the side of faith no longer insisting that He mimic my man-made pictures of Him. It took me that long to believe He was good again.
What shocked me was the loneliness. If I could no longer run toward Him, where would I go? It was that longing that led me back to my knees.
You are brave and I love you for it. Thank you.