Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Dear Faith-Shifter (Epistolary Wednesday)

Dear Faith-Shifter,

You hold such a tender place in my heart, you who once felt that everything was sure, you who once felt certain of God and religion, of church and ritual and the blackness and whiteness of rightness and wrongness, goodness and badness. I shifted many years ago and continue to shift—not away from God—but away from some of the certainties of my youth, away from the coded language of a larger religious identity that was shared by a group of people I love to this day. I shifted because too many things felt wrong about our Way of Being. And so much of that Way hung on me like an ill-fitting garment; and, there was too much jargon that those outside our tribe could not understand.

I will always love the Church (of course I love it—I’m one of its pastors); I will always love the way the Spirit has of speaking and moving and wooing us. I will love the Bible, its complexity and mysteriousness and truths-held-in-tension-ness.  But when we love so deeply, Faith Shifter, and are simultaneously so at odds with pieces of the tradition of our forefathers, or at odds with the ways the timeless has been trapped in the temporal, with the distorted expressions of the Love of God, and when we’re in search of some fresh way to express faith, questions, and mystery--it can lead us to loneliness. We belong and we don’t belong. We believe and we don’t believe (certain things). We wonder when no one else wonders. And we wonder if we are the only ones observing as if through a window the party we've long been invited to attend.

I was reminded in my reading this week of how, when we shift, the increased distance we feel from those who were once (or still are) our tribe often extends to a loneliness toward God. When we shift, it may seem that God shifts too. I have felt a distance, yes, over many years and winters and questions, that perhaps stemmed from the belief that Once We Lose Our Faith in God or God’s Church or God's Church's Answers, then so has God in us. But, if I could, I would spare you the necessity of this Distance, dear one. To assert that God has lost his love or faith in us is to assert that God is as splintered and confused and fragmented as my own (in seasons) battered heart. I have come to find out, after and even in the shifting, that God wasn’t far, not even as far as the snowflakes drifting three inches from my December window. No, he was on the inside of the pane, in my breath blown upon it, in the lungs that exhaled all my questions.

***Heather Weber is the author of Dear Boy,: An Epistolary Memoir

"Dear Boy, is a brilliant and unusual memoir of distance and absence--the absence of a beloved brother from his sister's life and the absence of healthy mothering that, over the years, drove brother and sister apart. Weber deftly shifts point of view so that, piece by piece, readers gather the sum of confusion and loss. Yet there is so much love and forgiveness in the narrator that, in a way, each character is redeemed. I'm moved by this life, this telling of it." --Fleda Brown, author of Driving with Dvorak.