I’m writing this post with the intent of explaining why I’m writing this blog. It may turn out long, so bear with me. I’ve been wanting to write about my faith walk for quite some time now. The idea began sometime in the last half of last year (2011) when during conversations with a good friend and accountability parter, I came to realize my faith was becoming stale. James stated in the Bible that (while not necessary for salvation) faith without works is dead… I always took that to mean something more like “if you’re not doing some work, than you’re dead to me,” kind of thing. During that conversation though, I realized that what I want out of my faith is LIFE, rather than stale faith-for-faith’s sake. That verse was stating a fact more than a threat. My friend recommended I start to blog, because I work on the web, and work with WordPress all day long. It would be a natural and “easy” way to start “giving back.”
That terminology I picked up while being involved in “Celebrate Recovery,” an awesome ministry that helps those with “hurts, habits, & hangups” find healing and recovery in a safe and loving environment. That sounds like marketing hype, but from my experience, it was fact, and I miss it a ton (the reasons I’m no longer able to be involved in that ministry deserve a few other blog posts). I originally joined that ministry to “help out” and “share my experience” with addiction, but like most who join for that reason, quickly discovered the teaching, system, people and environment were designed and created just for me (or that’s how it feels). There’s something incredibly freeing about sitting around a circle with people who have things much worse than you, (and some better) and talking about your journey.. the good, the bad, the ugly.. everything. Just being able to be honest, and for one or two nights a week, being able to put down the mask that we so diligently maintain for the world to know who we “are.” I like to think that during my time in that ministry that I learned how to put down my mask most of the time, or at the very least maintain a mask that more closely resembles who I really am. I could really go on for books about the impact, and benefits of my time with Celebrate Recovery, but that’s not what this post is about… At least not entirely.
So, the relevance. The 12th step in the 12 step Celebrate Recovery system (heavily borrowed from the AA 12 steps) is that when you have gained some level of recovery, it is time to “give back.” This can translate to nearly anything, but the idea simplified is that your recovery is maintained through a consistent sharing of what works for you to others. This serves as an encouragement to you (because you being able to help others is a way to redeem your past hurts), an encouragement to others (somebody cares/understands/has been there, etc), and is an ingenious way to keep you on a good track. It just works. Except when it doesn’t, because you don’t.
And that’s where I find myself..
So what is prompting me to finally get off of my proverbial ass, and start writing this blog?
I recently read an amazing and well written testimony by an atheist. In the environment I grew up in (the church world), testimony has an extremely churchy sound, but it’s simply a telling of one’s beliefs through his/her story. I’ve been reading a book called “Generation: Ex-Christian,”1 and its premise is to educate believers about why some “believers” have left the faith. Again, my opinion about the book deserves another blog post, but my interest in the last year towards atheists (I DON’T believe), agnostics (I don’t CARE to believe), and leavers (I’m DONE with church) has really increased. It directly corresponds to making the move about a year ago from being involved in a lot of ministry roles, to now being 100% immersed in an analytically heavy technical world. Celebrate Recovery and church in general have given me a ton of tools, but very few to help me deal with these issues. All that to say, I wanted to read Mark Jaquith’s2 post about how he came to be an atheist after growing up in church, so that I could hear a real, first-hand experience. To be absolutely transparent, it rocked my world, and shook my faith. He asks some very hard-hitting questions, and is speaking from an honest first-hand viewpoint, not some book-level argument for why evolution exists, etc. He lays out some of the questions that he presented to God & others that he was never given satisfactory answers for, and a few are the same questions I’ve received unsatisfactory answers for my whole life growing up in church.
So what does that have to with this blog, and this post? I wrestled with some doubts and questions for a couple days (still am to some degree), and half-expected God to form a message in the sky that resembled something like, “I love you, and here’s all the answers to your questions.. Don’t listen to that jerk.” But as is a common theme in the Bible, and in other believer’s testimonies, God rarely (if ever) responds to our doubts, fears, demands, etc the way we want or expect. So what I wanted was answers.
What I got was overwhelming realization that my faith was dying.
Wow, crazy scary words to admit for me a believer who has grown up in church my whole life, participated in all kinds of ministries, and seen so many lives changed in incredible (and yes, even miraculous) ways. It hit me like a pretty hefty bag of bricks while talking with that same friend/accountability partner some six months later that my faith was dying because I wasn’t DOING anything about it. There was no “giving back.” No “letting my light shine.” So it was then that I resolved to do something about it, and it wasn’t even a week later that it became obvious that this blog was one of the things I needed to do.
So this post is most definitely not a “response” of any kind to Mark’s post, and I hope any who are reading this, who have also read his don’t think that. This is just the first step of what I plan on being a very long walk. Will I write a response to Mark’s post? Maybe.. (I have a whole blog to fill) but it won’t be a typical response post.. It will be me on my own “working out my salvation with fear and trembling.”3
So that’s the theme. I’ll be writing about my journey.. the good, the bad, the ugly, and often, the very personal.
So please be gentle. :)
Links and Resources
- http://www.amazon.com/Generation-Ex-Christian-Adults-Leaving-ebook/ I recommend this book, if for no other reason, to gain more empathy for why people leave the church.
- http://txfx.net/2012/01/09/why-i-am-an-atheist/ (Warning: this post WILL shake your faith. Decide for yourself it that is a good or a bad thing.)
I wish you all the best on your journey! No matter where you end up, I’m certain that if you approach it with a spirit of open and honest exploration, you’ll be better for having taken it.
Dude, same to you. I very much appreciated your post, and your openness and honesty as well. Thanks for posting, and in return for reading.
And next time, you’ll have to try harder to offend me. :P
Yeah, that was mostly to scare off the über-fundies. :-) Which it mostly did.
Great first blog Justin! Seeking answers is what its about… not defining the answers or asking for things to come to us as we think the should. Its an amazing journey….. embrace it with an open and honest approach… remembering knowing the truth is what will make you free! :)