Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quakes of Faith

Warning: Totally serious stuff ahead.

I saw the photo of the Japanese house floating in the Pacific Ocean yesterday and it stirred up all sorts of emotions within me but most of all the kinship of being bereft, drifting alone in a wide, deep expanse, unsure of where you're being guided.

Over the past five years I've suffered many quakes of faith, pondering various natural disasters and other horrifying events that shook me to my core and felt like they created fault lines in my soul and tore away at the foundation of my beliefs.

I used to have a slightly easier faith, a half-comfortable, if somewhat tenuous trust in the mystery of existence. I wasn't sure about the nature of Heaven or whether or not there was one, but I felt pretty sure that each one of us and every event was a singular note playing out in the most beautiful symphony ever created and that, as is typical of a symphony, certain notes might be particularly harsh if singled out, but once heard in the context of the whole song there would be the realization that it was exactly the right note at exactly the right moment.

As I've grown older, more skeptical and, yes, even more cynical, I've found that I've lost even that trust and I miss it dearly. I envy people their faith and trust in a God. I am not convinced there is a God (and you probably have no idea how much the idea that there is not one saddens me), and if there is, the events over the past several years make me question what sort of God might exist. Not in a rhetorical way, but a literal way:

What sort of God is it that allows for destruction and pain on such a mass scale? Or is it even something God allows? If God is out there, is he more of a scientist, setting up the environment just so and then letting things run their course? Or is he the watchmaker, setting things in motion and occasionally making small adjustments? Or does he have his hand in every moment, orchestrating and twisting strings like a puppetmaster? All of these Gods have incredibly scary aspects to them and sound quite a bit different from the God I grew up with. It's easy to have faith in things when you're little because everything is SO big. Parents are veritable monoliths, Santa Clause loves cookies and bad men wear dark masks. In my life, age has been the enemy of faith. It's the thing that revealed my parents for the human people they are, complete with faults, showed Santa Clause to be nothing more than a fat guy working at the mall once a year and revealed that more often than not, the bad guys are particularly charming people wearing very beautiful clothing.

I will never forget when I found out that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy weren't real. My next question was: "How old do I have to be before you tell me that God isn't real?" See I truly believed that at a certain age, my parents would sit me down and tell me that God wasn't real, too. And maybe that is part of the crux of my problem. Somehow, God got lumped in with Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. But is that really surprising?

I often wonder how the survivors of terrible disasters feel about their faith, whether it crumbled or was built up stronger? What are the percentages? It is hard to look at the image of a woman grasping her dead mother's hand protruding from the mud under which she is buried and not try to place myself in her shoes? If I *am* able to take a step back and wonder if there is a big picture, if we have reached a particularly powerful moment in a symphony not meant for our earthly ears to hear, it is only because I am far removed from Japan, from Haiti, from 9/11. Because if I was there, if that was me kneeling in the mud holding my mom's darkening hand, I don't think I could see beyond the harsh, flat note of cruelty. How could I possibly make sense of that or ever be okay with that if it were my own mother? The grief would be unbearable in the senselessness of it all.

Of all things I could ever hope for, it's the desire for trust and faith in a God that my heart most desires; some strong, unbreakable foundation that I could rely on, that could provide comfort. I have fought for years. Years and years and years and I haven't found an answer that satisfies me. I wish I could. I have read everything I can get my hands on in the spiritual arena. I still do. I have studied the tenets of various religions. I have sought out spiritual leaders multiple times and have listened to what they have to say. I have fought and continue to fight for faith and belief with all my heart. I still pray every night. But the only thing I have found is that I suck at faith and belief, that the only thing faithful about me is my continued search to find faith. In something.


  1. HEy sweet friend :) I feel, we only see those times he allows things to happen. We don't have the pleasure of seeing the things he has prevented. I do believe He has stopped and protected more on this world than we can ever imagine. We wanted free will and he gave it. That means we get this world freely and all it's furies as well. But I believe His goodness exists 100 times over in ways we never know or see.
    Such a complex world we live it! I love ya sister and I love reading all those thoughts that cycle through your head. You are such an honest soul! xo

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    I came across this blog serendipitously and was honored by your kind and honest voice. I think my past may be similar to yours, in that I too have long searched to regain a foundation of faith I feel I've lost through the years. I can't help but want to suggest a favorite mystic, Julian of Norwich. Just earlier today, I was reading a blog post by a friend of mine, Ellyn, who is something of a Julian scholar. Anyway, I'd like to link you to the article but I'm not sure you can do that in the comments section. Suffice it to say, Julian lived through some of the most horrific suffering in human history -- the plague or "black death" that swept Europe -- and yet, after her mystical revelations, she came to a profoundly comforting conclusion: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and absolutely everything shall be well.”

    I'd love to say more but I feel like I'm rambling at this point.

    Thank you again.


  3. I'll try to post the link to that article on Julian, if you're interested: