When I’m not feeling very faith-full

by Kristin on August 28, 2009

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by Kevin Rawlings

“I have to write a ‘faith’ post tonight, and I don’t wanna!” I complained to Jason, as we were settling in for the night. “What am I going to write about? I’m just not feeling very…I don’t know….”

“Faith-full?” Jason asked.

“Yeah. I guess that’s it.”

Maybe some of you haven’t noticed, but I organize my blog posts into three categories: Love, family & community; Culture, ideas & paradigms; and Belief, doubt & hope. I originally decided to go this route as a way to give my otherwise undefinable blog some definition.

One of the side effects, though, from a writer’s standpoint, is that the categories impose some structure and balance when it comes to what I write about. Sometimes that structure is welcomed, other times, not so much. It’s not like I write the posts in any particular order, but if things begin to get lopsided, I notice.

That’s what is happening tonight. It’s time to write a post about my faith, and that isn’t always an easy assignment. As I talked to Jason about some half-baked, not very exciting ideas I had, I eventually admitted that my life, these past few weeks, has generated a perfect storm for back-burnered faith.

“Oh,” I said, that proverbial light bulb flicking on in my mind. “I guess I should write about that.”

Jason smiled and nodded, then opened his book. His work was done.

So that’s what I’m writing about—the struggle to remain close to God. There’s this big chasm that separates us from God. To bridge it (or to even begin to), we have to first be oriented toward it; then we have to be open, and diligent, too.

That’s a tough combination to capture every day. When I’m at a place in my life where my orientation is all askew, and “diligence” strikes me as a foreign word, I’m left with the many ironies of being so very human:

When I’m busy and stressed, I orient myself away from God and his peace.

When I’m out of my routine, I forget about God and his constancy.

When I’m traveling and away from my church community, I lose sight of God and his tangible love.

When I’m overly tired, I close myself off to God’s refreshing, renewing grace.

And even though I’ve been here before, each time it takes me so long to recognize where I am, and to navigate my way home. Does anyone know of a more direct route?

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  • Joi T.

    I think your concluding 4 statements in bold couldn’t be better written. Over and over, for all those reasons, esp. in this crazy world, all “faithful” Christians experience exactly what you have described — empty and somehow distant from God. For me, when I sense that lost-without-a-compass feeling, the finding true north again begins when I stop and take the time to intentionally sit in “my” chair and let my eyes/mind select from one or more of my several good devotional or God-centered books or magazines. Inevitably, honestly, I open to something that speaks so completely to my hungry spirit that I am thrilled with the awareness of how God is always there when I take time to purposefully seek him. Often I will open up 3 or 4 books and be amazed at how perfectly the particular passages I am reading are exactly what I needed. It doesn’t feel like some kind of magic. It ends up feeling like I just followed my mind and turned the pages to the right place. And then when I’m done I try not to hurry away to the next job but take the time to just be quiet with God for a while. It is truly balm for the soul!

  • Jennifer Wilson

    I would offer that one direct path is looking within yourself and your family, to (re)discover the divine within all beings. That is what brings me peace.

  • http://violetinthemiddle.blogspot.com Violet

    “…perfect storm for back-burnered faith.” LOVE that!

    I think there is a direct route but I think that we humans, because we are so easily distracted, rarely find it. Detours are frequent, intriguing, and attractive. I felt a sense of relief and self-forgiveness when I read your comment about the chasm that separates us from God.

    The last couple of years, since I found my way back to an active relationship with God, I have been struggling with the concept of developing a closer relationship with Him. I understand WHY I want/need to get closer, but I haven’t figured out HOW to do it, at least not in a way that sticks around for very long. People say meditate and listen to God. Well, my mind stays empty for about 3 seconds and then it starts with “I’m thinking again. Stop thinking. Just listen. Hello, God? Do I need to iron a shirt in the morning? Wait, I’m still thinking…” When I asked a friend about how to get closer to God, he suggested that I should try to keep God present in my mind all day long. Maybe I’m not great at multi-tasking because simply living my life seems to make that impossible, although I get better all the time at drive-by prayers.

    I do have fleeting moments when I feel close to God. Had one two nights ago, as a matter of fact, when I felt God listening to me like He was in the room. (Which He was, but…you know what I mean.) I also have moments when I hear His voice in my head. Sometimes I KNOW it’s Him, sometimes I’m not quite sure if it’s His voice or my heart. Like Joi, sometimes God speaks to me through things I read. It’s not necessarily something faith-y or spiritual – I recently read a passage in a novel that illuminated a difficult relationship in my life. I believe that was God speaking to me in a way He knows I will “hear.”

    I think it’s all about the effort. When we stop consciously trying to connect with God, we start slipping away from Him. On the other hand, I don’t think we should feel bad when we do slip – God knows that’s going to happen and He loves us anyway. Always. Forever.

    Thank you for this. There is a Casting Crowns song, “Stained-Glass Masquerade,” that talks about how Christians hide our flaws and problems from other Christians. I sometimes feel like I’m the only Christian who isn’t rock-solid in her faith and the practice of her faith. (In fact, more than once I have started a comment here, only to delete it because I felt like what I had to say wasn’t good enough. Silly, I know, but human.) Your highlighted statements are a wonderful reminder to me that I am not alone in my imperfection. I feel a little more faith-full right now.

  • http://radicalloveproject.com Angela Harms

    I’m remembering a time when I was stressed out, and wanted to reach for God, but couldn’t remember (or figure out) how. I was driving down the road, tears flowing, choking back sobs. I said, out loud, I think, “Why won’t you talk to me?” and God said, in my heart, “You hadn’t asked.”

    Since then, I’ve been trying to remember to ask. On any given day, it’s a toss up whether I will or not. Remember, I mean. :)

    So true, these things you wrote. Thanks for sharing them. I love how you do that.

  • http://tecthought.com Scott

    Well, Kristin, I had been writing a response to you for about 15 minutes and I decided I’m going to answer you with a post of my own. So, I’ll link back to you when I have the post/comment ready for you to read. I hope I can help. What I’ve been doing has totally changed me and my relationship with God.

    Scott

  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    I think REALIZING that you’ve come unmoored is half the battle, honestly. And to remember…that even when we feel far, far away from God, it is only us that has moved: “for neither height nor depth…can separate us from the love of God” after all. He is there, he is here, if we only open our hearts…just breathe and give yourself some quiet time, my friend! :)

  • Trina

    Would it be too simple to say that a quicker path back to what you are tyring to achieve is attained by keeping your goals more in front of you? I see those bolded statements you made as ideal nuggets of wisdom to read every day to keep more on the path to where you’re headed.

  • http://www.orangeshirtguy.com Dave Thurston

    Maybe your supposed to be going away from God . . . not in a “bad” way, but as an ambassador of sorts. And ironically, when you choose to go back, He welcomes you, but says to one of the Three, “I wonder when KT is going know that she is ready to fly?”

    Just to continue the analogy, have you ever had that thought about your own kids – knowing that they can fly, but waiting for them to flap?

  • http://www.EasleyElectric.com Ken Stewart

    One comment I like by someone I really respect (www.FlintsNotes.com) is:

    God is better able to lead than we are to follow.

    Consider this: If we really are our Father’s “children,” how does that relate to the natural? How much responsible is an infant for their growth? None, essentially. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, HOW THEY GROW…” Well, how do they grow? They don’t strain and struggle to absorb the water and minerals and sunlight…they just DO IT!

    Now, the same infant, grown to 21, is responsible for far more, but the process of getting there is largely the responsibility of the parents, progressively shifting the responsibility to the child/teen/young adult (sometimes with them kicking and screaming, of course)…and our Father does that also.

    But I think more than anything else, we don’t REALLY trust His goodness, His desire for our growth (greater than ours most if not all the time), and His willingness to get us where He wants IF WE WILL ONLY LET HIM!

    I wrote a musing called “God Tweets,” about how God is trying to connect with us far more than we are with Him, posted on my son’s blog, http://www.SeekingTheSon.org.

    God is ever-present…if only we are more willing to admit Him more, and more of the time. I like the image in Song of Songs where the groom (a picture of Jesus) says, “I’m ravished with just one glance from your eyes.” We have no idea of the passion of the Godhead (all three of them!) for intimacy with us!!!

  • Elaine Tolsma-Harlow

    Your last 4 statements show you already know the answer to your dilemma. But a reminder, there is an ebb & flow to all of our human relationships, and this doesn’t change on our end of our relationship to God (its comforting to know He at least is consistent). The goal I think is to make sure our ebbs don’t get too shallow.

    By the way Dave’s response is brilliant & a whole new way for me to look at this. It makes the dark times so much more meaningful.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Joi, this is so true, and exactly what I need right now: “Inevitably, honestly, I open to something that speaks so completely to my hungry spirit that I am thrilled with the awareness of how God is always there when I take time to purposefully seek him.” Thank you.

    Jennifer, that sounds wonderful, but it seems to be exactly what I’m NOT able to do when I get myself to this state! Nothing in me feels centered, and the people I’m closest to are most likely rubbing me the wrong way (my perception probably more than their actions). I can always try harder, though. It’s a discipline, like finding things to be thankful for when you’re going through a rough time.

    Violet, this rings SO true “Detours are frequent, intriguing, and attractive.” I also love your descriptions of your own trial and error attempts to get closer to God. I can completely relate—”a wonderful reminder to me that I am not alone in my imperfection.” Thank you.

    Angela, that’s a great reminder—so direct and simple, and clearly something I believe God responds to. Thanks for sharing your story, and for your gentle encouragement.

    Scott, sounds exciting! I’ll look forward to reading it.

    Sam, you’re right. Until I admitted out loud to Jason that I wasn’t feeling close to God, I was just going along through the motions of the days, avoiding the truth of how distant I was feeling. At the time, it seems like the easier thing to do—to ignore it. To admit it would be to add another thing to your to-do list. But of course, ignoring it brings more struggle in the long run.

    Trina, that’s a great point. Even writing those points in bold made it all seem more clear and simple. I think I’ll print them out!

    Dave, you give me plenty to think about, as always. I often find I need to just sit with your ideas for a bit and mull them over, which I’m always very happy to do. (This is a good thing, btw!) :)

    Ken, yes, God seems to have that leading thing down (and everything else too, for that matter!). I can definitely say that this is true of me: “…we don’t REALLY trust His goodness, His desire for our growth….” It took me a long time to trust his love for me; now it’s time to move on to the next “trust challenge.”

    Elaine, thanks for the grace in your comment, and for the wisdom. Ebbs and flows are OK, as long as they aren’t too extreme.

  • Pingback: Building A Relationship With God | The Ever-Changing Thought

  • http://www.orangeshirtguy.com Dave Thurston

    In no way was my comment meant in a negative manner (just making sure all know that). . .

    My way of thinking includes each of us having a little bit of “God-Power” in us. With your gift of the pen, I see a person that is able to take a lead-off the base, and progress toward the next base . . . and maybe that is why people feel like they’re getting a little away from God especially when it is difficult to discern that He’s at second base too. And at second base the relationship is (perhaps) more of a friendship relationship (kind of like (I assume) many adults have with their parents after a few decades of life) rather than “just” a mentor relationship.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Dave, I know your comment wasn’t at all negative (but I guess you figured *I* would know that!). I love the idea of a “little bit of ‘God-Power’ in us,” and the baseball metaphor is a good one. Thanks for following up!

  • Alisa

    Very relatable topic. Thank you for posting! Here’s another blogger’s perspective on why we may not feel very “faith-ful” sometimes: http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com/2009/09/624-having-bonsai-faith.html (Read #624 Having Bonsai Faith).