Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Seeking

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Part 3 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here
Read Part 2, "Losing" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

Dear church,

You ask so much of me. There are things I am happy to do: serve others unceasingly. Forgive. Love. Have a personal relationship with God. But there are other requests that are harder because they go against my deepest, most concrete beliefs of unconditional love and universal respect. You ask me to be at peace a hushed history of polygamy. You want me to accept deeply-ingrained conditional female equality.

I have tried for years to do what now appears to be impossible - reconcile my values with what you claim is truth.

I know where you think this is going, so let me get it out of the way. I'm not leaving. I don't want to.

But the thought of staying makes my soul tremble.

I am scared that once you hear what I really think and how I really feel, you'll realize I don't belong. I am afraid you'll try to wipe away my distrust with admonitions to "have more faith" and "trust the plan". I am afraid that the only answers I'll receive to my questions about equality in the church is an "I don't know", or worse, an "I don't see a problem." I fear you will quiet my voice with shame and threats of discipline.

My worry expands further than just my concerns of equality.
I once heard said "If you can't see God in all, then you can't see God at all."
So I looked around for God
and I found Cactus and Wind and Moon.
I tasted wild blackberries and sea water.
I saw the sky shed tears and I saw babies born.
I saw the humanity of the Other.
I saw
and I could not unsee
endless beauty and divinity.

Instead of desiring to contain and define and claim it, I simply wanted to revel in the moonlight and soak naked in the sea. I hear in church that God shows himself only in scripture but I see sunrises and towering mountains. You say, "The natural man is an enemy to God." I cry. I was made from dust.

I remember my ancient mothers' connection to Earth. I mourn the loss of Wisdom and I keep my love for nature secret. I fear if I unveil it you will see something savage and close your doors, your windows, and all your curtains to me.

I am terrified to be myself with you because you've told me for 26 years that who I am - carnal, earthy, and human - is offensive and shameful.

I've half a mind to leave because the thought of you kicking me out is more painful than walking away with my dignity intact. I know I'd be leaving so much behind. What else is the promise of divine origin, baptism, and eternal families besides the promise of belonging? This is the place I thought was home.

I have often heard it said of church doctrine, policy, and culture: "If you don't like it, leave."

I don't like all of it.
Can I still stay?

I sit in my church meetings dressed in wool, suppressing my howls of anguish. Even though I'm different now, is it still okay for me to be here? Is there a place for my pain? Is there room for my healing?

I know I'm asking questions I can't bear to hear answered "No."

If I give you my heart and show you my wild spirit, will you still love me?
If I ask for answers, will you help me find them?
If I voice my disagreement, if I tell you how much you've hurt me, if I seek change, will you plug your ears and ask me to leave?

What if you truly are the face of God

and in my nakedness,
hungering for healing, and
weeping the truth of the women who came before me,

I am turned away?
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.