Gimpy Faith Legs

Several posts back I asked What Can I Do For You regarding questions you might have about my journey back to faith. I should not have been surprised at how insightful those questions were. I have answered one and thought I’d take on another.

The following questions come from and are posted with permission of my friend, Sam Seamans in Mountain Home, AR…

I would like to know what the things were that you were sure about prior to 10/11 that are now not so clear. What is it that you now have real doubts about, especially in regards to assurance, including salvation, and many other “standards” that used to be clear that have now faded to gray. How are you dealing with them? How has it changed how you relate to others concerning your Christian faith? Also, do you sometimes wonder what life would look like if you couldn’t “persevere” and lost your way. Do you still fear that? Has your idea of God gotten a little more generous or “wider” perhaps? Have you ever looked up and said, “Are you there?” Tough and deep questions I know, but you asked….;-)

I am not sure where to begin, Sam. It feels like you are trying to get me to write a book. Send $100 to my I-need-some-money fund and we will be good to go…  (You know us ex-preachers, if we can take money from the brethren, we can take money from anyone!) Smile! I am just kidding!

On to the questions…

In some regards, my former theology is all messed up.

We may differ on things both of us can prove with scripture. We can look at the same passage and have widely divergent views regarding the context and meaning.

In the past, I loved nothing more than a great cup of coffee and a good scholarly discussion. But some of the things I used to think important have paled in comparison to the “weightier matters.” And it scares me because I am sure it will cause others to relate to me differently and I to them. Just this week, a friend relayed how sad some local folks are because in their words, I have “lost my way.”

There is some arrogance in that thought, but no more than the arrogance I used to wield  like a sword. I can remember talking to some who had been Christians most of their lives. As life drew to an end, they wondered and worried about their salvation. Often it was more about what they did or didn’t do and less about a radical trust in God.

In my arrogance, I can clearly remember thinking how sad it was to live as a Christian and have no hope at the end.

God help me, but I can now relate. My life is so different especially where faith has shifted, warped,and changed. I don’t have the time or inclination for debates, discussions, and judgments. You can judge me now for being in a different place if you like, but I suspect you wouldn’t want to join me on the wrestling mat with God.

Here’s my truth. Assurance of salvation? I am often terrified that there isn’t enough grace in the universe to help my gimpy legs of faith limp across the finish line. But at the same time, I have hope for a God big enough to take me home–in spite of my failures, my changed thinking, and inability to see things as I once saw them.

Here’s an even bigger truth. While I wouldn’t wish my tragedy and heartache on any one, I do wish those whose lives have been far more idyllic could be more patient, compassionate, and understanding with those whose faith may very well involve a life-long struggle.

In the back and forth of questioning and strife, faith is refined and limps are accepted.

I haven’t lost my way, it’s just really hard to run…

How is your limp?

Les, Jr.

 

How Faith Survived?

The following is an attempt to answer a question posed by a reader in response to this post. The question: How could I still believe at all?

I love being able to take pen to paper or pound on a key board. I love using words to communicate feelings, describe emotions, and work out meaning and understanding.

That I am not alone in seeking something better and more complete makes the process that much sweeter.

For the longest time I felt all alone. I was the only person I knew who had experienced the murder of spouse and child by somebody known, trusted, and invited into our home. The fact that he was a member of our church family made the horror of it all so much greater.

I felt physically and emotionally alone everywhere I went.
I was damaged goods.
The world was dark and dim.
And no matter how many times somebody said I understand your struggle and feel your pain, the truth was this: you had no idea.

I couldn’t begin yet to quantify the depth, height, and width of anguish, sorrow, and hurt. I am still discovering those dimensions–in some ways, we will not ever know how big the hurt will be. In fact, my children have a lifetime of painful moments ahead of them. Every significant event, holiday, achievement, success or failure will be a moment in time in which they will be reminded of their loss–and the brutal horror of it.

I have teased my oldest son and his wife that they are not allowed to become parents–because I am not old enough to be a grandfather. So far it is working.

But there is going to come a day when that first grandchild makes an appearance. And in the midst of happiness, I will know my son’s bitter hurt and disappointment because his mother and brother will not be there to share…

So if we can’t know yet the dimensions of our pain, how can you?

Please don’t misunderstand and think we are a family burdened by an overwrought misery. To be expected, we all have our moments. I had one last night–it was a brief time of guilt because I had such a good day. Some of you will comprehend the guilt inherent in having a day not weighed down by sorrow.

But the truth is we are all trying to live good, happy, and adjusted lives–far different than what we imagined, but good nonetheless.

Did I mention how alone I felt?

Surrounded by family and friends, you can still be the loneliest person in the world.
Especially when the most lonesome aspect is perceived abandonment by God.

Whether He was there or not, it is hard to feel Him in the grips of such grief and anger.

Initially I was bolstered by my faith. But in the next month or so as the new reality of tragic loss began to take hold, faith turned into anger.

How could a loving God let such a thing happen? Where was He when Cole was being systematically raped and abused.

That was my precious son and God stood by and did nothing.

Where was He when Cole and Karen were fighting for their lives?

Yes.
I.
Was.
Angry!

Wouldn’t you have been?

Those were the times when the platitudes and sappy hope of an effortless faith meant nothing at all.

My faith loss wasn’t about disbelief in God. My loss of faith was about my understanding of God’s nature. Who was He, really? What was he really like? How could He really let such evil thrive?

No, I never quit believing in God. There is a sense in which I never quit believing He loved me.

I just didn’t understand. I can’t yet claim to understand a God who is so far beyond human comprehension.

The truth is this simple: I never realized how much hard work faith requires. Faith requires a belief and trust that God really does have your best interests at heart. I struggle with that. At the same time, I am not ready to jettison the idea of God caring for me.

So here is my conundrum…

Either I go through life empty with no hope.
Or, I try to do the hard work necessary to trust the God I don’t understand.

It is easy to be peeved and angry–it is hard to trust.

So I wrestle and limp and wrestle some more.
And have faith that one day, my limping gimpy self will trust the God I chose to serve…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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