05 April 2013

My Crisis of Faith: Part I

Yarn Bombing in Germany

One night I went to bed a devout Christian. The next morning I woke up an agnostic.  Without inviting it, disbelief has entered my very being.  I feel like it is peering from behind every corner. 

I am being stalked by cynicism.  Cynicism is sly and stealthy.  He might run in the same crowd as The Fog and various clones of Insanity.  He's here to ruin my peace and rob me of my faith.   

I do not want it. I willfully dismiss it, and yet skepticism creeps into my every thought.  Moments that should be spiritual and inspiring have become negative and suspicious because Cynicism hovers nearby. 

“If God wants me to have a girl, He will send a girl.”  My pregnant friend and mother of two boys says to me over fro-yo. 

“That’s dumb” comes the unsolicited opinion of Cynicism in my head.  “You’ll have a girl if the sperm with two X chromosomes meets up with one of your eggs and fertilizes it.” 

I feel annoyed at the voice of my stalker.
Does God really answer prayers? Suppose my friend prayers for a girl.  And she gets a girl. “ Yay!” She says.  God answered my prayer.

Suppose she gets a boy.  “That’s okay" she says, "God wanted me to have a boy. He still answered my prayer with the baby that was supposed to be in my family.”

So what was the point of the prayer?

Someone tells me that my friend has misconceptions about God, and maybe I have misconceptions about God too. 
Out of nowhere Cynicism crashes my parties and disrupts my prayers.  I feel a little panicked.  Rebellion doesn't suit me.  I've always walked the straight and narrow.  The idea that God isn't real both fills me with horror and shame.  Am I foolish for doing things I've always done, believing things I've always believed, trusting people I've always trusted? 
It has me totally freaked out. Feeling disconnected from God is not just frightening but lonely. 
And yet.. there is a sort of pseudo-freedom that comes with apathy.  Singing songs at the top of my lungs and shouting the cuss words without guilt is all cool if God isn't real.  Right? 
One thing is for sure.  I'm going to find my way out of this, and I'm never going back. Glossed-over, superficial answers will not satisfy me.  I want the real deal.  I want the truth. 
A friend sent me a link to this blog post which contains the following words. 
"In the broken down moments, the moments of previously unfathomable distress and despair, in the moments where all our best selves can think to do is pray more earnestly, we have a choice. We can ruminate on what a well intended teacher spouted off in a thoughtless moment that now seems sickeningly saccharine. We can delve into the areas we all have of our testimonies that are yet green, perhaps dark, underdeveloped or unexplored. Or, we can reach for light, for truth, for stability and safety. This is not some desperate act of a delusional, wounded being to lie his way into a false sense of security. It is an act of clarity and incalculable courage, commendable and brave. We can reach for God and watch brilliant truth resonate it's way into our souls, one moment at a time, luminescent and satiating."
I'll be damned if I don't get there. 
(Haha. That was kinda funny.)
And I'll be damned if Cynicism survives the journey, weak and pathetic as he is.   


  1. I love how you write about real life, real feelings, that you're so open and vulnerable. I love you.
    I am someone who believes in God. Sometimes that belief has been easier than other times. I believe in God -- but you know what I don't believe in, a God who's afraid of questioning. Of doubts. Of lapses of faith. I think of the grandness and infiniteness of all that God sees and knows, and that we as mere mortals, in pain, in confusion, cry out to the empty sky, "Where are you? Are you really there?" How could He be mad? We see almost nothing. Am I mad at my toddler for not understanding things that I do at 33 years old? How about my infant? Aren't we infantile compared to God? We understand almost nothing, see such an incomprehensibly small portion of it all. Of course we're going to be riddled with doubts, confusion, apathy, pain, questions, ailments -- I don't think that threatens the great God of the universe. I just don't think it does. It's why I get so frustrated when people insist that we all must think the same -- that all women must be happy wearing pants to Church/not having the Priesthood/etc. (not personal issues of mine, just timely examples), and fill facebook with cries of, "Why don't they just believe how I do? Why don't they just fall in line? They must not love God like I do, they just don't believe" I think it's human beings, as imperfect and near sighted as we are, that insist on this uniformity and conformity in one another -- I believe God's tolerance for faith crises, questions and confusion is vastly, epically larger than our own. I think our Church loses something valuable when we as members push for conformity -- I love the early Church prophets quotes challenging people to think for themselves, to question, to think, to ask . . . we are so afraid of 'asking' nowadays, and I don't think that's the way it's supposed to be. Some of the crazy dogma that popped up in early Church history (that plagues us in anti-Mormon literature) came from those men and women NOT BEING AFRAID of throwing an idea out there, bouncing it around, talking about it. Eventually, they settled on the understanding of something not being quite right about their theory and they moved on. I think of how awesome (and thought provoking and bonding) our Sunday School classes would be if we didn't spend the hour reciting back our Primary answers to one another, but instead talked, discussed, were unafraid to voice our concerns or questions or thoughts -- of the people that could be touched and helped on their journey if they could openly discuss their issues with theology, and maybe through open conversations could reach new insight.
    I think we project our own insecurity of God. I don't think He's the least bit afraid or offended by our infantile understandings and heartfelt questions and even our doubt. He just loves us. And we have a long, long, long time to get it all right.

    Um. [cough] I will get off my unexpected and sudden soapbox now . . . :-)

    (And I hope none of that comes off as 'you should believe this too' -- it's just what went through my own mind as I read your post, in regards to myself and some others I care about who've recently been dealing with some similar thoughts.)

    1. Well said HX. I like that perspective.

      Jane, I go there too sometimes.

    2. I want to 'like' this lol
      I think we'd be lying if we don't admit to all being there at some point(s).
      Love you, girl.

  2. " I think of the grandness and infiniteness of all that God sees and knows, and that we as mere mortals, in pain, in confusion, cry out to the empty sky, "Where are you? Are you really there?" How could He be mad?"

    I love this.

    I loved that quote you shared, too, Jane, in your post.

    And I love you, Jane. I love your honesty, your courage, your willingness to just be where you are right now.

    Even if your concept of a Higher Power right now simply consists of the idea that you don't want to be cynical, that is reaching for light in and of itself. All you have to do is one step at a time, from wherever you are.

    And now I'm gonna use an LDS metaphor because I think it's powerful. Building the Salt Lake temple -- one of the most important endeavors in LDS history, took 40 years. Part of the reason that was true was that after nearly a decade of building, they realized that the foundation wasn't going to hold what they wanted the temple to be, so they tore the whole dang thing out and began again.

    I think sometimes we have to do this with our faith, our relationships, our views of ourselves and others. We can let go of wherever we've been and just start again with stuff we know is gonna hold. And it may take 40 years to build.

    And that's ok.

  3. I hear you! One of the hardest effects of my trauma was the death of my old spiritual life. "One night I went to bed a devout Christian. The next morning I woke up an agnostic. Without inviting it, disbelief has entered my very being. I feel like it is peering from behind every corner. " Yes! This has been me. I once had a friend whose husband had multiple affairs and she decided to stay and make it work. She said, "I thought my testimony was before was pretty solid, pretty firm, but it had some cracks in it. This (meaning her husband's addiction) has shaken me to the very core. If I was solid before my testimony wouldn't have been shaken. I think this is an opportunity for me to build anew." When she said that I was pretty pissed! "What?" I thought, "I read the BoM 5 times in high school and all of preach my gospel before going to BYU- what do you mean my testimony had cracks?!" But sure enough it did. It took me 3 years of truly hating God, Joseph Smith, the QotT and first presidency to learn about the God of MY understanding and revitalize my spiritual connection. I'm not telling you my story to one up or anything- just to say that I hear you and it's OK to be angry and it's OK to feel alone and it's OK to hate God for awhile. What I've learned is that of anyone in this world God tends to be the only person who can sit with my anger and frustration and terror and fear and still be there with open arms on the other end. My suggestion- forget culture, forget religiosity, and focus on your connection with the God of YOUR understanding. <3 you.

  4. My husband's addiction caused me to question priesthood authority as well as my worth as a daughter of God. I heard Sis. Beck say once to write a question in the beginning of a Book of Mormon, and begin reading with that question in mind. The answer will present itself to you as you read. My question was, "How can I move forward?" I can attest that the Lord is helping me, day by day, move forward (even if sometimes I take a few steps backward). I have also begun praying out loud every day in my closet. I can't seem to form a cohesive thought when I silently pray. I then sit still after my prayer and listen for any positive thought that enters my mind. The thoughts that enter my mind are always full of encouragement and love which I assume is the Holy Ghost encouraging me along this difficult journey.
    I don't know if these suggestions will help you, but it has helped me with my own crisis of faith.
    Thank you for sharing your story! You are brave and amazing.

  5. I can SO relate to this. For me, my "crisis" of faith started two years before the latest D-day. Strangely, I was reading a book written by a General Authority and I began to question some of the things he said. I've never really doubted before that point - I always just kind of believed. But I think my testimony was weak. I had been complacent for so long, drifting along. Those seeds of doubt lived in my brain and grew as I read comments on various anti-Mormon or questioning-Mormon websites. They weren't websites I sought out, but articles my friend's linked to on Facebook. My cynicsm grew as well. For close to two years, I "went through the motions," but doubt, not faith, reined in my heart and mind. Eventually I got to a point where I felt like I had to know. I couldn't continue to live like this, slowly, but regularly chipping away at my testimony and beliefs. What was the point? I wanted to take positive action.

    So I decided to instead focus on the lightness - what DO I believe? What DO I know? There were a few, albeit seemingly small, parts of my testimony that were strong and so I made those my foundation. And then I started to work on building and adding to that foundation. I can see now that the essence of my testimony, though strong and grounded, is small compared to all that there is to have a testimony about. But rather than letting my doubts work away and eat away at my foundation, I finally started to focus on building it up, brick by brick. Just before I turned 30 I realized I didn't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I grew up in the church and have read and studied that book over the years and yet, I can honestly say I have never had a confirming testimony of that book. And so I decided to test it. I'm still working on it. I don't need to know today. I am just reading it day by day and we'll see it where it goes from there.

    In some ways, my testimony is stronger than it has ever been and in other ways I still have so many questions and doubts. I'm very careful about what I testify to believe when I share my testimony in Sacrament meeting because I want to be honest. There are some things I STRONGLY believe and others I am still working on. The voice of cynicsm still lives in my brain, but it's quieter now. I don't want to just tear down, I want to build up. I don't want to listen to other people's views on the matter to determine if things are true or not. I want to test and find out for myself. I want to go to the source. For me, the strongest base of my testimony has been my belief in God. I do not doubt that God lives because I have felt his influence in my life too many times. And so I keep coming back to that. I'm starting to believe that a testimony can't truly be strong without questioning, without doubt. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think questioning is the first step to gaining knowledge. Isn't that how Joseph Smith purported to find out about the gospel in the first place?

    Now I'm just rambling. Mostly I just want to say that I can relate. My story is different than yours, but I have felt the doubts, the cynicism, the uncertainty, the questioning. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. Be true to yourself.

  6. oh my gosh, I hear you. Cynicism was my best friend all through conference. I have to talk myself into listening to the last session. (and then when my hubs told me he was fighting impure thoughts during the last session, that just made it all worst.)

    I think we should have a girls weekend. We can meet somewhere in the middle. Email me if you want to have a Parenthood Retreat somewhere.