Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith. And yet I continue to live in a world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless; prone to wander. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze. ~ Lauren Winner
In her book “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis”, Lauren Winner talks about the rituals she holds dear from her Jewish heritage and tries to navigate a new and difficult season of doubt as she goes through a divorce. She is, at times, confused at God’s seeming elusiveness.
We are pretty good at keeping ourselves busy with kingdom work while simply trying to keep our heads above water. We’re overwhelmed and underpaid; overworked and underappreciated; overconfident and underwhelmed. You might call it a crisis!
Crisis: A stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events – for better or worse, is determined; a turning point.
When I think “mid-life crisis”, I picture a man in his mid-50’s trading his gray Buick LeSabre in for a cherry red Ford Mustang. Or a mom accompanying her 16-year-old daughter to a Justin Bieber concert donning a Van Halen tank top (circa 1989), Daisy Dukes, and 4-inch heels. We try to hang on to our youth or a time and place we are familiar with. A time when we had much less responsibility, when life (now in hindsight) was uncomplicated and the only thing we really had to do was make curfew.
Not everyone goes through a mid-life crisis. Or at least not a public one. Crisis comes when something is lost. Because we are often identified by whom we live with, where we work, how and where we spend our time, when we lose a loved one, a marriage, a job, control – our identities become unstable. At least for a season. At some point we get through the worst of it and can breathe again.
When I picked up Lauren Winner’s book about a mid-faith crisis and started reading about some of the conflicts that arose between her Jewish heritage and her Christian faith and then the trauma of her divorce, I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to her story. But as I’ve continued to read, I’ve discovered my own mid-faith crisis. Actually I’d like to call it a mid-faith juncture.
Juncture: a point of time made critical or important by a concurrence of circumstances.
My husband and I are about to find ourselves in a season of living with all teenagers and embarking on college visits (x3). With the exception of losing my parents when I was 28 and 31, my seasons thus far have been fairly painless and uncomplicated. God has provided for my family and has given me the sweet gift of a job that I couldn’t have imagined would be mine, that I love and treasure daily. Even on the days when I’m fed up and bummed out for no logical reason, he reminds me of his presence and his hand on my life. But there is always work to do. If we feel we are truly in his will and doing our best to live out our callings, he will call us deeper. Sometimes I don’t know what to do first. Do I continue with what I’m doing and tweak it along the way? Should I do something completely different? Something I may not be comfortable doing?
Shopping in department stores overwhelms me. Searching for special music to use in worship and for the choir is equally daunting. As great as the number of stars in the heavens, so are the varieties of thread counts in a sheet set and SATB arrangements of Amazing Grace. I freeze at the multitude of things to choose from. The mountain of possibilities. How do I make the right choice? I don’t make quick decisions about much of anything. I like to weigh scenarios and prepare myself for the worst outcome, to hopefully be delightfully surprised by success. I also feel this way when I think about my purpose and life before me. I want to be faithful to my calling. I want to be a good wife. I want to be a nurturing mom. Sometimes I want to be the cool mom. I want to leave a legacy of faith. But man, there’s so much work that needs to be done. I need to read more scripture, pray more, meditate more, hold my tongue more, change the way I think and react more. Love more. The list goes on. And again, overwhelming. A virtual skyscraper of department stores. And I find myself at a juncture.
But I’ve decided I want this juncture. I like this juncture. I need this juncture. I need God to keep moving me through these seasons. I want him to keep moving me. Moving me closer to him and into a deeper and higher calling. There’s a stirring deep within.
Sometimes we can see a change coming. We see it over the horizon, feel it in our bones, hear it in our hearts. Some say “if you’re not changing, you’re not growing”. That may be true. Perhaps we should be diligently faithful in our pursuit of God and run to the next juncture ready to do the work, instead of waiting for it to creep up on us.
Isaiah 26:7-9 (The Message and NRSV combined)
The way of the righteous is level; The Leveler, The Just One, evens the road for the righteous. We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. O Lord, we wait for you. Who you are and what you’ve done are all we’ll ever want. Your name and your renown are the soul’s desire. Through the night my soul longs for you, deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you. Earnestly, I seek you.