Recently, as a result of coursework, sermons and personal interactions, a great deal of my focus is on survival. My attention has been turn to the matters of testing and trial. After an unsettling conversation with a friend in which the only comfort I could provide her was to just be on the call, I followed up with my Co-Editor over at the ICU, Joshua “the Uppity Negro” Lazard and said this:
“Anyone that says that faith can waver but it mustn’t fail has not truly been tried by fire. There are times when faith must falter/fail in order to be rebuilt/restructured.” (K. Halford, Personal Text Message July 2014).
I realize that my words seem a little shaky but there is a destination to which I’m traveling if you stay with me. Throughout my life, especially within the last 15 years I have been not merely at the brink of losing faith but I have virtually lost it all on more that one occasion. I’ll confess, I have considered suicide on more than one occasion. Why? Because the circumstances of my discord, sorrow, disappointment, and unhappiness conflicted in drastic significance to my theological understanding and caused me to question the very foundations of my faith. Have you ever been in a place where your life has become so unrecognizable and your circumstances so seemingly unbearable that you no longer recognize yourself, your God, or anyone or anything else for that matter? Have you ever been in a place where all of that caused you to be wholly unrecognizable to others? I consider this because, quite frankly, biblically there is pretty much only one character with a story that could speak to the totality of this predicament in any holistic way his name is Job. While some say Job’s faith didn’t fail. Allow me this indulgence. Imagine faith as a building. A disaster (perhaps an earthquake) comes and does all but level the building. In fact, the quake decimated the foundations, the structural walls and even the façade of the building in such a way that the building is unrecognizable. Now imagine that the building is too valuable to completely destroy, rather it must be rebuilt and restructured and perhaps even reoriented in such a way that it can withstand a similar disaster in the future.
I am a student of language, paying attention to what is said as much as what is left unsaid but perhaps described. I simply must say that watching Job lament and curse the day he was born drives me into the place of remembrance. When you’re in that place of failing faith while you may not “charge God foolishly” you will make declarations like ” I wish I had never been born” or “I seem to only bring misery on the people I love I should just end it all”. If you’re not careful and if you’re not allowed the space to be able to honestly feel these feelings without judgment or condemnation your recovery time is going to take a while. The people who know me best know that one of my critiques of the family of faith aka the church is that we don’t make space for people to be honest. Perhaps peril, tribulation and sword are second only to the matters of initial belief to begin with. It is unsafe to admit that life has put you in a position that is so emotionally and spiritually complex that you question faith. That’s a difficult thing to admit. It is even more difficult when those who would attempt to be your confidantes and provide comfort insist that your feelings are hogwash.
So in my moment of having revelation about myself I have come to the place of wanting to share with you a tidbit that I’ve learned; sometimes faith crumbles in order to be rebuilt. Prior to Job’s experience the primary belief and therefore spiritual absolute was that bad things only happen when you have done wrong (retribution theology). It was not until Job’s experience taught him otherwise and therefore changed the parameters (rebuilt/restructured/reoriented) his faith that it became an established and immutable fact that sometimes bad things happen even when you’ve done everything right. In essence Job’s faith before his trial had to fail for it to be rebuilt strong enough to face whatever the future held. You see faith is beyond a mere belief in a transcendent God, it is also the practical application of what that belief means (to any faith system not just Christianity). Sometimes those practical applications change when knowledge and understanding of that God or of the meaning of the belief changes but before that change can happen what was gets disheveled and destroyed.
Be encouraged that you can grow and mature and regain a stronger faith from this!