Friday, February 22, 2013

Faith and Disillusionment

Our texts for this second Sunday in our Lenten expedition are Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18a and Luke 13:31-35, which can be read here.

When I wrote my Senior Thesis in college, the following quote preceded the preface--a quote that has greatly shaped how I relate to faith and to the Church over the course of my life:

“How baffling you are, O church, and yet how I love you! 
How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!  
I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal - yet you have made me understand sanctity.
I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.
And where should I go?”

-Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes 

I love this quote for so many reasons--perhaps because it embraces the paradox of the journey of faith.  It can be the most beautiful thing imaginable, full of possibility and promise and fulfillment; but it can also crush us, leaving us wondering what it was we were clinging to the in first place.  

I still remember one of the first times I felt  disillusioned with my faith, when the pastor of the church where I grew up left our congregation amidst conflict with another minister and the divided ranks of our church family.  How could these people I loved and respected so much turn one each other?  How could this ever reflect the love of the God they had been preaching to me through the first decade of my life?  I have come to this point again and again in faith, when the things I have been told are true and the way I see faith lived are just not congruent, when belief seems to conflict with reality, and we are left asking, "Was I wrong to believe all this in the first place?"

This is a natural stage of the faith journey, one we unfortunately do not go through just once but over and over again.  We see Abram wrestling with it in today's Old Testament reading, as he is aging and God's big promises to him appear chronically unfulfilled and impossible.  We see Jesus wrestling with it in today's New Testament reading, as he laments over a precious, beloved city that was supposed to be the place God's spirit could fully dwell, but that instead has seen its citizens unable and unwilling to receive God's grace and presence.  As you read these passages, consider how God responds to these cases of the people's disorientation and disillusionment.  What is God's word and direction to us when we feel like we don't know which way is up, like the things we had held onto no longer hold together?  How does God address us and embrace us when our worlds feel shattered and we have lost sight of where to go and what to do?

No comments: