I am starting this blog as a record of my turning and returning to faith. It’s not that I’ve ever lost my faith; rather, the ways in which I continually come to hold it – close to my heart, loosely, ironically, fearfully, joyfully, pensively… – are ever shifting and changing.
While I’ve never lost my faith, however, I did wake up a few months ago and realize that I had stopped believing in the existence of God.
That morning, when I woke up not believing in God’s existence, was the morning after I had defended my Ph.D. dissertation to achieve my doctorate in Theology. In the fullest enactment of my vocation as I knew it at that time, I had pressed everything I could know about God to one of its natural limits. And I was exhausted.
“This will pass,” friends tried to reassure me, “You’re just tired. Give it some time.” “Oh yeah, that happened to me,” said another, as he listed all the books that had helped him forge a path out.
But I didn’t want it to pass. Or, at least, I didn’t want it to pass quickly. I didn’t want to read my way out. Or, perhaps, “want” isn’t the right word here – I didn’t feel like I was supposed to find a way out. I felt some small inner voice, the voice of a humble, haunting, spirit of faith, whisper to me, “wait.”
This was not a time to search; it was a time to be found. And so I began the walk of waiting.
No longer grounded in belief, my faith was now grounded in hope – the most wait-full of the theological virtues. I hoped that those old stories could still be true in some way…among other things, these pages record the moments when my waiting has been illumined by the presence of Hope’s Spirit. Among other things, these pages try to sketch the places where in my waiting God has found me. Truth understood in this way is not self-evident. It requires distance to be seen; proximity obscures.
So much of Christian theology is written by those who won. It is written by the loud voices who figured out how to say that they believed and then convince others – through both rhetoric and violence – that they were right. My hope in these pages is to avoid this type of theological practice. My hope instead is to echo more the practices of contemplatives, those theologians whose whole bodies ached for Divinity they knew they could not name. No sooner had they named their God, they knew they needed to negate their naming – more so, they knew their God existed (and, paradoxically, did not exist) somewhere beyond the truth of naming and negation, transcending existence and non-existence. Their theological thinking was oddly spatial: they built interior castles in which the divine might dwell. They never got it, and they never wanted to.
The theology I want to write in these pages waits for the truth of the Gospel that can be grasped at in only fragmentary ways as it is illumined by grace, and never captured in a way that can be held onto tightly. The God upon whom I wait is slippery and elusive, and the path deep into the heart of the God upon whom I wait is lifelong and complex. This path is forged through the messy brokenness of sanctification in all its confusing intensity.
Theology, I once told my students, is the path between God and God that we walk in our desire to understand that in between place; theology is the walk of desire deeper into the heart of the Divine. Theology is not a knowing; it is our attempt to articulate the weight of our waiting. It is the thing we do in the space and the distance created by God’s continual withdrawal from and return to us.
This is a type of theology that sees waking up no longer believing in the existence of God as a gift from God.
My intention is not for these pages to triumph the fascinating things I’ve learned from atheism, nihilism and postmodern irony. These pages won’t be a paean to the fidelity of infidelity in matters of the Divine. But they also won’t be a drippy love story about my rediscovery of God’s existence or a journal for cataloging the sin that keeps me separated from God’s presence. I don’t believe it is sin that keeps me separated from God’s presence; I believe it is grace.
Among other things, these pages are the walk of desire to understand that grace.
I would love it if you walked with me.
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