The illusion of deep faith

Have you ever been told your faith is shallow?  I have.

It was New Year’s Eve.  My wife and I had procured the services of a baby sitter, and we were at a friend’s house, having drinks and playing Small World (a board game I highly recommend).  My wife had had several drinks, and when the discussion turned to matters of faith, she spilled the beans.  Specifically, the beans related to my struggles with faith.

I tried to recover by saying that I hadn’t completely walked away from the faith, but the damage had been done.  A few days later one of the people from the party sent me a message on Facebook inquiring if everything was OK, and offering a  listening ear.  We messaged back and forth a bit, and then he came over to talk.

I was hesitant, but my wife was hopeful that talking to this friend (let’s call him Bob) would help.  Bob came over, and we discussed the situation with my in-laws  (the primary catalyst in my loss of faith), and in a more general sense, why God allows horrific things to happen.

Bob probably realized the depth of my loss of faith when he commented that Satan’s influence is one of the causes of evil, and I shrugged and replied, “If you say so.”  

I explained how I had always somehow known that my faith would be shattered if something horrible happened to my or someone I loved, and that I had been quite comfortable with God allowing horrific things to happen to other people.

He replied matter of factly, “Well, you probably had a shallow faith.”  Now, don’t judge Bob. He’s a good guy, and this wasn’t said in a cruel or judgemental way.  In fact, I replied by agreeing with him.

What choice did I have?  It was the truth.

It was the first time that someone had made this observation, and the first time I had acknowledged it.  As time went on, I realized just how true it was.

I went to church, attended Bible study, occasionally skimmed the Bible, prayed, and in general tried not to be an asshole.

La-dee-freaking da.

I felt really spiritual.  I felt like my faith was deep.  But it was a shallow pool.  When bad things started happening, I dived in head first and cracked my skull on the bottom.

The result?  Spiritual paralysis.

The Bible says “Seek, and you will find.” Well, duh.  You’ll notice that it doesn’t say WHAT you’ll find.  This was the second time I had found something.  When I was in my early teens and was still Catholic, I thought I had found something too.  That turned out to be not true, also.   My stated goal has never changed: find God.  But all I’ve found is gods that other people have constructed.  Idols. Paintings in the wilderness.

I’m tired of chasing the wind.  I’m tired of playing hide and seek with God.  

The real question is: who’s hiding, and who’s seeking?  Calvinists would say that no one seeks God, he seeks us.

Then again, Calvinists say lots of crazy shit.

Rob Bell would say that God gives us the freedom to choose, and that we’re free to seek God or ignore him.

Then again, Rob Bell says lots of crazy shit.

Yet Bell’s god is certainly less repugnant than the Calvinist god.  That’s why the bookshelves in our house are full of books by Bell and none by Driscoll, Piper, and Chandler.

I like Rob Bell.

Though sometimes.

I wish he would use.

Fewer line breaks.

Was I really seeking God?  Because I am, in essence, a coward.  The thought of stepping out of my comfort zone and truly living a life like Jesus terrifies me.  I was more comfortable playing the religion game.   The problem is, the religion game never feels like the religion game.  It’s always something other people are doing.  

Is God really seeking me?  If he’s real, he’s certainly taking his sweet time about it.  I can’t help but feel that if one of my children was trying to find me, I wouldn’t jerk them around for over thirty years. And I’m not even close to omnipotent.  

I used to think that God behaved the way he did in order to bring glory to himself.  What a crock of bullshit.  What would the Christian God need with more glory?  He’s all powerful, all knowing, and he’s created at least one universe. You’re telling me he has low self esteem and needs to rescue people to make himself feel better?  

Where is this deep faith that people keep talking about?  I can’t tell you how many people I heard get up in church or bible study and say variations on the same theme: I thought I found God, but I hadn’t.  But now I have!  Are these people talking about true deep faith, or will they dive in and find out that it’s shallow?  

I think it’s ironic that people get baptized in shallow water.  Maybe people should be flown out to the middle of the ocean and thrown in from half a mile up.  If you can claw your way to the top, you’re in.  

Better to test your faith in the beginning, than to wake up ten years later and find it was all a dream.


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