I carefully lay a row of turnip slices across the pan. It is already filled with parsnips, potatoes, yams, apples and onions, nearly ready to be hoisted into my oven to melt into delicious fall-flavored oblivion.
I picked up the vegetables at the little farm stand just down the road from my church. It sounds quaint, but I live in the middle of the city, far from dirt roads or any open space larger than a park. It’s not quaint.
The stand is really more like a bunch of dirty boxes sitting on a bunch of dirty crates with a canopy over the top. The girl who carefully weighed the produce wore fuzzy gloves and we talked about how quickly it got cold this year.
Still, they truck in the vegetables from a family-owned farm outside the city limits, and filling up a large paper bag there costs a third of the price at the grocery store.
Someday I’ll run off to live in a place near the ocean and sunshine, but for now, a tray of roasted root vegetables makes the rain and dark days more bearable. I’m not one of those people who loves fall.
I get a text from my friend that simply reads, ‘I’m sad,’ and I understand. Behind me on the counter, my knife and cutting board run bright red with beet juice.
I started seminary last month, and it’s knocked me off my faith a bit. Okay, more than a bit. It’s happened before, but not like this. I remember, three years ago, crying on my living room floor, crying on my bed, and crying nearly every time I got in my car, trying to believe that God was real.
But I did.
I do believe it.
I believe it so much I wanted to go to school to study more, to sink in to the God-Is-Realness and explore the history of my belief. I wanted to learn how to help my wild Millennial peers develop deep faith roots without demanding or controlling how they do it.
Instead, I’m finding theories of document development, retellings of common cultural myths, genocide in YHWH’s name, and altar piles of stones that might as well be in the desert outside Las Vegas, for all I know.
I attend a university that is staunchly Evangelical. No one is trying to steal my belief, but it’s changing so drastically that it feels like someone did. God seems farther away than ever, shrouded in a column of fire and smoke and all the things we cannot know.
Some days, I don’t know what to believe, even though I know I still believe it.
People who have faith and education far beyond me tell me that it’s okay. They say that learning always starts like this: with the unraveling of expectations and an uprooting of ideas.
The roots of our faith are gnarled and complicated. There’s so much we don’t understand about Ancient Near East culture and law and how these stories came to be written down so we could read them in one book, in our own language, thousands of years later, and telling our own little stories about them on the internet.
There’s so much I don’t understand about God, and studying scripture isn’t making it any clearer. There’s so much grief in the cold and not knowing.
Instead, I’m learning to see the layers in scripture, in history, in belief, in humanity, and even in God. I see these stories, piled on top of each other like vegetables on my tray. Some are profoundly bitter and earthy, some soft and mild, while others snap with sweetness. They sing of the dirt that shaped them. They mix together and the onions char on the edges, and the beet juice tinges everything pink.
But together, even though I know I’m trudging deeper into fall, these layers and stories hold the mystery of hope in a God who cannot be contained.