I’ve spent the past few years in a spiritual detox.
In my lifetime, I’ve heard more sermons than one could ever possibly need, and I’ve read more Christian books than anyone should ever read. I’ve done the Sunday-morning-Sunday-night-plus-Wednesday-evening church service thing. I’ve memorized the verses. I’ve had the Romans Road and Four Spiritual Laws and Spanish plan of salvation down pat. I’ve prayer-walked, mission-tripped, youth-grouped, See-Ya-At-The-Poled, 40-day-fasted, preached-and-teached. Baptism? Check. Tongues? Check. Slain in the Spirit (modesty cloth and all)? Check. I’ve kissed dating goodbye, been a missionary, gotten ordained, run a ministry, and been a pastor’s wife (whatever that really means).
Hell, I’ve even won a Best Christian Witness trophy. (Heh.) (But seriously, I did.)
And when, at 30-something, my entire life fell apart? None of that mattered. None of it.
All that I’d done, all that I’d learned, all that I’d believed, couldn’t spare me from the worst pain and deepest heartaches and greatest losses. It couldn’t spare me from it, and it didn’t comfort me in it.
None of it mattered.
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The verses and worship songs and experiences that previously made God feel close, bolstered my faith, and left me feeling held, no longer did. They didn’t carry me like they used to. I didn’t find solace or strength or support in them anymore.
But there in The Great Sadness, with my heart stripped bare, I discovered God was still undeniably by my side. In the vast darkness, when He wasn’t visible at all, and in the boundless sorrow, when I couldn’t feel Him at all, and in the deafening quiet, when He wasn’t speaking at all, I curiously never felt abandoned (at least not by Him anyway). Even when He felt far, He was still right there in the struggle and sadness and silence with me. Just Him, without all the other religious frills.
Thus began my spiritual detox.
Burned out on church and ministry and Christian leadership, I steered clear of anything that smelled like corporate Christianity for a good long while.
I quit church, stopped reading my Bible, gave up on any real semblance of a prayer life — and you know what? He was big enough to take it. His feelings weren’t hurt when I spoke words of doubt instead of faith. He didn’t mind when I cried rather than worshipped. He is God enough to handle this human heart of mine. He didn’t scold me; He didn’t heap “shoulds” or shame on me; He didn’t tell me to let go and let Him.
He just sat in The Great Sadness with me.
As I’ve emerged out the other side, I’ve done so with a very different faith. With changed eyes. With an altered heart. The certainty of my faith gave way to uncertainty. Question marks replaced the periods. And yet, I’ve found a sweet intimacy in the wrestling. I’ve discovered a depth of faith that is laced with unbelief.
Breaking my spiritual detox is a slow process. I’ve only recently returned to church, and — for right now — that’s enough. Most Sundays demand a whole lot of bravery to walk, alone, through those doors. So I acknowledge the significance of this seemingly-small step, and I actively work to silence the nagging to-do lists of my former breed of faith.
I’m learning to be content with just sitting here for now — in The Sadness or otherwise — with the God I both question and believe.