For the past few years, I have been building the structure that is my faith. Through reason and experience, exploration and relationship, and through listening to those who have built up their own faith before me, I have created my own makeshift belief system. I have discovered that one of the ways I connect the most to God is through reasoning. God meets me in my curiosity and my inquiries. He gladly allows me the freedom to question and doubt. He reads books with me, and places knowledge in my hands. He journals with me as I seek to fill spaces in my belief structure where I lack understanding. In some areas, this structure feels quite solid and sturdy. In others, it is shaky and unsure. There are moments of solidity, when I feel firm in my beliefs and where they all seem to line up perfectly. In those moments, it feels like I can take on anyone with my arguments because I have filled every possible crack and crevice. And then, there are the moments when anxiety hits.
Anxiety feels like a debate competition with seven million opponents:
They square off, looking at each other in deep-seated anger and determination. With a fierce fury, the first argument is launched and lands with a deafening thud. Solid and convicting, it sits for few seconds and the confidence it holds convinces me that it is the absolute Truth. But those mere seconds soon pass, and the next argument–launched with even more determination than the first–takes its place. This continues until my mind is an angry room of passionate debaters, scrutinizing every side of every possible argument, and screaming at each other in their firm convictions. Meanwhile, my convictions dissolve as the chaos engulfs them all.
One of those anxiety moments hit me recently, through experiencing a friend’s suffering. I casually glanced at my phone to see the words “I was raped” light up on my screen. In that moment every bit of confusion and anger towards God that I have ever faced surfaced, and the arguments began. This time, instead of the war that my mind usually wages against itself, I was the one launching my arguments to the Heaves. My lack of understanding at the situation created panic, and for a few minutes I was entrapped in the feeling of having the floor crumble beneath me. In those sorts of moments, it feels very much like everything that holds me up shatters. Every argument for faith that I carefully placed on my delicate structure crashes to the floor like when the final piece is removed in a game of Jenga.
I read a book by C.S Lewis last year called “A Grief Observed.” After losing his wife to cancer, Lewis kept a journal where he recorded his grief experience. This giant in the faith (as well as one of the people whom I most admire) describes his faith in this book as a house of cards that he feels has come crashing down. It struck me as I read this how someone so intelligent and with an incredibly put-together faith built on solid reasoning (much more solid than my own) experienced this lack of solidity in his process of grieving. Sometimes, the most solid arguments in the world are simply not enough.
This is not an argument against faith that reasons. This is not an attempt to bash intellectual faith. One of the places where I have encountered God the most is through reason and deep thought. There are times when I feel the presence of the Lord more when I am sitting in class listening to a theology lecture than when I am sitting in chapel. However, in the moment when my phone screen lit up and my insides began to churn and scream against the vile injustice that my friend experienced, my arguments became a flimsy house of cards, ready to topple at the coming of the wind. Arguments can be countered by better arguments. Minds are far from perfect, and can easily miss Truth.
In that awful moment I felt that the Lord whisper these words to my heart: “are you going to believe what you believe in?” and I realized that desperately searching for arguments to cling to would not result in anything. All I could do was hold on to who I know my Father is. Because I know Him, and I know that He is good. Though nothing seemed to make sense, and it felt like the ground was shaking beneath me, I made a decision to hold on to the solidity found in knowing His love. Because I know that the Lord loves my friend more than I do, and I know that He is with her more than I can be. There is a level of solidity that only Love can provide. Love cannot be toppled by any wind-storm or loose Jenga piece. My friend, the one I mentioned previously, knows this better than I do. I watch as she faces pains and difficulties that life catapults at her, and yet still stands with rock solid faith. She has more grounds for launching accusations at the Sky than anyone I know, and yet, because she has experienced the depth of Love, she willingly tells anyone who will listen about how very loved she is by her Father, and how very loved they are, too.