“Go your way; your faith has saved you.” ~Mk 10:52
About a month ago I signed up to write this Dark Devotional. I oversee them, and there was a blank spot in the schedule. The gospel is about Jesus curing a blind man. That should be easy-peasy, I thought.
But as the weeks went on, I started thinking more about my deceased Catholic parents (thanks, therapy), and about what it is I truly believe. I left the Church during Holy Week this year—you can read about why here. When I left I truly thought that my beliefs in God and the sacraments and Jesus and all the saints in Heaven wouldn’t be touched, it was just the unaccepting patriarchal human structure of the church to which I objected. Then I allowed myself, for the first time in my life, to think openly and for myself about my beliefs, without fear of what anyone else might think. And one day I realized something shocking.
I might be agnostic.
In fact, I might be an atheist.
As unlikely as it seems, in my 51 years I have never had my faith in God shaken prior to this. Not once. Bad things have happened; terrible, heart-wrenching things. I have raged at God, begged on my knees for relief, tried and failed to bargain when I was desperate. Through it all I was absolutely certain that God was with me, next to me, doing what was best for me and those I love. Unfaltering, unwavering certainty.
Suddenly, that was gone.
Try to imagine it, if you’ve never experienced it. Five decades of unequivocable certainty, followed by emptiness. It is the spiritual equivalent of the ground underneath you disappearing, falling into an unknown depth.
I can already hear the solution some will give—”Come back to the sacraments. You’re experiencing darkness because you left.” Yet, you’re not supposed to receive the sacraments if you don’t believe, right? And there’s still that pesky issue of a misogynistic, homophobic structure which I cannot abide.
You may be wondering how the hell this is going to turn into a devotional. I don’t really know. We did warn you it would get dark. At Sick Pilgrim we have always embraced the full truth of each person’s journey, and I’m just being honest about the current state of mine.
I’m realizing that belief can be fluid, and I have no idea in what direction I’m heading. One minute I feel like a lost sheep, the next I feel freedom.
What I can tell you is that in this period of darkness, I appreciate those who walk next to me with light, keeping me company and gently steering me away from the abyss. These are the people who, rather than freaking out or preaching hell and damnation at me, sit and listen, ask questions, and offer kind words of encouragement. It is in fact the most Christian response, and it has been offered by atheists, agnostics, unaffiliated Christians, and Catholics alike. It is appreciated more than I can say.
“Help my unbelief.” ~ Mk 9:24