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Faith is Change

A few days ago, we got together with some good friends to share and to pray.  These are people we have, in some cases, known since we were teenagers.  When we were younger and flush with spiritual fervour and the optimism of youth, we would get together like this more frequently, praying for revival, for victory and blessing, for change, for all kinds of wonderful things that we believed lay just around the bend.

We’re a bit older now.  Maybe even a bit wiser.  If nothing else, life has left its mark on all of us, in the wide variety of ways that life always does.  We have had to negotiate the death of parents and others we love, we have watched relationships fracture and fragment into divorce and separation, we have participated in the elations and agonies of parenting, we have negotiated the challenges of infertility and adoption, we have struggled with physical health concerns, vocational anxieties, and crises of faith.  We have seen, in short, that life is a mixed bag, and that faith is not (and has never been) some kind of inoculant from the pain of living.

I continue to periodically revisit my file full of quotes from Christian Wiman’s beautiful book, My Bright Abyss.  This one struck me in a new way today as I reflect upon the ups and downs of the journey, and the gift of fellow pilgrims with which to share them:

Faith is not some hard, unchanging thing you cling to through the vicissitudes of life. Those who try to make it into this are destined to become brittle, shatterable creatures. Faith never grows harder, never so deviates from its nature and becomes actually destructive, than in the person who refuses to admit that faith is change. I don’t mean simply that faith changes (though there is that). I mean that just as any sense of divinity that we have comes from the natural order of things—is in some ultimate sense within the natural order of things—so too faith is folded into change, is the mutable and messy process of our lives rather than any fixed mental product. Those who cling to the latter are inevitably left with nothing to hold on to, or left holding on to some nothing into which they have poured the best parts of themselves.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. mike #

    This is powerful, Ryan, ..not many pastors would even have the courage to write this… You and Wiman are speaking to a wounded place deep within so many of us that few preachers dare to address. Honestly,for a minute I had to restrain myself from breaking-down sobbing while reading this. Life broke my faith years ago and I’m just now coming back around and trying to make sense of it all. This post helps so much, Thank you.

    March 25, 2014
    • Well, that’s why I have a blog :). Not everything can (or should) be said from the pulpit.

      I appreciate your honesty here, MIke. Your journey sounds like one full of heartache, but I am so glad that you are making your way back. Thank you for these kind words. I wish you much grace and peace as you continue to try to make sense of it all.

      (And if you haven’t already done so, I would highly recommend reading Wiman’s book. I think you would find a kindred spirit and a wise fellow pilgrim.)

      March 25, 2014
  2. This resonates deeply with me — but it also speaks to my sense of frustration that the church — both institution and community– does not always embrace that change. For the individual believer whose faith has been dramatically re-shaped by life’s difficult lessons, there is sometimes little choice but to take that newly minted faith elsewhere. Often “elsewhere” is away from “church” entirely. I liken this experience to a marriage that breaks down because the two partners have not grown apace with one another. Perhaps if the church truly operated on the principles you describe here, I would still be attending.

    March 25, 2014
    • I understand the frustration and it makes me sad. I have seen or heard of what you speak of happen many, many times—so often “elsewhere” is somewhere with the church in the rearview mirror.

      I wish you could find somewhere that would be open to walking with you through the change.

      March 25, 2014
    • mike #

      @Muddy River Muse: …so very well put.

      March 26, 2014

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