Thursday, January 20, 2011
Heaps of Rubble
I've been thinking lately about faith, and about what life looks like after faith has fallen apart. So many of us, particularly in my generation, have reached a point in life where circumstances, or education, or our own questioning, brought us to a point of doubt--and then beyond.
Like many of my peers, I grew up with a strong sense of commitment to God, faithfulness to my local Christian church, and a passion to make that God known. My faith in God was a strong wall - a place of protection and comfort, of direction and purpose. It guided my decisions and gave my life meaning.
Then the hard times came. A [liberal arts] education started running cracks through the mortar of my assumptions. Suffering--my own, and that of the world at large--tore at the bricks so carefully laid. A deep spiritual and emotional darkness descended over my life, and crumbled the few remaining bits of wall. When light at last began to dawn, I found myself disoriented, standing in a heap of rubble, with dust and smoke drifting past me into the obscure distance.
Out of the haze, I eventually began to discern other figures. They stood amidst their own heaps of rubble, shaking their heads and sorting the confusion of their own crumbled faith. Many of them dusted themselves off and began to walk away. Some chose to walk in the direction of the receding darkness, while others followed the rays of light that cut through the swirling dust. Still others slowly began rebuilding, right where they stood. They lifted each brick, brushed it off, and put it back in place.
As for myself, I spent quite a while in that rubble. I was angry about it, I grieved the loss of my wall, and I watched closely what others were doing. Then, almost without knowing it, I picked up one of my bricks and laid it on the ground in front of me. I laid another after that, and then another. Over time, I found I was laying a path. Not a path with a definite destination, to be clear, but one that circled and wove its way through (and perhaps beyond) the debris. I'm still laying that path, dusting off the old bricks, mixing in a few new ones, even occasionally stepping off the pavers into the mud. It has turned out to be a confusing, hopeful, sometimes painful, joyful adventure - finding my way forward on this path of faith.
One of the greatest surprises of this stage of my faith has been the communion that has grown with other rubble-dwellers. Regardless of what we've chosen to do with our heaps of debris, we have in common this experience - our once trusted walls have crumbled, we have breathed the dust of their extinction. Our eyes have burned with the fine grit of crushed faith, and we have grieved the loss of what we once held dear. Our conversations grow out of deep empathy and shared questions. We have suffered, perhaps not together, or identically, but still alongside one another; we have learned of darkness and doubt and shock. As we chart our courses in the wake of this disaster, our parallel experiences draw us together.
Some of us will walk away, some of us will rebuild, some of us will survey the confusion indefinitely. So far, there seems to be no one "right way" to sort out this loss. While our future paths might lead in varied directions, we are comforted, and yes--blessed--by the privilege of this shared memory. What we may or may not do in the days to come remains to be seen, but this we do know: we are held together in the solidarity of the rubble.
(Photo used with permission, www.freefoto.com)