messy faith

I’m no theologian or religion scholar.  Shoot, we don’t even get to church every week due to one thing or another, so I am certain the things I say in this post will probably offend someone somewhere.  Maybe even my own family.  Maybe people will be disappointed in me after this…if I publish it at all.

The thing is, faith and spirituality are very important to Cort and me.  It’s something we have found ourselves discussing a lot lately.  In fact, I remember a conversation he and I had over a decade ago…long before we ever knew we would be anything but friends…about faith.  I was amazed that he “got me” and what I was trying to say without missing my point completely like most people do.  I guess that should have been my first clue.  But that is another post all together.

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about the power religion has over people and how personal it is.  It amazes me how nothing can tear people apart and cause more hate and war and death than religion.

Even though almost all religions are based on the idea of loving people and serving one another to honor God (or whatever name certain religions call him), people can somehow turn love into the most passionate hate on the planet and wipe out generations of people.

All over a belief.

If you have a belief it means you are confident in something that has no proof (or can’t be proven in the traditional, scientific sense).

Right there.  See? Some of you are feeling a bit huffy and getting on the defense because I said “there is no proof you are right”.

But you feel right, right?  You are SURE of it.  You believe your beliefs.  You have faith that they are the correct way to think and live.

But it’s still a belief.

Religion was created by humans to organize around a set shared beliefs.

I have to be honest. I don’t know what I think about religion.

I don’t feel like all these rules and interpretations and bickering about what God thinks is right is really what it’s all about.  I don’t like the idea of being told a set of stories and passages and told to believe it, without questioning it too much.

I don’t even really think I believe that heaven and hell are really places. I mean, I believe there is more to this life than what we see here in front of us. I believe in the soul’s of people; that we are different than other life on earth because of our souls; even that part of us lives on in the ones we love and in the world around us after we are gone.  But I don’t really think, for instance, that my father-in-law is sitting on a cloud with a golden harp.  Nor do I believe that there are people gnashing their teeth or tearing their clothing in hellfire either.

I mean, maybe.  But I don’t know.  I don’t think it’s even my job to have to know.  I mean, how can I know?

Because the Bible tells me?  That’s a whole other can of worms.  The Bible.

I read the Bible every day.  I consider it the center of my faith.  But do I think all the stories in there are historical and/or scientific fact?  No.  Do I think the lessons in the Bible are real.  Heck yes.

I just don’t take it all literally.

But I take it spiritually. I learn how to love from it.

There are some people who are shaking their heads and sure that now I am going to hell because I don’t really believe the way I am supposed to.  But I don’t feel like my relationship with God is less because of my doubts or questions.

Could I be wrong?  Yup.  Could I be right?  Maybe.

But that is my point.  No one can no for sure.  I think it’s human to doubt and question and ebb and flow in our faith and beliefs.  I think that is natural.

I am confident in my belief that whatever doubts or questions I am having, it’s Ok. God is Ok with me just like I am when Eddie comes to me with questions and doubts.  God is a patient Father who listens to my worries and doubts and lets me in on what I need to be in on and nothing further.  Just like I don’t tell Eddie all the details of our budget, I assure him daddy and mommy can provide food and a house for him and his brother.

We communicate.  And that is what I do with God.

I tell God when I don’t get something.  I tell him when something in the Bible contradicts something else in there that I read.  I mean, I know he knows.  While we are told God is the author of the Bible, that isn’t entirely true.  He inspired the humans who wrote the letters and prophesies and pieces that are included.  He inspired millions of other people’s writings that were never included, nor have been included since it was first put together.  Humans put that book together and called it God’s Word.

When something doesn’t make sense to me, like why would God kill all the innocent first born male Egyptian children before he rescued the Jewish people from Pharaoh?  They weren’t the sinners.  I mean, if God killed Eddie to punish me, yes it would horribly punish me. I would want to die too, but isn’t there something he could do to me and not my innocent child?  And then did those Egyptian children get to go to Heaven?  It wasn’t their fault they weren’t Jewish and born before Jesus came to save the world.  Or did they hang out in hell until Jesus died, went to hell, and came back?  And I don’t believe that God does this to people. I don’t believe the bad in the world comes from Him.  So why did it then?

These are the things that I think about when someone posts something in my facebook feed that informs me that Easter is evil because of the pagan beginnings, despite the fact that Christians don’t actually celebrate the pagan stuff.

When someone gets so very wrapped up in rules and “laws” and they seem to lose the idea of love, forgiveness, and salvation.

When someone seems to be living their life worried about what something is called instead of living for the actual thing.

When someone claims they are righteous and able to judge others because that is what “God tells them to do”.

I don’t think I have the right to tell you what I believe about your fate based on what I think your beliefs are, and I sure as heck don’t want people doing that to me.  In fact, I don’t think I have a right to make any judgement call on your fate nor you on mine.

Yet there are still people who will read this and choose to “save” me from all this doubt.

But I am Ok with the doubt.  I am solid in my relationship with Christ.  After 35 years of being around Christianity, for the first time in my life I feel like I’ve got a solid foundation with God.  Even though I have more questions than I ever had before.

I don’t think I’ll ever know the answers to a lot of those questions.  But that is where faith takes over.

Even though it can’t be proven, I just have faith.

I just do.

There are plenty of things I could point to that I can see, “see that?  That is part of why I have this faith,” but I’m not going to.

Not in this post.

This post is far to long as it is, but because the words wouldn’t stop bumping me behind the eyes, they had to come out.

My faith is messy, but it’s my messy faith.

And it makes me happy and gives me hope in this world that is so very full of hurt and hopelessness.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl…wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I love learning about people’s beliefs – especially when they have considered their beliefs critically and have made it their own. Because that’s the thing – religion is such a personal thing and should be about comfort and hope, not about hate and judgment.

    This atheist is glad to hear your thoughts about faith and is glad you are brave and vulnerable enough to speak your truth.

  2. So many things I could say on this, but I’ll simply say this:

    Don’t be ashamed of having a messy faith.
    You aren’t alone-so many of us have messy faiths too-I do, and I have friends who feel exactly like this and more.
    I’m learning mess is what makes faith beautiful & odd sometimes.
    (HUGS) I know this was difficult to put out here for people to read. Thank you for being courageous enough to share it anyway.

  3. Get out of my head! 😉

    In all seriousness, this. All of it. Yes. Just. Yes.

  4. Great post. I am not a fan of religion. Less so as I get older. But I appreciate and admire faith and all it entails.

  5. I cannot tell you enough how much I am loving this post, Kate. I have never quite been able to explain my thoughts and views about religion to others because of the judgement that I wasn’t being faithful in the way that they thought I should be. I go back and forth on religion, even more so since my son was born with multiple health issues. Thank you for being brave enough to share your messy faith with us.

  6. Woman, I followed your tweet to FB and had to see what was up. This was rock solid. It is who you are and what you believe and how you respect the beliefs of others that make you the person you are, the person we know, respect and adore. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the open dialogue because it is important for me to learn more about how others observe and believe.

  7. For as long as I’ve been involved with church, I’ve always accepted what I could, questioned some, and kept my mouth shut because I blatantly disagreed about others. My most recent bout of messy faith was a conversation with my mother last week about why Easter was such a big deal to my MIL. I understand that Easter should be the happiest of Christian holidays, but I CAN NOT MOVE PAST the thought that other human beings killed Jesus because He was different. Both my mom and my MIL are comforted that He died for us, that we would be free to worship Him. I am not, and in our house, Easter is just another Sunday. However, my mom buys my girls’ Easter outfits and my MIL cooks a huge feast in celebration and we attend. Because we love our mothers. I’m hoping that made sense, that everyone’s beliefs are a little different and sometimes they’re messy.

  8. good for you, question everything.

  9. Good post on the difficulties of faith. I too, struggled with some of things, and even though I love the Bahai faith, I still struggle sometimes.

  10. I can’t get over how much this sounds like me the past year. We’ve been struggling with the institution of Religion, and how right now, it just doesn’t match the spirituality we feel and the relationship we have with God. We speak to him and he still guides us, even though we don’t frequent our church anymore. The Bible is a great “moral of the story” reference, but like you said, it was written by human beings who were inspired by God. Can we question it? Sure! It’s our free will. I think the best thing about Faith, messy or not, is that we make what we want out of it. You, my dear, have Faith in abundance. And anything in abundance can sometimes seem a little messy :).

  11. I think Joyce Meyer said it the best I have ever heard it put.. If I believe in Jesus and I live as I believe Jesus would have me to live, give to the poor, help the needy, be his hands and feet and share the love that He gave to me by laying down his life, and I am wrong, and I just become worm food instead of being in heaven. Who will I have hurt?? What will I have done to you if I am walking in the only teaching Jesus ever gave, over and over and over. Forgiveness, grace, mercy and love. But what if I am right. I still have not harmed you in my faith and behavior if I am doing it right. I will have loved you right where you are, I would have done my best to be the representation of the greatest love man will ever know, The love of another to lay down his life for someone he doesn’t even know. So either way you look at it, I win. I win because I have learned that forgiveness , mercy, grace and love were all manifested in flesh. All the beauty of heaven contained in one form. By choosing to live out HIS desires for me I will not have a need or desire to sin against you. I have learned that I have enough issue handling my own ‘sins’, leaving me unable to judge and simply nod my head as we pass on our journey with a smile and a nod of “i got you brother” So a win is a win.. heaven or no I will have lived and loved as if everyone was Jesus before me, and treated you as if Jesus were me, which is what it is supposed to be about isn’t it.

  12. Thank you for another heart-wrenching post, Katie! I grew up Catholic & had — no wait — *still* have many questions. What I believe, as a human, woman, mother, etc — may not exactly match the black & white “Catholicism” that is in desperate need of updating. Here’s where it gets messy for our family: the school we chose for our kids? The school that was the best fit — is a Catholic school. The religion aspect isn’t forced down my kids throats… but… there are days I want to RUN. Like my daughter’s recent 1st confession. UGH. My desire to run is always short-lived, but the “supposed-tos” and the black & white issues can drive me to drink. Nothing is black & white! I believe we should be good to one another: giving, not selfish, non-judgmental, accepting of each other, and that includes our varying beliefs. I also believe that faith is an EXTREMELY personal thing. As long as I’m not causing harm & being a good person to others, what I believe shouldn’t matter to anyone but me… and God.

    Really incredible post. Thanks for sharing.

  13. While it’s just my opinion, I think the best faiths are messy faiths. I believe God gave us our brains and our curiosity to question, to learn, and to explore. And your questions may be different than mine, and your answers may turn out to be different, and people who are really comfortable with their own spiritual journey will respect yours 🙂

  14. I’m not going to drop a band aid comment or an i-can-fix-your-faith-issues comment or whatever. I’m just going to tell you to hang on to your messy faith. I know with every fibre of my being that things will be a lot clearer later. Thanks for this post

  15. There is no “right” way to believe or have faith. Many of my personal spiritual beliefs are in conflict with my Catholic upbringing, but what I’ve learned is that my beliefs come from within, and I get to choose them. I don’t have to just accept what I’m told to believe without questioning. I don’t study the Bible, but I agree with your views on it. Good post.

  16. I believe that any religion that tells you to just accept what you’re told and not ask questions is doing it wrong. I’m glad my church isn’t like that.

    Keep asking. And keep studying! If you’re interested in learning more there are options out there for deeper study, which don’t involve going to seminary 🙂

  17. I loved this, it’s exactly how I feel about faith and like Angela..I believe that for faith to be real and wonderful and life changing it has to be messy.

    You have said everything exactly the way I would and I talk to God constantly, all day long.

    I think it’s it’s important to BELIEVE and you do …that’s what matters.

    XOXO

  18. Amen sister! What an excellent post! The older I get the less I know, but I do know we must treat each other as we would like to be treated. As a Catholic, I seldom talk about my faith b/c of the bashing it entails. Your post gives me hope in modern religion/spirituality.

  19. If more people embraced – no ACCEPTED – the messiness of faith like you did, I’d be more inclined to listen.

    So you didn’t lose me here.
    You just reminded me why I show up in the first place.

    XO

  20. Amazing. Is all I can say. I think, it’s wonderful that you are brave enough to share this with your readers. Like you said, faith and/or religion are such personal things and not a lot of people are comfortable talking about it. I always say, that I don’t care what you believe in, what you practice, as long as you don’t try to push your beliefs on me because I won’t push mine on you. Why can’t we coexist and be friends, despite believing different things? I never understood that.

  21. Yes. Yes and Yes. Oh Katie, I just love this. I have actually been working on a post regarding faith and religion, which I don’t like to talk about, but my dad made a comment the other day to me about having more religion in my life and I was shocked. I have so much to say on this topic and I can’t wait to share it with you. My faith is so messy. Heck, I married a Jewish man and I was raised Catholic. How is that for a mess? I am right there with you sweetie. Sorry if I rambled.

  22. What a fabulous post. And all so true. I was raised Catholic and no longer feel Catholic whatsoever. And sometimes, I am not sure what I believe. Or if I’ll ever truly believe in a “religion” again. But that is my path–my journey, and I will walk it no matter how it looks to others.

    What I always felt, and still feel today is I read that Book. And the overwhelming message I got from it was Love. Love and only Love. So that’s what I live by and that’s what I apply. All else is not meant for me to understand or judge or pretend to know.

  23. I put my own thoughts about religion into a quote from Gandhi, about Christianity: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” But, I think this quote actually applies to far more than just Christianity — what do I love best about religion? The religious tenets. What do I dislike most about religion? The way those tenets are carried out.

    I fear that, whenever you take something beautiful like someone’s faith, and try to put it into a box, you’re destined to screw it up.

    I believe there has to be a higher power . . . how the heck is maple syrup so damn tasty if it’s not for some being saying “these trees with the funny leaves, I’m going to make them taste great, but only if someone figures out how to stick a straw into the tree and collects the stuff that comes out in just the right way”? Huh? There has to be someone or something pulling the strings.

    I’ve actually done significant study about the bible, and how it was put together. And, despite my current antics on Sunday mornings, I actually once considered myself a very religious person. Me & God? We’re good. Me & the church? meh.

    • “Me & God? We’re good. Me & the church? meh.”

      THIS is what I’ve been saying for years, ever since I got caught up in and then promptly removed myself from church politics. I read the Bible, I believe and have faith, but the things that are most important to me aren’t inside the physical walls of a church for a few hours on Sunday mornings. And because of this, I like to believe that God and I have a good relationship, whether the physical church thinks so or not.

  24. Your faith inspires me. When you started #SheReadsTruth I was inspired to start reading the Bible. My faith has always been shaky, and it’s never been the same since my grandmother died when I was in middle school. She was the person who took me to church and talked about faith with me. But you are so inspiring. I just want you to know that.

  25. Personally, I think you nailed it with these words:personal, relationship. He works on each of us as individuals! Faith is the key. Bravo to you for publishing this!

  26. I get a lot of what you’re saying here. I think your post was brave! I think more than anything people don’t always get that there’s a difference between religion and relationship. When Christ was nailed to the cross the old law was wiped away. Thank goodness for His grace and mercy freely given to us. Keep the faith! That’s what matters!

  27. I SO get this and love every word of it!. I’ve been dealt a truckload of suck in my life so yeah, my faith is definitely very messy! I think it has to be when there is so much pain and suffering that goes on. I think it’s our job to questions everything all the time and that includes our faith.

    Great post, Katie!