This is the story I will wrestle with forever

I think I have, as blogger Libby Anne put it so succinctly, salvation anxiety.

I think about all the people growing up in isolated religious bubbles being taught that this way is the only way to faith (yes, I’m using “faith” as a verb). Meanwhile, 90% of all the other Christian denominations are insisting they’re doing it wrong.

And the most tragic thing is that those people won’t find out they did it wrong until after they die, and then it’s too late to change anything.

Maybe I’m doing it all wrong, too.

11254132I just reread Still: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis by Lauren Winner. She’s one of those authors whose books tell me new things each time I read them, and this re-reading was no different. She writes, “The reason I still continue calling myself a Christian is because this narrative of faith says more of who I am than anything else.”

I sat in my library chair turning those words over and over in my mind. Who I am, who I am…what does that mean, exactly?

I thought about how I wish, just once, I could go off on somebody who gleefully exclaims, “God made my cancer disappear!” It says something about the depth of my own wickedness that I have literally had to walk away to keep from doing this, because my own father’s death is still so raw. On one hand, maybe I would be justified in doing so, as I’m still in that first-year grieving period, and you can get away with all kinds of things by blaming your actions on grief. On the other hand, I couldn’t do that to someone who has received the best possible news, because remission is no small thing, and I don’t want to be that person who enjoys pissing in other people’s Cheerios.

But the temptation is still there, which makes me think, Woman, you really do need Jesus.

And so I stay. It’s not in my nature to just walk away from something that invokes all kinds of questions. I’m that plucky little person to keep on pressing, keep on challenging, because simple, pat answers do not placate me, and only when I have the raw truth will I give up, no matter how unpleasant it might be.

To paraphrase Winner, when I was baptized, I was not promising to believe this story forever. Rather, I was promising that this is the story I will wrestle with forever.

***

If you liked this post, check out my memoir, Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter.

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6 thoughts on “This is the story I will wrestle with forever

  1. AthenaC says:

    “… this way is the only way to faith. Meanwhile, 90% of all the other Christian denominations are insisting they’re doing it wrong.”

    Yes, I’ve noticed this, too. For me, it makes sense to look for teachings that account for the infinite nature of God. Something along the lines of, “Yes, we know X, Y, and Z about salvation, but at the end of the day God alone knows a person’s heart.”

    “It says something about the depth of my own wickedness that I have literally had to walk away to keep from doing this, because my own father’s death is still so raw.”

    I don’t think this has to do with your wickedness – I think your reaction speaks to your trauma and grief right now. We are not in control of whatever emotions assault us for whatever reason; we are responsible for how we react, however. You choosing to walk away shows remarkable strength – more strength than I have had at certain points. Don’t beat yourself up and feel like you are wicked for feeling this way.

    “I was promising that this is the story I will wrestle with forever.”

    Yes we will – the nature of God, life, the universe, and everything is so far above and beyond our limited understanding that it makes the perfect wrestling partner. There is always more to think about, more to learn, more to understand, and more ways to make ourselves better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      What I mean by “wickedness” is that I would, quite honestly, revel in seeing the person’s shocked face when I say “Why would God save you over my father? Or a child with leukemia? What’s so damn special about you?” If God did have anything to do with it, I doubt anyone knows the real reason why.

      Liked by 1 person

      • AthenaC says:

        Agreed – I’m not sure we’ll ever understand how exactly all the threads of the universe are woven together. Maybe in the next life but certainly not in this one.

        I still applaud you for not giving in to your first impulse – I could definitely take a page from your book on that one.

        Like

        • Beth Caplin says:

          It just seems highly unlikely that God would provide the reason to some people but not others. But if that’s their defense mechanism after surviving a traumatic experience, who am I to take it from them?

          I don’t know. I can’t promise I’ll show that same amount of restraint every single time this happens. Statements like that are so common, maybe I’ll learn to let them roll off me, but the closer I get to the one-year mark, the more tightly-wound my emotions get.

          Liked by 1 person

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