Thank God I’ve changed

There have been two major shifts in my faith so far. The first, and most obvious, is the shift from Jewish to Christian. The second is more recent. Around the time I dropped out of seminary in 2013, my faith started falling apart. I had been a believer for about five years at that point, and started grappling with new doubts, new questions. 

For the next several years – up until the Covid pandemic began – I openly wrestled with those questions. My social media following exploded, and the gratification was immediate. I wasn’t the only one who felt hurt and let down by other Christians. I wasn’t the only one struggling with darker parts of the Bible. Social media allowed me to connect with a new community of friends who understood my pain in ways that my real life church could not. 

But within the last few years, God finally answered my prayers for certainty. Not content to sit in doubt forever, I wanted at least one solid foundation to build upon. I had to know that God was, at the very least, trustworthy and good. I had to know that the Bible was trustworthy even if I didn’t always understand it. 

If those two things could happen, I could still remain a Christian. 

The “second shift”

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn about adulthood is that many friendships are seasonal. I moved 1500 miles away from the state where I grew up, so some friendships naturally faded because of time and distance. Others shifted as friends went on to get married and have families, and it took me quite a bit longer to get to that life stage. These shifts can be painful, but they are expected. 

When I first became a Christian, it was inevitable that I wouldn’t be able to keep all my Jewish friendships. Understandably, many people felt betrayed by my conversion. As sad as it made me, I couldn’t hold it against them; I understood the reasons all too well. 

And with the “second shift” into the Anglican church, I won’t be able to keep all my progressive-leaning friends. The community that embraced me when I called myself a progressive Christian will understandably see my shift in belief as another kind of betrayal. To them, by embracing orthodoxy, I’ve become the sort of “fundamentalist” that initially pushed them to the margins. 

“You’ve changed”

I know I’ve become a very different person to some people, and therefore the foundation of those friendships has completely changed. It’s expected that those friendships will come and go. 

What is harder for me to deal with are the messages and comments that derisively ask what “happened” to me. I was more likeable before, and now I’m not. 

If the way I’ve gone about sharing my beliefs has changed; if I’m no longer grace-filled and kind, but harsh and dismissive, then that criticism is deserved. 

But to hear that I was more likeable when I doubted says something about many of those friendships. I was struggling so much during that time, personally and spiritually. My health and my marriage were in shambles along with my faith. My struggles in those areas fed each other in an incredibly unhealthy cycle of drinking and depression. 

So when people ask what “happened” to me, on one hand, I understand what they’re talking about: they want to know why I’ve changed. Progressive Christians and Anglo-Catholic Christians are very different.

But I also implicitly hear that they liked the unhealthy version of me better than the person I’ve become. My life drastically improved when I was able to trust God again. Mind you, my circumstances didn’t change, but my heart did, and that made such a difference.

Please hear me on this: doubt and questions are normal and healthy. We can’t have a fully vibrant faith without dissecting every belief under a microscope to see if they hold up. Otherwise, Christians have no way of claiming any sort of foothold on truth. 

On the other hand, a faith built entirely on a foundation of doubt and questions is not sustainable. Undoing 2000+ years of historic teaching about God does not bring us closer to the truth; it only brings us closer to putting our selves on the throne.

One of the most freeing aspects of this wild journey has been realizing this truth: I am not my own. When people tell me, “You’ve changed,” there’s a part of me that wants to respond, “I know, and thank God.

This is the story I’ll wrestle with forever

When author Lauren Winner was preparing to be baptized, she wrote in her memoir that it was unrealistic to pledge perfect belief for the rest of her life. Thankfully, an older mentor explained that this was not the point. Just as we don’t pledge on our wedding day never to fight with our spouse, or to feel 50 years from now the same giddy way we felt after the first date, we don’t pledge perfection to God. Rather, we promise that the gospel story is the one we will wrestle with for the rest of our lives.

For many people in that phase of faith where there are more questions than answers, it can feel like wrestling. It’s uncomfortable and deeply painful. We want to argue with God, ask him “Did you really say…?” as Eve did in the garden. It’s a good question to ask, when the intention is to seek truth. It helps us grow and understand. 

I can only hope that the ways in which I’ve changed are faithful to who God has called me to be. I abhor the type of Christian platform that is cultivated by perpetual outrage and vitriol for anyone who doesn’t agree with me. I want to be humble and open to rebuke when my actions or attitude are genuinely in need of correction. 

But in cases where it’s the gospel that offends, and not me, the natural expectation is that I will be disliked. I will be called closed-minded, judgmental, fundamentalist. And I’ll keep pressing in to God to know him more.

Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash


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