I can remember the first time I saw Frankie read the cards. He was dealing with some questions about his own career path and life journey, and there in our bedroom, on top of a comforter gifted to us for our wedding, he laid out a spread. I was dealing with my own questions at that time, particularly about pursuing chaplaincy and ordination. So I asked him to read for me, and he proceeded to do so. But I had questions. Was he telling the future, or something else? How did he know what the cards meant? Where and how did he learn to tell the story? Was this divine (or demonic) inspiration?
SOMETIMES I THINK IT IS MY MISSION TO BRING FAITH TO THE FAITHLESS, AND DOUBT TO THE FAITHFUL ― PAUL TILLICH
Rambling. I do it when I feel vulnerable. Doubt makes me feel vulnerable. I like people to think I have my shit together, that I know something about something. I like to feel competent and trustworthy. But in the world of chaplaincy, of caring for the spirit in the throes of crisis and loss, it would seem my doubt and disbelief are gifts. It isn't that I disbelieve in a *fill in the blank with a typical, evangelical Christian adjective* God. It's that I don't mind questions. I hate not knowing, but I don't mind the questions that come out of the not knowing.
...if you were to ask me, "Where do you see God working in your life," I might be able to answer you. I might be able to tell you that I've felt God's presence in such and such event, in this conversation or in that encounter. The other day, I started a sentence with, "I felt the Spirit," and I nearly had to stop myself from stopping myself. I don't cringe at words like "salvation" or "God's will" like I did for a while there. Perhaps most importantly, my response to the inquiry of "How are you and God" would be, "We're good. We're okay."
There is a time and a place for gratitude, for thanksgiving. There is also a time and a place for mourning and sorrow, for anger and pain. I'm glad that I get to help make space for the latter, for people to simply feel what they feel without judgment or condemnation. Next time you think of saying the words, "Be grateful," ask yourself, "Would I be grateful right now if I were in their shoes, if I felt their pain?"
LETTING GO GIVES US FREEDOM, AND FREEDOM IS THE ONLY CONDITION FOR HAPPINESS. IF, IN OUR HEART, WE STILL CLING TO ANYTHING - ANGER, ANXIETY, OR POSSESSIONS - WE CANNOT BE FREE. ― THÍCH NHẤT HẠNH
"What would happen if you strangled God?" Bob asked me. I sat there as a variety of expressions came across my face, several of which caused Bob to chuckle. Then, I had what may be one of my nerdiest epiphanies ever.
Most often, when people experience a loss, their minds go to one of two places initially: either they start to wrestle with the what-ifs of a situation or they jump right into the details of the what's-next. In the moment of pain, crisis, and loss, it's hard for most of us to sit in that pain and bear it. To do so would be to accept that change is coming, whether we like it or not. It is often the job (and privilege) of those of us on the periphery to help contain the questions that surface. We don't have to offer answers. We just need to show up.
I realized that I could read the Bible (and other texts) and find meaning in them without having to believe in the absolute Truth of the stories contained within them. After all, what difference does believing in a global flood or a talking donkey or a king killing 200 men just for their foreskins have on my life today? What questions do these stories answer?
I don't know who came up with the idea that questioning God, God's motives, or God's actions (or inactions) is wrong, but I'd like to meet him (just roll with me on the gender assumption). If I had that chance, I'd point out David, Thomas, Job, even Paul. There are probably more biblical characters who dared question God. I'd ask why he thought it was wrong to hold God accountable for the ways in which God does and does not act in the world.
Life does not happen without questions. They're inevitable. Communities that make space for questions are often healthier, more vibrant, and certainly more nurturing than those who stifle them, burying them beneath the surface of our collective consciousness. More important than questions, healthy communities must make room for something else, for a word that has become riddled with connotations of weakness and failure...
In life, people come and people go. Relationships last for a moment, and they last for a lifetime. We feel pain, and we cause it. We face dilemmas, and sometimes they take a while to be solved. As the Explorer told us Saturday night, life is about balance. Sometimes it comes naturally, but more often than not, we have to work at it. Though I initially named my blog Finding the Balance on a whim, over time, I've realized the significance of its title for me personally (and apparently for many of you). Balance is hard, and we cannot find it alone.