Fluffy Faith

 Faith can be a little weird, huh?

If you say no, you're either lying to yourself or have achieved some secret to non-humanity that I'd encourage you to sell on the black market. Heck, sell it anywhere. 

It can be strong and steadfast, but it can still do odd things to a human heart. 

Faith in people, yourself, life in general... all rollercoasters of ups and downs and swirly-twirlys that can make you half sick after a while.

Faith in God... now that's your special pillow. The very thing in which you find your best rest and comfort. The fluff that cradles your head as you snuggle in to end a long day. But, even still, when your back is aching or your head is pounding, that pillow doesn't provide immediate, instant, complete relief. You lay down, fully surrender, in hopes that all pain and discomfort go away, but they don't. That can be challenging to understand. 

Even harder still- is when your introduction to faith in God was more like a blind date with a thousand people all talking at the same time about different things with a multitude of agendas. Trying to decipher who it is you're really there to meet is nearly impossible... until you're in a place alone with faith itself.

I still burst into tears at times, because I know I'm still trying to clear my head of all the false fears that were fed to me as a child. If I get too angry, I must not be good. If I think an unpleasant thought, I must really be evil. If I'm tired or emotional, that's it. I'm a weakling that just can't do life. 

It took me years to confront my feelings. I didn't think I was allowed to. Admitting them or talking about them would surely mean I wasn't a Christian and I didn't love God. I can't be sad and have faith. I can't question God and still believe in Him. I can't be upset at how my life is going and truly believe He's in control. There's no way for me to be confused unless I also admit I'm faithless. 

Breaking through all the tangled, thorny branches of withered up nonsense takes time. I'm still not completely out of the gnarly mess. 

About a year or so ago, I was talking to my therapist; trying to figure out some inner turmoil. I was at that point where you just feel all the things behind your eyes. We'd faced a plethora of unfortunate and disappointing circumstances that were completely beyond our control. Siblings going to jail for unimaginable things; struggling to figure out who they are or who they've been; parents refusing to comfort us when that's all we asked for; health scares back-to-back; being used and then quickly abandoned by people we invested in for years; and that unexplained infertility monster still clawing at our lives. 

It's my norm to try to figure out "the why" in every scenario. We don't have kids yet, because XYZ.  Maybe those people did us wrong so that we could 123 and not have to worry about ABC.

That was all fine and dandy until it wasn't. 

I remember breaking down as I was living in my false future and avoiding my very present reality. I finally said what had been hiding out in my heart for a long time. 

"I'm so tired of always looking for the best in bad situations."

That was my mini breakthrough. Being able to admit I was human. That I didn't have all the answers. That I wasn't always thrilled with life. That I didn't fully understand why God hadn't intervened or spared me from some awful, unfair situations. That I longed for a family that was healthy, close, and comforting. That I was tired. 

A dear friend gave me a book by Glennon Doyle filled with several great quotes, but one of my favorites registered deeply with me:

"It's okay to feel all of the stuff you're feeling. You're just becoming human again. You're not doing life wrong; you're doing it right. If there's any secret you're missing, it's that doing it right is just really hard. Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that's what they're for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones. The secret is that you're doing it right, and that doing it right hurts sometimes."


She then goes on to say, "What I thought would kill me, didn't. Every time I said to myself: I can't take this anymore-- I was wrong. The truth was that I could take it all-- and I kept surviving. Surviving again and again made me less afraid of myself, of other people, of life. I learned that I'd never be free from pain, but I could be free from the fear of pain, and that was enough."

That last sentence for me was more than a lightbulb going off in my brain. It was like the sun finally rose in my heart and I could clearly see my life meet up with faith for the first time- alone, genuine, and intimate. 

Feeling disappointment is never going to go away... even with the strongest faith. Being angry, when life deals you an unfair hand, is natural and certain. Experiencing hurt and frustration when others bring negativity into your long fought-for peaceful world is inevitable. Know that these situations will arise at some point or another. Feel them. Deal with them. But don't fear them. You will survive them. 

I'm trying to rebuild my faith into a more sound, steady, sturdy thing. While I do believe God cares about us and wants the best for us, I'm not sure He will answer every single prayer... especially if those prayers involve other people... because let's face it-- people can suck. 

You can live your whole life right, expecting things to go a certain way because of the effort and integrity you've invested into whatever plan you saw for your life. But, when others get in the way, that are selfish and - I don't know - just not great people... that plan can be postponed, delayed, or completely demolished. 

It's easy to question God and your faith at that point. But (and here I go looking for that "why" again) it could be the very thing that wakes you up and causes you to begin dreaming about what was really meant for you in the first place.

People that don't believe in God, or perhaps a different kind of god, deal with these same things, too. They have to tear down and rebuild. It's part of life. It comes with being human and sharing a world with other humans. It can't be escaped. 

Finally grasping that truth let the healing begin for me. 

I had felt abandoned by God for a long time. I wondered why I had to deal with abuse as a child, and why no one had discernment to figure it out. I prayed that someone- anyone- would get the message and save me from all the things that came with what I had faced. I saw it happen with other things for other people. I saw individuals approach others and speak things that had to have come from a Higher Source. I witnessed the wonder and relief on faces that I longed to also experience. I tried to create relationships with certain people in an attempt to be seen... be asked... be rescued. 

So many of those attempts caused more pain. Rejection because my family wasn't "spiritual enough." Break-ups because I wasn't "talented enough." Being unincluded because I didn't live close enough. I was longing for love and acceptance and protection anywhere... but it was hard to find everywhere. It hurt to see other peers surrounded by large, loving families treat me with anything but approval. I yearned so badly to have anyone in my life truly be there for me. Love me. Support me. Challenge me in a healthy way. I was a hopeless romantic, a suppressed best friend, a desperate kid. 

Thank God I found Aaron. Literally, the best person in my life. Without him, I just... I don't know. I'm not sure how I'd be today without the intense love and friendship we have. Don't get me wrong, we're not perfect. We have our issues. It's still wonderful, but there are days we have to decide to like each other. 

Even with a strong marriage, I continued to deal with those same strong longings until a few years ago, too. I expected every church leader to hear from God and know what my heart was so desperately needing. I wanted a friendship so tight it filled the voids I'd had since I was 5 years old. I felt so hurt any time I was disappointed or let down by someone I admired and respected. 

I had to come to the realization that it really wasn't their responsibility to fill that gap for me. They had their own lives, families, responsibilities... their own inner struggles. I had to know when it became necessary to just understand this wasn't going to be a relationship I could invest in. 

While that helped me, it still didn't heal me. 

It still left holes in my faith. Because I still felt like God wasn't listening. 

But- what if He was... and they weren't?

When I asked myself that question, I had to search my own heart. Do I pay attention enough to other people who may be hurting? How often do I give of myself? Am I praying for others to feel loved and accepted? What am I doing to ensure others feel seen and heard?

I wish there was a way for everyone to reach perfection, but it won't happen here. So, let's all just do our darndest to be really good. 

That's what my "new" faith has shown me. It's not about being happy all the time. It's not that kind of "fluffy faith." Things aren't always sunshine and roses. Having faith doesn't make your life perfect. You can struggle. Be angry. Mess up. Ugly cry. Just understand that when the day is over, you still have that pillow on which to rest your head. Be comforted and know that your life still has meaning, new relationships are still coming, amazing opportunities are still out there. Faith is there to remind you to keep going. To indulge the non-fluff sometimes. Lay down. Snuggle up. Take a break. Wake up refreshed and empowered to do just a little more good because we realize it counts. 

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