Faith can be a difficult thing. You can believe in Christianity as firmly as you believe you know your own given name, but belief does not always translate to actually practicing and living creeds in daily life. It's not always easy. The world is an incredibly distracting, busy, tempting, and chaotic place, full of responsibilities, duties, hobbies, pleasures, and the like. But even when life is quiet and events are taking place in a calm order, you can simply feel spiritually dry, distant from God. I've described it before as feeling like you are outside a house, God is inside, you can't seem to find the door, and you can't yell loud enough to make yourself heard through the walls. I can't really pinpoint exactly when I started to feel like that, as it was a gradual decline. I know I had hit the dryness by the time I got my LJ in mid-2003, though I haven't felt spiritually dry for the entire time I've had my journal - just much of the time. I can, though, more accurately pinpoint why I've felt like this. I don't want to level blame at anyone, as it's no-one's fault, but I became very disillusioned with organised religion, I felt many had misplaced priorities, and I was absolutely drained from religious debates. It's one thing to talk about your beliefs and to engage in discussion about differences. It's another to have an all-out debate on religion, and the debates amongst Christians over theological disagreements can be particularly brutal. At one point, I would partake in multiple such debates daily, and finally, I found myself unable to take it. I felt exhausted, unwilling to read my Bible, and unwanting to pray. And for a long time, I didn't do much about it. In some ways, I became cynical.
So that's where I've been. Things are better now. I don't want to force a regeneration in a living faith; I want it to come naturally. I've tried to force it before and just ended up disappointed.
Part of my problem with faith is found inside me: old attitudes lingering from my former atheism. I was a very committed atheist in my early teenage years, and those years can be very formative and important when it comes to your perspective on the world. I railed against religion, especially Christianity - I didn't have many facts, but I thought it was all a pile of mumbo-jumbo. I wasn't going to take that "religious nonsense" for a second. Of course, that completely changed, but I'm still stuck with reservations and nervousness from that time period. I am skeptical of the miraculous. I have accepted the miracles of Christ, as I believe he was fully God (and fully man) and could thus practice them, but I have a much harder time accepting other miracles. I still shy away from public displays of religion because they make me uncomfortable. My faith is very personal, it's an important part of me, and I'm not necessarily comfortable with participating in certain forms of worship, especially in large groups.
I often find myself hindered in expressing my faith. That sentence is probably going to get some disbelieving thoughts and stares, but I'm completely serious. You would be extremely hard-pressed to get me to talk this openly and candidly about what I believe in person, especially if there are non-Christians around. I am nervous about making this entry, as I am about making any entry about my faith, especially because I know non-Christians are reading. I can bring myself to feel at ease in the company of small groups of other Christians who share my core beliefs, but beyond that, I have a hard time and will often try to change the topic. That's not because I have something against non-Christians. Quite the contrary: I have something against my own Christianity. You see, I used to think Christianity was stupid, completely and utterly stupid. I fear the response I would've given myself five years ago. I worry that the non-Christians may not want to hear what I have to say - even when they've invited me to say it! Most of all, I simply feel shy, inhibited, and nervous.
I find myself scared of church. It's very hard to convey quite what I mean. I would love to join with other believers and worship - I would love to sing songs that I feel come directly from my heart, I would love to listen to an insightful, thought-provoking, and challenging speech, and I would love to join with others in serious prayer. However, many churches are simply far too large for to me be at ease and I often find it hard to find meaning and worth in public prayer, especially when it's a pre-written prayer that's gone through multiple drafts! It just doesn't come from my heart; it doesn't feel real to me. And what I wouldn't give for some music that really makes me feel, that makes me think, and that makes me feel like I'm joining with others in singing to God with one unified voice. I'm not asking for a U2 cover - though I did get the above sensation at the U2 concerts and if any church played Gloria or Until The End Of The World, they may have a member for life! I simply find that the music I have been exposed to does not stimulate feelings inside me; I find myself being a passive listener, often over-analysing the lyrics. I also sometimes have had a hard time finding the serious, in depth religion that I crave. I don't want to listen to typical Christian cliches, I don't want to hear that all will be well in the end, I don't want to be told that lust is wrong. I know that stuff already. I crave serious theology, and I don't just want the positive perspective. Sometimes, I don't know what I'm really looking for, just that I'm not really feeling any connection with God, just an uncomfortable sensation. I just wish I could act upon what I know is in the Bible, and I just wish I didn't feel so nervous about it.
This entry hasn't been easy for me to write, and the words haven't always come to me. I don't think I've been this up front and honest in a long time, particularly not about my faith. In a way, though, it has been refreshing to write this. I certainly haven't covered everything, but it's a start.
This has been another Needlessly Long Axver Entry Production.