Christian Living

Funeral for Used To

I was knit together in the womb of Evangelicalism. I rocked out to Carman’s Yo Kidz! on my walkman, spent my allowance on bumper-stickered Jesus puns, and won an actual trophy with the inscription “Pastor’s Award” for being the best example of a Church Kid in my fundamentalist Christian school.

And underneath all the WWJD fare, I stood tall as a true believer. I spoke to God out loud and often. I gave homilies to my stuffed animals on the importance of the 10 commandments. As a teenager I prayed through tears to be spared eternal torment and I was completely sincere when I trudged door to door asking people if they knew for sure they would go to Heaven when they died. While my peers snuck vodka or got to second base or stayed out past curfew, my adolescent angst wore a cloak of pious superiority as I turned my face from my parents in moral outrage over their life choices: they smoked cigars once a year, they didn’t go to Wednesday services, mom wore pants and neither of them could tell me the date of their spiritual birthday.

I grew out of that through a few painful amputations, but still wore holes into garments of assured dogmatics. People I respected lauded my faith because I knew a lot of things. I held certainty and confidence in my tribe and all it’s rites. I used to know the Bible to be magic, Hell to be hot, God to be angry. I used to know that Christ’s blood cleansed us of our sin (and I used to know what sin meant). I used to know how to be saved, how to pray, how to package up doubt. I used to have easy answers for hard questions and I freely admit that it felt nice. It felt better than nice, it felt safe. It even felt right.

I used to know so much, but now the best I can do is just… think.
I didn’t set out to lose my religion and actually Christianity never asked me to be stationary. I have always been free to move in it, but I’m reaching the boundaries of it’s sovereignty now. There is so much I used to believe and those two harmless words are beacons to my location out here on the fringe: used to.

Over time I traded in all that knowledge, gathered up every ounce of convicted belief I could fit in my two hands and opened trembling fingers to make room for something too big for me to be sure of. This Think feels so much heavier than all the Knows I had to drop and requires so much more from me than I’ve ever been asked to provide.
Faith, I guess.

Now I cling to something I can’t prove, something I stumble over when I have to explain it. I cling to this simple, weighty, dusty, high-born idea that there is a Goodness I can’t muster up words to describe. That it’s veracity touches the bottom of the ocean and reaches past the outer limits of the universe. That it is True in ways that make no sense, but somehow tie everything up into a bundle. That it has space for tension, for grieving all the used tos. I cling to something I can only barely call God even while I feel a little foolish for it, even while I wonder if it’s anything more than an evolutionary tool.

Christianity bore me, but something else created me. I can’t say I know anything now – really know it, with total assurance – except that I don’t want to give this up. 

This post is written as part of a synchroblog hosted by Sarah Bessey, author of Out of Sorts.

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