November 20, 2017

Ask Chaplain Mike: Eagle’s Questions (part one)

By Chaplain Mike

To me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing on Internet Monk involves getting to “meet” people from a variety of backgrounds who come here to discuss their thoughts and share their experiences. It is a conversation, and everyone is welcome. We have folks from all different Christian backgrounds, people from around the world, and individuals who are dealing with various levels of conflict in their journeys of faith and, in some cases, non-faith.

Our friend “Eagle” has been involved in these conversations for awhile now. He has talked openly about his journey through various religious communities and various ways he has been hurt and disillusioned by them all. In particular, he looks back on his life among the “fundagelicals” with not so fond memories.

He sent some of his questions to me when I solicited inquiries for “Ask Chaplain Mike,” and I will deal with a few of them today. He wrote, “I read your post this morning and was wondering if you could give some thought and maybe tackle some of these questions (though I know you are probably drowning in email…..) It would also be nice to know how others have worked through some of these issues, and how they have resolved them. Some of these have become huge obstacles to me believing in God. I really would like to know…how do others work through some of these issues and believe in God?”

Eagle submitted several questions, and I hoped I might deal with two or three at a time, but the first one at least deserves a post of its own.

I hope you will join the conversation and try to be of help and encouragement to him and to others who find themselves in similar places.

Question One
Can a Christian be disappointed in God? Can they ever be angry at God? If not…then why? Why do Christians always attribute positive acts to God and negative acts to Satan? Why don’t they ever hold God responsible? Why don’t Christians ever get frustrated publicly about God? Do they believe its a sin…and if so..is that Biblical?

Eagle, yes, Christians can be disappointed, angry, and frustrated with God. However, I think you have put your finger on something that we here at Internet Monk have often criticized American Christianity, where we stress being ever optimistic, maintaining a can-do spirit, and keeping a smile on our faces.

There are forms of Christian faith that are especially susceptible to disdaining questioning God.

In certain Pentecostal or charismatic circles, for example, you will likely hear negative things attributed to Satan and only good things to God. There is a tendency toward dualism in these approaches to the faith, and I don’t recommend that as a viable or healthy way to interpret life and the divine.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are forms of “Calvinist” thinking that so stress the sovereignty of God and the glory of God that believers are virtually pummeled into an attitude of submission and acceptance. Michael Spencer complained of some folks being so “God-centered” that they cease to recognize their own humanity. Others have called this the “Islamization of Christianity.” Allah is the one who demands total submission and unquestioning obedience, under threat of death, not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, the Christian faith has its roots in the religion of our Jewish friends, who have always believed in carrying on lively and spirited conversations with God. You cannot read the Old Testament and fail to hear these. Listen to Abraham haggling with God over the terms of Sodom and Gomorrah’s judgment. Hear Moses arguing with God about how he is going to ruin his own reputation if he starts over with a new nation after Israel’s failure with the Golden Calf. Look at Elijah running into the desert and calling out to God in sullen anger to take his life because of his disappointment that God didn’t finish the job he started on Mt. Carmel. Read almost any page from any one of the prophets.

But most of all, read the Psalms. The most common form of psalm in the book is the “lament,” or complaint. Questions like “how long?” and “why?” and “where are you?” predominate in the Psalter. God’s people were unafraid to come before him privately and publicly with their questions, doubts, fears, complaints, disappointments, and even accusations. They worked through their chaotic feelings and thoughts in God’s presence. They were unafraid to talk to God about anything, because they believed God had called them into a relationship with himself that involved personal interaction about the real matters of life. Their laments evidenced the vibrancy of their faith, not their lack of faith.

Furthermore, if you believe, as I do, that the Psalms point to the Messiah and claim to set forth his sufferings, prayers, and ultimate triumph, then you would see that our Savior himself lived as a “man of sorrows,” one who entered fully into our humanity and poured out his heart to God without holding back.

Why do Christians in America not worship like this?

Some do, Eagle. I think you will find it more common in the liturgical traditions, where the forms have developed over a much longer period of time. The Book of Common Prayer, for example, contains the Psalter and many prayers apropos to a variety of life settings that faithfully represent the complexity of life and our relationships. However, I will readily admit that many don’t (even in traditions with good resources), that many are uncomfortable with raw feelings and their honest expression, that we don’t always know what to do with our inner chaos, and that we think the best response is to find a quick fix so we can move on.

Let me say, however, that God welcomes our questions and complaints. He is big enough to understand when we get angry with him and when we throw tantrums. He doesn’t get shocked if we shout or stomp or say bad words. He won’t get insulted and turn away if we question his integrity or his ways. He can take it. He is patient beyond patience. He doesn’t bully us into submission. He respects the journey and knows that coming to grips with life’s disarray is a process for which there are no shortcuts.

The more we can trust that God is like that, the more honest we will be with him.

The more we can learn to be like God as we deal with each other, the more we will find space for genuine humanity in our practice of the faith.

Comments

  1. scottee says:

    Great response from CM.

    I used to of the mindset that we slap our Christian smiles on no matter what the circumstance and trust that God has a plan. I still believe in the trust part, but I’ve had the smile slapped off my face. I still strongly believe in the sovereignty of God, and if you pressed me, you could label me as a 5-point Calvinist, but I don’t label myself as such because of certain associations that brings.

    The Psalms have also been incredibly enlightening to me when it comes to emotion. I’m not a very emotional person, especially outwardly, but life and marriage have brought me to realize that emotions do and should exist. The Psalms are a perfect of example of how others have questioned, doubted, and even yelled at God. And I believe God WANTS us to bring that stuff to Him. Because honestly, if we don’t complain about what we don’t like to God, we’re going to end up complaining about it to someone else, and then trying hide the fact from God that we’re complaining in the first place. (Or worse, feeling ashamed that we’re doing said complaining.) So I’m of the mindset that anything we want to get off our chests and say to a friend, we can get off our chests and say to God. About anything, but also especially when it’s about God. I believe He wants to hear those things from us if they’re truly what we’re feeling/thinking. That’s part of a relationship, being honest with each other, even when things aren’t picture perfect.

    And Amen to God being infinitely patient, and giving infinite grace.

  2. beakerj says:

    Oooooh, I’m just running out to work, so I don’t have time to read all this now. But I’m looking forward to reading this later as Eagle is a huge favourite of mine. Any community that loves him like this one does is a place where I’m safe too. His questions are often mine.

  3. When I was a missionary, I can remember going as a tourist to visit a Roman Catholic cathedral in Arequipa, Peru that began to be built in the late 1500’s. While there I was passing by one of the side altars and overheard a Quechua woman arguing with God. She was crying and asking God how he could permit some event to happen. The interesting part is that she obviously had no intention of leaving the Church or of not worshiping God any longer. But, it was clear that she wanted an explanation. Obviously I do not know the rest of the story, as I was not about to eavesdrop, but it impressed me and I have remembered her ever since. In many ways, she reminded me of several of the Old Testament prophets and their complaints to God.

    You are right about the liturgical traditions. Several of them have either special litanies or special prayers or special services for times of need. Modern believers would be surprised at the content of some of them. They preserve a time when it was all right to say that things are not going well.

  4. Melanie says:

    Once I became a parent I realised how much of a child I was in relationship with God and how very much He is my wonderful Father. Sometimes I am a toddler with all the swings of joy and fury that being a toddler entails, sometimes I see things clearly and peacefully in the way young children do when they are not burdened by experience or depth of insight. I am also a teenager with rebellion in mind while simultaneously desperate to cling to God.

    I am Gods creation. He knows me. I refused to believe that God wanted or would only accept a ‘perfect’ me while growing up and I don’t now.

    Gods acceptance of me as I am is the reason that I know my relationship with God is the safest place to be. While i am blown around, He is not. When I watch my 5 year old meltdown over something that she cant see as unimportant, I don’t judge her. She is where she is. How much more loving and accepting is God of us when we have our little meltdowns? Infinite, I suspect!

  5. Thank you for this. I come from a pentecostal background so the influence of dualism weighs heavy on my approach with God at times, but I’ve recently started to realize that God knows my heart better than I do myself, and that He understands when I’m angry, frustrated, and upset with Him.

    Melanie hit it on the head… I’m the child, God is the Father. He sees my tantrums and rebellion… and loves me through it anyway.

  6. Adrienne says:

    I too was one who was taught to paste on the Christian Smiley Face. It was as if I was God’s PR person and would misrepresent Him if I was “down” or struggling. Where did this belief come from?? Anyway when I did hit my “valley” and went through grief/depression some friends were disappointed (I thought she was a strong Christian) and I felt guilty. Where was my Victorious Christian Living? Then, thank God, I “got real”. I really saw the Scriptures for the first time. Saw the struggles and humanity of the Biblical characters. And began to slowly find people who were struggling just like me and who also were Christians. It is in a way brain washing. I began to “think again” and realized that “Victorious” indicates a battle! It takes time, working through guilt, reclaiming my right to be an individual and most of all I think to not be so concerned with God’s reputation. He has done just fine without me for quite awhile!! One thing that helped me was to journal my re-education. I wrote down the things that I was learning, my observations and struggles.

    Another thing that helps is to give myself plenty of time. God is eternal – He is not in a hurry. Time to listen, to think, to worship. I think it was Martin Luther who said something to the effect that Christians need to stop forever checking their spiritual temperature and focus on Christ. This is not about me. HE won THE VICTORY. I am at the place now where I am attending a liturgical church, and yes still dealing with a little guilt, but that’s okay. I know why I am there and why I am not at my former church. Most of all I am worshiping Jesus and living in the fact that, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty.”

  7. I have to sneak through a back door to address this very VALID question. It starts, for me, with an acknowlegment of the evil in the world. I am not talking about earthquakes and floods, and think there was a great discussion about this sort of “surd evil”….a brand new term for me, by the way, and thanks for it!

    I am speaking of the totally man-made evil, evil that comes from the sharp, multi-sided sword of free will. What are we to make of choices that involve raping children, swearing false witness, physical violence of every sort inflicted on the powerless….and the list, sadly, goes on and on and on. What about these victims?? Certainly they can and should cry out against the evil-doers, but what about the God who gave them the free will to do evil as well as good?

    The same God gives US the free will to be really TICKED off about the consequences of sin in our world…the sin of others, our own sin as well. GOD made the choice to give us free will and the ability to love freely or not….so He better “own up” to the consequences HIS choice has on humanity. Not to mention…he is a Big Boy, he can handle our rage, doubt, fear, anger, peeves, phobias, and all the rest. Does He not know our souls anyway? Lying to God is even more impossible than lying to ourselves…..if I am ticked off and looking for an fight, God can listen to my tantrum and turn and lovingly hug me afterwards, just like the perfect parent He is.

    • Like the sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins:

      Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum: verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

      THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
      With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
      Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
      Disappointment all I endeavour end?

      Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
      How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
      Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
      Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
      Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
      Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
      With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
      Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
      Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
      Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

  8. At the risk of stating the obvious (my specialty), I’d like to thank Eagle for honestly asking some very good questions, and starting a helpful conversation. There are many who share these same questions, and will benefit from hearing the experiences of their brothers and sisters in different places (physically and in their faith jouney).

    Well done.
    GregR

  9. I have held a very special place in my heart for Eagle for quite some time now. His lamenting, candor and reflection make it so. He isn’t afraid to say what he’s thinking or feeling, and as one who is the same way, I respect it, even if it’s ugly……especially if it’s ugly!

    I never had a problem believing in God, I had a problem with all of His requirements. I grew up in a Baptist Fundamental family, both my immediate, as well as my maternal grandparents, some of my aunts, uncles and cousins are still very much in that mindset. From a young child it didn’t make sense to me and made me very angry. I presumed God was like that. Silly rules that make much ado about nothing, and hypocrisy run rampant. I saw little love, compassion and hope. I saw lies, hiding and silence. Maybe that’s why I’m so bold and brazen, or bombastic as my mom has called me.

    As far as being dissapointed in God……If I can’t be honest in my expression to God, what’s the point? I mean, I know we can’t just live flailing around with our feelings as a guidepost, we’d all be very unstable……but, I have to be able to take my life, my attitude, my day, my marriage, my kids, my finances, my lack of employment and my mountain of “Why’s?” to Him. If He can’t handle it…..He’s not God! If all I do is smile and say, “Praise the Lord!” all the time, He knows I’m faking it……I don’t want to fake it. He doesn’t want me to fake it.

    As CM said, some people are very uncomfortable with raw, I know this from personal experience. Maybe that’s why I’ve always enjoyed “talking” to Eagle. From the first post I ever read of his, I felt his raw pain through the computer screen and I wasn’t about to do to him what others have done to me……condemn, throw guilt, make shame, give him a Bible verse to defend my point of view and show him how wrong he is for feeling the way he is, etc. He was and does express some honest life experiences that have thrown him into a battle….if we can’t embrace and hold that with the compassion and love that our Savior does with us…..kill me now! The whole thing would be pointless! But, we have to know God is like that with us. If we have been taught or feel that God is a big bad man in the sky and requires strict standards of obedience to extend His love to us, we will be the same way with other people.

    I end with two quotes……

    The great artists keep us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking that the truth is in us, rather than in God, in Christ our Lord. They help us to know that we are often closer to God in our doubts than in our certainties, that it is all right to be like the small children who constantly asks; Why? Why? Why? – Madaleine L’Engle

    It a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end on certanties – Francis Bacon

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But, we have to know God is like that with us. If we have been taught or feel that God is a big bad man in the sky and requires strict standards of obedience to extend His love to us, we will be the same way with other people.

      Remember when The Handmaid’s Tale was the ninety-day wonder of the media? I got the same impression of the “Commanders” of that fictional dystopian theocracy. They were being “Godly (TM)”, imitating what they thought and believed God was like — The Omnipotent Control Freak, quick to destroy any Sin.

  10. You have to have a pretty good relationship to question. I always have questions but somehow i get answers. I’m not sure i could bargain with God as did Abraham …..

  11. Eagle,

    I am another fan of yours here. Your story is a reflection of mine and I suspect many… O, the damage done.
    After serving my fanny off for fourteen years, along with trying to be a “Godly” (I really dislike what that term implies) woman, while looking O, so, fine at church and being a real mess at home (My dear husband would verify) my heart went cold, hard. I didn’t plan that, it just happened. The stories that led me to the place of hating church are many. One stands out. Our pastor fell and hurt his knee, then his son had a small mishap. Pastors wife said to me, we are searching our lives to see if their is some un-confessed sin. Not a horrid thing to say. But, my husband had lost 10″ in height was bent from A.S. and the medical drama we had suffered for years had worn both of us down, so I thought, when she said that, what the hell do you think of us? Of course, I wouldn’t say the H** swear word back then.
    I was up to my eyebrows in anger. Very disappointed in God. I couldn’t understand why I was still such a mess, I tried so hard to have a diligent prayer life, be in the word, do the evangelical drills. I couldn’t find a moment of peace inside. Jesus had disappeared, or so I thought. Had a lot of Christian therapy, thought that would cure my wounds. Not so much. Though I didn’t attend church for about 6 years, I kept praying, journaling, telling it straight to our Lord. And somehow, I landed in God’s lap, sitting in a Catholic pew. (Don’t get me started on the how I was taught that Catholics were unsaved) puke. I don’t need to ramble on about my story here, I just love your questions. During all the angst of church going & trying to do God’s will I read a lot by Dr. Dan Allender. His work gave me permission to admit how angry and disappointed I truly was. He said something along the lines of: The soil we grow in is struggle. I get that now. But back in the day, it blew my mind. So, here is the deal, I am still a real mess, have little temper tantrums, petty, disappointed now & then, guess you would say I’m HUMAN and God really likes me, go figure!

    • Thank you for that! All of that!

    • “trying to be ‘Godly'” …

      I have come to hate that expression so much. When I speak with a particular friend from a former evan church and she uses it, I cringe. Then I have to repent.

      Thank you for your candor; you are not alone.

      • Bella and Gail,
        I’m curious why you don’t like the adjective “godly. It’s a word found in most, if not all, English-language translations of the Bible.

        • In the circles I traveled in, it was Christianese-speak to describe a certain type of woman that was more or less a Christian version of a Stepford wife – “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” No doubts would ever escape her lips and only Christian music, TV, books and movies would be found in her always clean and organized home. Dr. Dobson was the patron saint.

          Reality hit some of these women; they grew up and became real, leaving the facade for the next generation.

        • In other words, “godly,” in evangelical-speak, means we put on our “Christian Smiley Face” (or, as a friend of mine calls it, our “Lee Press-On Church Face.”

          So it’s not whether or not the term is Biblical, but the use to which it’s put among evangelicals.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And when “Godly” is used as an adjective, it’s often a self-desciption as part of Christian One-Upmanship.

          And when you say “Godly Society”, the first example paging up in a lot of minds is Iran.

        • Jeff L. I am late to the table on answering your question, but I echo Bella’s and others summary. See, I was a piece of work, a true sinner, hard core, when Jesus Christ’s Presence literally showed up and surrounded me. I was 28, un-churched (if that is a word) O, the darkness I was in 30 years ago, and yet He surrounded me for about a week with the sweetest love I will ever know… I wasn’t godly, I was a mess and He loved me without condition, or so it seemed, that week.
          Then, I tried to reinvent myself for years, you know become someone that I thought I should be, a good church lady. The pressure to deny what I indeed was: a mess, a sinner and pulling the whole godly, smiley act about ruined my love for our tender Lord. Bella nailed me here: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” No doubts would ever escape her lips and only Christian music, TV, books and movies would be found in her always clean and organized home. Dr. Dobson was the patron saint.” Now, I can rest some of the time, especially when I sit in the Catholic church and see Jesus on the cross, and remember he died for the likes of me…

          Thank-You Radagast…
          “I have been there. It’s also why I understand it better when I look at the crucifix… Jesus suffered and died for me. I, while on this earth will go through suffering too, not because of some unconfessed sin but because stuff happens and God is the glue that keeps me from going completely unglued.”

    • Radagast says:

      Gail,

      I am right there with you on the word “Godly”. And its a shame because in my experience it is as HUG puts it; a christian trademark word, a checklist of all the attributes that you need to attain to reach a certain status, being man or woman. It is a protestant thing that has crept into Catholic circles as well.

      I am older and one thing i can say… life is hard… marriage is hard… relationships are hard. And when you have to walk around with a smiley face on and pretend… that’s intolerable. When you mentioned about the preachers wife searching for some unconfessed sin as the source of her woes, I was sad for her. The statement almost sounded like what some would term Catholic guilt. So I hear you Gail… and in some way, with your journaling and railing and screaming at God, he helped you through it, at the least by giving you something to direct your angst, your suffering towards. I have been there. It’s also why I understand it better when I look at the crucifix… Jesus suffered and died for me. I, while on this earth will go through suffering too, not because of some unconfessed sin but because stuff happens and God is the glue that keeps me from going completely unglued.

      Thanks for sharing – this resonated with me…

      • O, Guys, I will respond later… busy day and all.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The statement almost sounded like what some would term Catholic guilt.

        Though the Catholic word for it is “Excessive Scrupulosity”, a form of OCD.

  12. David Cornwell says:

    I think some people who are mad or disappointed with God are terribly afraid of arguing or expressing this with God himself. Then they end up taking the anger somewhere else. A spouse or family member ends up bearing the brunt of this displaced outrage. God knows where it is coming from but the person on the other end (spouse, child, etc.) may not.

    God can take it. Your spouse may not. If you want to yell and scream take it to the right place.

    • Well put!

    • Yep

    • Well, it’s hard to take it up with God. He doesn’t talk back. Easier to take it up with people you can see who will effing react when you get mad at them.

      A brick wall can take your anger, too. But there’s no satisfaction in taking your anger out on a brick wall.

      • Well, it’s hard to take it up with God. He doesn’t talk back.

        Not so sure this is the case; maybe more true that we just don’t seem to hear HIM most of the time.

        • Humans have so many ways to speak with each other, but God can’t find a way to make himself heard in a way I’ll understand?

          • Your question is excellent; I’ll rephrase it this way : Why is it so hard to hear from an all powerful GOD , ONE who made me, and knows me so well ?? Hmmm, either some of these descriptions of GOD are religious cliches, or……

    • Word.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A spouse or family member ends up bearing the brunt of this displaced outrage. God knows where it is coming from but the person on the other end (spouse, child, etc.) may not.

      Result: Abuse. Since we’re afraid to take it out on the Boss (and God is the Ultimate Boss), we take it out on those to whom WE are the Boss. It all rolls downhill, from Alpha through Beta to Omega.

  13. Chaplain Mike, thank you for this.

    Eagle, one thing I appreciate about you is your courage. You raise questions many/most of us have but may be too afraid to ask. We humans tend to reject each other when we are made to feel uncomfortable which is why we’re often not honest. But God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. I think that means that we are to both worship him in the truth of who he is and from the truth of who we are. The truth of who he is is infinite and something to be eternally revealed to us and discovered by us as we search him out. The truth of who we are is finite and can be fully known by God, though may be a mystery to ourselves even though live with ourselves and in ourselves. Part of the truth of ourselves is that we are broken, confused, hurt, dull, weak and selfish. We are good things too — the expression of God’s will and creativity in this earth. But it’s the negative manifestations of us that trouble us so.

    (For the record, the difficulties I struggle with in behalf of others is human suffering, especially where it seems completely without any good purpose that I can see. On behalf of myself, I struggle with confusion over his will. I want to know it and sometimes struggle for long periods of time in confusion. I don’t want to think he’s playing a shell game with me, but I feel as though he is at times. I usually come to the conclusion that I can’t see things from more than a limited human perspective and also that there is value, not just in knowing God’s will, but in the struggle to discover it. I get angry and impatient with other people over the same stupid things I am guilty of doing. Sometimes I just want to go away because I don’t want to be with anyone … but I would still have to be with myself and there are times I can’t stand me.)

    Deep inside I fear that God will reject me for something that I will do or think, but in 36 years of seeking him and being painfully honest with him, he has not rejected me. Hebrews tells us that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. We have Christ to thank for that. Hebrews also tells us that he is our Great High Priest and because of him we can boldly approach God’s throne of grace and receive mercy and help in our time of need. Christ sits at God’s right hand making intercession for us. Two images I like to think about is where God is seated — a throne that is called Grace and what Christ is doing beside him — speaking his prayers for me. Approaching the throne boldly seems to indicate that we can come in the truth of our confusion, profound need and even anger. We can make bold requests. Otherwise, what is the need for grace? If we deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace. What is the need for mercy? If we, as humans, were wellsprings of goodness, we would not need mercy. What is the need of help? If we could exert the power to put right what we or others have made wrong, we would not need help.

  14. I think God gets a kick out of us rearing up and letting Him have it now and then.

    It must get a little boring hearing how great you are all the time.

    • Hilarious! You just made my day, Steve!

    • +1

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It must get a little boring hearing how great you are all the time.

      Funny thing… Last week I came across a My Little Pony fanfic (“The Sun is Tired”, an incomplete Grimdark serial) that dealt with this exact subject, in the persona of a canonical character (Princess Celestia) who is in all but title an equine sun-goddess (small-g, not big-G, kind of like a Vala) with a very approachable and playful demeanor. Yet because the sun rises and sets on her command, in the fanfic the mortal ponies are afraid of her and afraid to do anything except praise her. This is eating at her, and her attempts to change it only make things worse.

      • So God chose the Jews because He wanted someone who would argue with Him?

        That makes sense to me!

        😉

    • Priceless!

    • John From Down Under says:

      Ok Steve, you and I mostly disagree when I visit here, but if your comment had a ‘like’ button I would tick it 😉

      Awesome!

  15. Thanks Chaplin Mike, and the I-Monastery. When I saw the topic of discussion and this question I cried as a sat at my computer in the kitchen. I’ve never known how to address these feelings as this “lack of faith” developed in my life. I’ve also found it hard to discuss this and similar questions in the communities I once was a part of. Some people are so certain about their beliefs and I guess afraid to be open about them. Today I know that life is messy, ugly, and just difficult. I’ve often wondered if others are like that. When I was in evangelicalism I seldom encountered individuals who were disappointed with God. Regularly I heard story after story of life going well, or if there is hardship God intervening to assist and help out. How…? I’ll share a couple.

    1. Once at a large mega church in the DC area I heard a story of how someone lost their job after coming back from vacation. The contract they were working on ended and they were facing unemployment. After prayer, and “God being in control” a couple of days later they got another job and were employed again. Isn’t God good?
    2. I heard another story where someone talked about how God led them into a current job by opening the doors and how this person beat out all these others for this position. Isn’t God good?
    3. Newsletters from people I once knew who worked with Campus Crusade…no problems, no difficulty…except instead of a smile in a mega church lobby you have a Kodak moment photograph showing the entire family just pumped for God!! Even the baby is ready for the Great Commission…. 😛

    There’s no disappointment, no frustration, no anger, and no problems. I would walk away from some of these experiences baffled with this gnawing feeling that this isn’t real. I since learned that large part of evangelicalism is unhealthy and living in a bubble. What led me to that point? It was a number of things that happened over the last few years.

    -Personal experiences at work.
    -Watching my Mom be diagnosed and undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
    -Watching a member of my family deal schizophrenia for nearly 15 years.
    -Watching my sister lose her job and go through nearly 2 years of unemployment. Knowing her frustrations, anger, and the uncertainty of what she was going to do when her unemployment ran out.
    -Watching hardship outside the bubble I was in and seeing non-Christians (as defined by evangelical standards…) openly talk about unemployment, layoffs, divorce, multiple heart surgeries, etc..
    -When I and my parents were cleaning my grandmothers apartment after her death I met a person who bonded with my grandmother by taking out her trash. (My grandmother because of her age was unable to walk down stairs…and this gentleman helped her) This person was a recovering alcoholic and had been sober and still working on it. He told my Dad and I how much he loved my grandmother and how she contributed to him staying sober by showing him love. Here is an example of a messy life and one of rebuilding.

    In my family I was the one who became evangelical after looking into Mormonism while in college. I decided not to become Mormon after realizing the errors and problems with the Mormon Gospel, Joseph Smith’s character, etc… The Mormon church felt phony and false with lots of façade. Families all dressed up to the nine’s in Ward services and everyone smiling or happy. Starting in 2007 and in 2008 I had this growing problem with evangelicalism with so many stories about God being in control, life going the way they want, etc… I then began to realize how far back this went in some of the evangelical circles I was in. I then began to have this growing uneasy feeling in my stomach that I couldn’t ignore. It blossomed and grew, and the feeling was one of “gosh I’ve been in this environment before…” Take away the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints Ward and substitute a large mega church program, Bible study, small group, etc.. and I realized that the feeling I was experiencing was the same. I didn’t know what to make or do with it. It troubled me that I was seeing parallels to my prior Mormon Church experiences. I certainly could not have been the only one who feels like this. Maybe this feeling is compounded by living in the Washington, D.C. area and living in a town that is so image driven and polished. Maybe the problem was that the DC culture contributed to how some of the churches operated? As for the heartland and out west maybe that was just a result of being in an environment where people were afraid of being raw like Chaplin Mike said. One other thing I noticed when I was reading Chaplin Mike’s post was how I realized how many people I was around that drunk and consumed almost every word that John Piper and other’s of his mindset would say. From “Don’t Waste Your Life” to the Desiring God website people would re-iterate and say what some threads of “Calvinist” thinking are expressing. I never thought of that until I considered what Chaplin Mike said. In the last year or so in my attempt to get answers I’ve been reading Philip Yancy. I have a lot of respect and appreciate his words. His words have been helpful. But the I-Monastery has also been helpful. Some of the posts that I’ve read, gosh what I would do to be in a church setting where people could just discuss things like this over coffee or a beer. That would be helpful and awesome.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Yes, the “God is in control” attitude is very problematic. Mostly it has come to mean that God is responsible for everything, but since we can’t deal with God being the source of any evil, we have to put the blame elsewhere and so beat ourselves up for our “lack of faith”. Or else we call evil good because of the supposed good results that God supposedly manufactured out of it. It’s one thing to have a few people around you who do this; it’s another when it’s the majority of those around you. Evangelical theology has limited, if any, place for suffering and simply does not deal with it anywhere near adequately.

      There were several straws that contributed to my “camel’s back” breaking, throwing me into the Evangelical Wilderness. The largest one happened in a Sunday School meeting with a District Superintendent, a leader, in the denom. I was in at the time (1999). He was young. He was giving a Power Point presentation on Christian living, when he said something to the effect that if someone is a believer and is living a moral life, nothing bad will happen to them. I can’t even remember what it was, I was so shocked. So I put up my hand and asked him directly, “Are you saying that if you’re a Christian and living a moral life, nothing bad will ever happen to you?” And he looked me straight in the face and said, “Yes”. I had suffered a period of infertility and two miscarriages; my father had died a painful death from two kinds of cancer. There were others in the room who had experienced evil and pain. However, I was the only one, for whatever reason, who challenged this man’s assertion. To be fair, the previous Superintendent would probably not have given me that answer, but I spent the rest of the day in disorientation because this was evidently the “official” viewpoint of the church. I observed in plenty of other instances that this was the “majority thinking” of Evangelicalism about suffering. Not six months later, I fled to the mainline. It was a Presbyterian church, “conservative” but not very Calvinistic at all; they had problems too, but this way of thinking was not one of them.

      Dana

      • Ah, yes, that subtle but pervasive prosperity gospel that’s so easy to sell when nothing going too badly in *your* life. I notice it everywhere, and it bothers me in so many ways: the declaration that “blessings” are material or uniquely Western suburbia, the presumption that you will be blessed with good things if you’re Christian, the related assumption that others are not blessed and if not pitied must be supported by those with more blessings.

      • I really don’t get that: if you just tick all the boxes, follow all the rules, and be a Good Person, nothing bad will happen to you (and the corollary: if something bad does happen, it’s your own fault for not being good enough).

        Like the anecdote about St. Teresa of Avila, who was thrown off her horse into a river, and said “What is this, Lord?” “Teresa, that is how I treat My friends.” “If this is how you treat your friends, Lord, then no wonder you have so few of them!”

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Totally my favorite ToA quote! And she is soooo quotable!

          • Radagast says:

            She also writes in stream of conciousness meaning her sentences go on forever. As a John of the cross guy that’s almost intolerable – kidding here…

        • I was going to ask you to quote this, Martha…..you saved me the trouble.

          • So you used your psychic mind control powers to put the thought in my head, greg r? 🙂

            On slapping on the Cheery Christian Face, two quick things: (1) at least Catholics are allowed to be miserable. It’s even in the prayer, the Salve Regina “To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears”. (2) Do I have a Chesterton quote? I think I might have!

            From the Father Brown detective story, “The Three Tools of Death”:
            For though Sir Aaron was a philanthropist, and thus dealt with the darker side of our society, he prided himself on dealing with it in the brightest possible style. His political and social speeches were cataracts of anecdotes and “loud laughter”; his bodily health was of a bursting sort; his ethics were all optimism; and he dealt with the Drink problem (his favourite topic) with that immortal or even monotonous gaiety which is so often a mark of the prosperous total abstainer.

            …“To save him!”’ repeated Gilder. “And from what?”
            “From himself,” said Father Brown. “He was a suicidal maniac.”
            “What?” cried Merton in an incredulous tone. “And the Religion of Cheerfulness – ”
            “It is a cruel religion,” said the priest, looking out of the window. “Why couldn’t they let him weep a little, like his fathers before him? His plans stiffened, his views grew cold; behind that merry mask was the empty mind of the atheist. At last, to keep up his hilarious public level, he fell back on that dram-drinking he had abandoned long ago.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Hell has no torment worse than Constant Forced Cheerfulness.”
            — Fr Brown’s observation from “Three Tools of Death” (from memory)

        • I love this, too…and spout it frequently!

      • One more Mike says:

        “…if someone is a believer and is living a moral life, nothing bad will happen to them.”

        I walked out of an evangelical, fundemental mega-church when the “minister” said “If you’re having financial problems, job problems, marital problems and any other problems in your life, it because you don’t read the bible correctly and you don’t live by what it says.” I had been unemployed for 2 years and was sitting next to my daughter who was finally pregnant after 4 miscarriages.

        I know that minister is a pharisee and is full of crap. He’s been a minister for over 30 years and has still swallowed whole the happy, clappy, shiny people BS that evangelicalism has become. Don’t bring your problems here, we dont have time for them and they’re your own fault anyway. Our God is an awesome God, and if you don’t believe it, look at how awesome we are! They’re not awesome, they’re lucky. And when their luck runs out, the church will turn their backs on them too.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “…if someone is a believer and is living a moral life, nothing bad will happen to them.”

          Tell that to the victims of that tower collapse in Siloam.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I walked out of an evangelical, fundemental mega-church when the “minister” said “If you’re having financial problems, job problems, marital problems and any other problems in your life, it because you don’t read the bible correctly and you don’t live by what it says.”

          Got the T-shirt on that one, too. Except it wasn’t a megachurch minister, but an Uber-Christian at Cal Poly c 1978. “Five Minutes Alone With The LOORD Every Morning!” “Five Fast Praise-the-LOORDs!”

          I really wanted to be there when Mr Uber-Christian got into a jam Five Fast Praise-the-LOORDs couldn’t get him out of. Just so I could duckspeak the same things to him that he duckspeaked to me, word-for-word.

    • Charles Fines says:

      Eagle, I remember your first post and there wasn’t much response and I thought, “Oh oh!” Since then I have been happy to see you welcomed by many including Chaplain Mike. That raises this little church considerably in my estimation and helps me overlook a few skinned knees and elbows. This place would need rebalancing if you left.

    • Radagast says:

      Eagle,
      From reading you posts over time and having only limited exposure to what you lived I’d say you were hanging out with christian pod people (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Seriously though – if all those folks really do live a life where everything goes right all the time then two things come to mind – no wisdom since you learn this from suffering, going though difficult times etc. The more you go through and learn, no matter how painful the better you are (read some ofthe great saints – much suffering – no easy life).

      Or, secondly, they’ve secretly made a pact with the Devil and traded good pain-free life now for their soul later. Ok – just kidding.

      My wife has a cousin whose spouse prayed for a healing for their unborn child, stating that if a healing was received he would dedicate his life to God. Well – the healing was received, he then took the whole family and eventually embarked on mission trips to unstable muslim countries while placing his family in terrible danger. (while in former Soviet Republics they were followed around and harrased, bad medical etc – great for a family with young children). His former congregation regarded him as someone floating on air – I considered it an act of utter stupidity an immaturity since I had a family of my own and in my subjective view would never put my wife and children in that kind of danger for my whim.

      Ok – maybe I need to do some railing too….

  16. I knew I was going to get fired from youth ministry when I stated that I wonder about God and all the pain/evil in the world. This was a a staff and vestry (read: church board or deacon) retreat. Yup. you guessed it. Every one else there had complete faith in God, salvation in general and their salvation in particular, had never been angry or questioned God.

    Thanks for the reality.

  17. cermak_rd says:

    Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Almighty. My rabbi explains that a meaning of this text is that we all must wrestle with the Almighty and our conceptions of the Almighty to live out our faith.

    I remember a comment from Eddie Scizzard on this site (I don’t know if he has commented again) in which he stated that “Frankly, if God himself were to materialize and say the same, I’d tell him he’s wrong, and that he should take this idea and shove it.”

    What a marvellous concept of the Almighty!

    • Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Almighty. My rabbi explains that a meaning of this text is that we all must wrestle with the Almighty and our conceptions of the Almighty to live out our faith.

      i have categorized this as: The Jacob’s Embrace…

      every saint must be willing to get sweaty, dusty, sore, scared, bruised, with scrapes & torn clothing, to finally be able to rest in that loving gaze…

      no other way to having our name changed to Israel…

  18. Eagle, it has been such a pleasure getting to know you via Imonk! You have said the same things that I was afraid to say and afraid to think. I was a part of a legalistic college ministry that was one of the “Calvinist” that Chap. Mike spoke of in his introductory post. I thought I was the only one who struggled with all of their “rules” for personal holiness but, at a wedding last week I (begrudgingly) met up with my old friends and had dinner after the wedding. I was shocked to find that most felt the way that I did and some even more strongly. Although I had been burned, many had suffered unreal emotional trauma from this group. Many who were not with us that evening had checked out of christianity all together and no one threw a stone all of us had walked down that path or at least were headed in that way. It was painful to hear how once dear friends of mine had been questioned over their attitudes and the hierarchy of the ministry where they worked told them that they needed a repentance plan to show they were truly contrite. It was sad to still see some being silent and not willing to open up out of fear. I realized that we are all messes and just because you don’t say it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
    Eagle, I think in the right setting you may meet some of your old “fundagelical” friends who will open up to you when they see that you are not afraid to ask questions and openly admit you struggle with God and how he relates to you. Knowing someone isn’t going to judge you makes it much easier to open up. Eagle, might I recommend that you check out an author by the name of Paul Zahl. He has an excellent book called Grace in Practice.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It was painful to hear how once dear friends of mine had been questioned over their attitudes and the hierarchy of the ministry where they worked told them that they needed a repentance plan to show they were truly contrite.

      How does that differ from “Enlightened Self-Criticism Before Party Commissars”?

      • HUG- it doesn’t. I understand that there intentions were for us to pursue holiness because God is holy but no one ever mentioned that Jesus’ burden is light. Jesus’ burden was tremendous and also frightening. Jesus was like a great cosmic monster. Of course you couldn’t say that so we all (me included) threw out legalistic mandates to others around us in order to puff ourselves up and probably try to make them as scared as we were. Misery loves company.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          This wouldn’t happen to be the Navigators, would it?

          Because JMJ/Christian Monist experienced much the same thing during his time in-country. And during my Cal Poly days, among all the campus ministry groups the Navs had a reputation for the highest rate of burnouts and flunk-outs.

  19. Eagle-

    Like many others here, I thank you speaking out. Your raw honesty is good for the soul, even if we shouldn’t like to hear such uncomfortable facts of life.

  20. A few years ago I was out at a mens retreat in the country and sat with a frined of mine.

    We were overlooking a lake in a beautiful area of BC. He is in his early 50s, 4 kids. His wife had been taken from him months before by breast cancer.

    She was progressing in the illness and one day he got up and left home for a road trip for a few hours. And his daughter went in to wake mom up, only she couldn’t. He did not get to say goodbye.

    Me and my friend are both big and tall guys. We sat there in the wilderness and cried together. I told him I was mighty pissed off with God, and so was he. A year ago we were sitting together in church at the local Anglican cathedral. He started to cry, I thought he was being touched by the service. He turned to me and said ‘The Doctor says my PSA numbers are high’ He had had prostate cancer in remission.

    He is hoping to live to see his daughter graduate from High School. It hurts to write about it. I am comforted by the Psalms and complaints in scripture. The fact they are there tells me something.

    He knows we are but dust.

    • All of that to say: yes there are others who get mad at God.
      And in it all I never feel condemned by either Him or my conscience.

      And if I was in a church where I got a strange reaction about it, I would think that there is something wrong with the place.

  21. I think the trouble and hardship of life is what makes my faith more real to me. Not that I jump up and down praising God when I lose my keys or a friend dies or nothing in life makes sense. It is the fact that I know I am not being brain washed into this because my life is not great all the time that makes me feel at peace with believing in Jesus. I also think that the fact my life isn’t perfect is also what may make my faith more real to others.

    Sometimes I think bad things happen to make Jesus appear all the more inviting. The bad things remind me of why I need Him. I don’t know why bad things happen. Maybe it is a natural consequence of God giving us free will? Do I really need to know the answer?

  22. Pam Burns says:

    I know God’s love for us doesn’t change, but metaphorically I think He loves us more when we are completely honest with Him, no matter what we say. We have that freedom as his children.

  23. Radagast says:

    Oh… and I do enjoy the pictures above of sunlight streaming through the trees. For me it signifies heaven or God and still leaves me in Wonder an Awe (do we as a christian society even feel this anymore?). It probably was imbedded in my brain as a child, when my mom used to say that when sunlight streamed down like that God was taking the newly departed to heaven….

    • To me, it is a stream of sunlight through otherwise total cloud cover is a “God-thing” reminder!

  24. John From Down Under says:

    Note to CM:

    The i-Monastery is becoming an i-Clinic, the online equivalent of 1 Samuel 22:2. May the good Lord enrich you with wisdom and guidance to help and direct the disenfranchized and despondent who come here for solace. This is not obviously a substitute for the local church but it certainly has an important role to play.

    While I am not a regular here because I struggle with some of the theological looseness of certain posts, I will confess that it warms my heart to see posts like today.

    Blessings

    • Charles Fines says:

      “This is not obviously a substitute for the local church . . . ”

      Well, yes and no. In an ideal world you would be right. When this church is closer to your ideal than anything the local scene has to offer, things settle out. I realize that those who support the local church industry will differ. On balance, I would rather hang out with the majority of people who attend here than the great majority of self-identified Christians in a twenty-five mile radius. I could drive forty miles to Rob Bell’s church but that is a stretch and I can get his teachings online.

      I’m of the opinion that a person’s church ought to be within walking distance. My best choice is two lapsed Catholics who I can tip a few beers with and discuss any spiritual matters as well as personal matters. My second choice is an Evangelical friend from my youth who is recently widowed and is having a hard time. I can’t discuss spiritual matters with him because he is ignorant and bigoted and, well, Evangelical. My third choice, which I never take, is a Methodist church of a few old people a mile and a half away. My Evangelical friend says they are all going to hell. They don’t have a regular pastor and the subsitute has been so desperate for a substitute substitute that he asked my Evangelical friend to fill in, which was a crisis for my friend. I have considered volunteering.

      This place is not my favorite place to hang out but I do learn things here and I get to take the temperature of the current Body of Christ. This place gives me hope. This place makes me believe we are going to make it thru what is coming down the road. I’m not entirely happy with the elders, but those who will be the elders in times to come give me great hope. The recent contributions from Martha give me hope.

      What I can say about the people here is that almost everyone is doing the very best that they know how to do and I don’t think God requires any more than that. I believe that this huge opportunity of online churches and gatherings of two or three in the name of Jesus is part of the plan. I believe that the time is coming when this will not be available and what will be available will be whatever is within walkiing distance.

      This is a time to learn and get it together. This is a time to be in contact with the best minds and spirits that the planet has to offer. When Jesus walked the earth there was nothing to compare except that the best was concentrated in a very limited geographical area. This is an astounding opportunity that, in my view, isn’t going to last. We can buy Tom Wright’s latest book and get the benefit of perhaps one of the greatest contemporary interpreters of Scripture, but in addition we can come here and interact with perhaps a cutting edge or two.

      And this is not the only online church. We have this idea that we are supposed to belong and be loyal to one particular local church. Maybe so, but if Jesus is the head of something that only He has a good perception of, I am not going to confine myself to old ideas. Spirit blows where He wants and I am open to get as far as I can in this limited sojourn in this schoolhouse of life on planet Earth.

  25. dumb ox says:

    I struggle with the idea that bad things happen based on what God does or chooses not to do. Does someone die of cancer because God decided not to intervene, perhaps based on His “perfect will” or to judge a hidden sin? Perhaps because the victim didn’t pray specifically enough for healing? (Hey, I healed you of your hang nail; you didn’t say anything about the cancer.) I can’t play that game anymore.

    But I know that a religion of fatalistic resignation could have never produced the book of Psalms.

  26. Great question Eagle and great discussion, this I must admit is an area that had me trapped. By my nature I question, but if you question your ‘not trusting in God’, and you end up in a vicious cycle. Toss a little guilt into that mix, with my propensity to get confirmation that I’m doing OK and you end up with a disaster.

    My rule of thumb anymore is if I’m going to read or listen to someone, I make sure they can pass an informal honesty test. Do they talk about both the good times and the bad times?, do they tell it like it is, or do they hide behind hideous ‘Christian’ language. Don’t call me ‘Brother’ until you’ve suffered with me, until then your my 5th cousin removed by a divorce, yes we are related but I trust the Dog more than I do you.

    I wasn’t free until I was able to finally able to realize that I could get mad at God, and tell him so. Heck Jonah made a career out of it!. I also finally got out of the ‘God needs to be in control’ game, yes God is sovereign. But he doesn’t wave a magic wand and suddenly I no longer sin, *I* have to work at it. I know this drive some reformers crazy, but I do have a part in my salvation. *I* have to accept the gift being given to me, and *I* with God’s help need to work through the pain of overcoming my sin, and it’s a messy, hard, tearful mess to get over. I don’t want to start a Synergism vs Monergism debate, but Paul does tell us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I think he left out the cursing and stomping part of it.

    For me on a very personal level, people like Chaplain Mike who suffer the pains of other peoples lives are the real saints in this world. Not the smiley face dopes who use ‘Church’ language, turn off the helium machine Sister, there are real people hurting out there. Life is hard, painful and tragic at times. There are good times, and we should celebrate them, but it’s not all sunshine and flowers, because you can’t have those without some good manure.

    ‘Just Sayin’…

    -Paul-

    • “Don’t call me ‘Brother’ until you’ve suffered with me, until then your my 5th cousin removed by a divorce, yes we are related but I trust the Dog more than I do you.”

      That made me laugh! Thanks for that!

  27. I can see that this series is going to be another for the print-it-out-and-save-it collection, comments and all.

    Eagle: keep asking questions of God. He loves it.

  28. Thanks everyone for your commnets. I just wish this could be in person…that’s all!! 🙂

  29. Eagle, were these the same questions you left on my blog as well?

    Glad to see the discussion is continuing!

  30. John From Down Under says:

    @ Eagle,

    Here is a Theologian who openly confesses and discusses his struggles and is not from the ‘plastic coalition’ that has been talked about here. Thank God for those exceptions. I’m hoping you’ll find his posts refreshing.

    The page I linked is the index page with all relevant posts that you can click on and read in their entirety.

  31. Eagle, are you still in the DC area?

  32. Eagle, for some reason I missed this thread when it was first posted. I want to say that I also have enjoyed your posts, esp. your willingness to be candid. I feel as though I ought to have some kind of nice, shiny response to the question you posted. I do not, just now. But I do want to say that I think that it seems to me that religion can, that it must, be able to accept and express the deepest that is in human experience. There is nothing deeper than the total angst of pain, and disappointment with God is the ultimate existential pain: the feeling that the nature of things as they exist, perhaps as they exist in an ultimate or truly-true sense, appear at disjuncture from one’s most basic feelings. It does no good to simply try dismiss those feelings or label them as sin (although sin might be involved somewhere). To my mind churches and religious people really fail people when they send imply that this is what must be done.

    I think my own troubled relationship with fundamentalism and evangelicalism stemmed pretty much to the moment that I stopped being an enthusiastic foot-soldier and culture-warrior who believed, in a very pure and eager way, that “God was moving” in this or that program and in the political agendas with which I was comfortable. Once I ran into certain difficulties, I found, rather to my surprise, that I did not possess a native religious language for expressing doubt (or most very complicated, non-positive emotions). I felt, instead, that a great many things felt unspeakable and unthinkable. I could either spin everything in a certain pre-ordained way and “be spiritual”, or that I could play the role of the bitter skeptic. There seemed little middle ground. (Occupying meant merely that one was on a slippery slope to something else, or doing something dangerous, or otherwise out of order in some respect.) On top of this, I realized, rather with a start, that being spiritual was a kind of script, and that I knew the script and could easily coast along by using it. I also realized that the script veered sharply away from reality as it seemed to exist and might well be used to paste over it (which struck me as a possible solution, but also as something suspicious close to lying or repression). Then I suspect that I was in fact a crazy person spending far too much time inside my own head, until I brought up some of my feelings to other evangelicals, some of whom would immediately identify with my confused word-torrent and commiserate or vent. So, this is all a long way of saying that I think religious communities often have this trouble, and that evangelicals may have a special problem with it.

    But it also strikes me that religion is very deeply about the process of wrestling, of being really human and being saved in and through those dilemmas. This theme is all over the place in sacred texts and in religious biographies. I have developed something of an attachment to the image Jacob wrestling with the angel. And it seems that when religion really succeeds at plumbing the depths, that it reaches out to capture that divine-human struggle.

    Anyway, I do not know if any of this help. I prattle on about these things and feel oddly nonsensical. But, I hope this succeeds in communicating the fact that you aren’t alone. These things have to be said. Somehow.