We learned in school that stories are supposed to have a beginning, middle & end. A well-told story will have characters and a plot, with rising action, a climax, and descending action.
This short story of my life is not like that. There are characters, of course. But the plot is completely muddled. It starts strong, but the middle gets really repetitive, and I have no idea where the end is going. I’m not talking about the story of my days; I’m referring to the tale of my faith.
Beginning: I was born into a strong, loving, grounded family. Being number 4 of 5 kids, I adored my older siblings, considered my parents perfect, and loved the conservative Christian community I was constantly surrounded by. It was only natural to raise my hand when Mrs. McCandless, the elderly backyard Bible study leader, asked, “Who wants to ask Jesus in their heart?” I think I was 6 at the time. Four years later I was baptized in front of hundreds of people, to whom I said, “I believe Jesus is the way to God, and I will follow Him forever.”
I’m grateful for that beginning.
Middle: My faith was first challenged when I was in Jr. High.
I met a boy. Doesn’t the story always start that way?! He was also from a conservative Christian family, but he was “rebellious.” He started asking me questions about my faith. Questions I couldn’t answer. And, once he became my boyfriend, I decided it was interesting to live in his “world.”
The black nails, clothes, and eyeliner were a shocking contrast to the sweet Katie I had been. But, the greatest difference was my faith. I was intrigued and sucked into this other way of living — getting to do “bad” things (smoking, making out, listening to Motley Crue, etc.). God was just a killjoy for such activities, so I put Him way on the back shelf.
But then it got scary.
The friends I had made weren’t just smoking cigarettes anymore. They were doing heavy drugs and getting into dark activities. It didn’t seem fun anymore. I wanted out.
So, I repented. I cried a lot and prayed a lot. I cut off all my old friendships and started over. In high school I joined the Bible club; I became a youth group leader at my church: I went to Christian camps. I was IN.
But then, I met a boy.
This time I was a senior in high school. I was considered a spiritual leader on campus and was serious about my relationship with God. But, this boy was cute and fun and “rebellious.” Not even claiming a faith. And, I fell for him. But, I was riddled with guilt. I couldn’t enjoy our secret relationship. It was dirty, dishonest, and really exciting.
I would purposely push down the voice of the Holy Spirit in me. I didn’t want to hear it. Even though I knew I didn’t really love this boy and didn’t want to be with him long-term, I wanted the secret pleasures of our relationship. But, God didn’t let go of me. He kept whispering.
After months away from him at college I could see I actually didn’t want this relationship, so it fizzled out. But, I was still pursuing silly things while at college.
But, this other thing was happening to me.
I had to take Old Testament Survey. That sounded really boring. But, it became my favorite class. The professor was answering some of the questions my Jr. High boyfriend had challenged me with.
I can vividly remember questioning some theological issues and going up to the professor, Dr. Bookman, after class. I don’t even remember what the issue was anymore. And it doesn’t matter. Because what stood out to me was the posture of Bookman. He listened to a question from a Freshman girl, and looked me straight in the eye, and said, “That’s a really great point. I’ll have to think about that.” I was floored. He didn’t have the answer?! He had a Ph.D. in Old Testament Biblical Studies (or something impressive like that).
I was softened. And I slowly started wanting God again. And by the next school year, I was all IN again. Leading Bible studies, going on mission trips, etc.
And here is where the story gets really repetitive.
I used to think I would tell you the next part of my story in the past tense; meaning, I am “over” my doubting and wandering. But we’ve made it to the present tense part of my life.
Here’s what I do: I dive deep into my spirituality; I seek to know and deeply love God and the Bible. I become overwhelmed by Spirit. And then…a doubt comes in. Or, a passage of Scripture really bothers me. Or I get disappointed with Christians. Or I get really impressed with other spiritual paths.
So, to take you to the “end”- since every good story has an end.
End: I always thought this faith struggle would end someday. And, maybe it will, but it hasn’t yet, and I don’t have great reason to believe it will.
But here’s the thing. God has never let me go. Despite my efforts otherwise.
It actually reminds me of my relationship with Caleb. You know, marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the church. It reminds me of when Caleb and I were dating. Every time I broke up with him, he lovingly took me back. Every time I doubted we should be together — once I had some space — no one else actually did seem better. And now that we’re married, every time I am inconsiderate and difficult, he forgives me.
That’s like God. He keeps taking me back no matter how many times I break up with him. The Scriptures that have caused me so much confusion and frustration have also brought me the deepest peace and sense of truth.
So, how will this relationship with God “end?” I suspect it will continue to be rocky. I will have new questions and struggles. And then God will have new mercy and grace.
There’s a verse that reads, “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.” Amen & amen!