November 30, 2005

7: Hopelessness (cont.)

It had been years since I felt at home in a church – since my family group, the Bible study that I worshipped with and backpacked through Grand Canyon and Glacier with had fallen apart. None of us were comfortable anymore in our church, the church I grew up in. We still firmly believed but had developed a distaste for the trappings that came with faith – the obligatory political conservatism, the focus on church involvement over engaging the world, the guilt trips, the failure to understand or appreciate artistic approaches to truth. We called ourselves “The Inquisitors” after the Dostoevsky story that was one of the first our reading group tackled – in retrospect, ironically apt. We judged the church harshly and went in search of new ways to express our faith and, in the process, bickered and lost each other.

I felt unmoored. I found a new church. I helped a bit with a “postmodern” service the church leaders cancelled because it wasn’t reaching enough non-Christians. I went to a singles Bible study with dreadful hours of teaching about Calvinism. I continued to go on Sundays because my faith – my relationship with God – was incredibly important to me, but I felt like I couldn’t relate to most of the people there, and wondered if they could understand me – sad, struggling to believe.

I longed for a life outside the stuffy, sickly sweet and often non-intellectual spirituality of the evangelical Christian culture. I hated that I had gone to a Christian college, worked for Christian organizations. I began to feel that any group of professional Christians would provide unexpectedly stellar examples of incompetence and, at times, pure meanness. I wanted out. I desperately wanted to go back and re-write my life – to go to a state school, get a masters, study abroad, survive in the “real” world.

I had not married – as a somewhat conflicted semi-feminist, I had dreamed of and planned for and wanted marriage since I was a lanky, brown-skinned girl winning faux beauty contests at friends’ birthday parties. I realized in my twenties that I couldn’t let this disappointment define my life – and even wrote a somewhat successful book for Christian singles about choosing contentment and learning to thrive in an unexpectedly single life – but I still ached for the meaning and compassion a husband would provide, for the chance to make my own family.

And then there was the writing career that seemed impossible. I had been freelancing for years, had published the book, spoken to singles groups around the country. If anything, I felt the writing was my gift, but trying to write and speak and dream about these possiblities in addition to my fulltime job was more than my worn-out self could handle. I had started saving hundreds of dollars from each paycheck, but the economics of freelancing seemed impossible and I wondered how depressing it would be to try to sit at home and write and attempt to earn a living.

Everything in my life was dark, stifling. I needed light and air.


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