Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beyond the closet

Some days, I'm a faith-filled, awestruck believer. And some days, I'm a closet atheist. Slowly it seeps in, this truth that pokes holes in my closet door: refusal to trust in the goodness of my God is nothing short of atheism, appearing innocently disguised.

I've lived perpetually stressed out, even thought for too many years that I thrived on the frenetic pace I kept. How many things could I pack into one day, into one week, into one life, to make me feel valuable and worthy, when deep down it was fear that kept me running on this treadmill? But fear kills faith, and the insatiable need to control is driven by fear, and this belief that I need to control everything is putting my faith in myself as my own little god, and that leaves me...where? In the closet, an atheist dressed up like a believer.

That's a long, rambly sentence, and it can be just as effective arranged in a cute little formula:

Fear ---> Need to control ---> Adios faith ---> Trusting self ---> Closet atheist

I'm not picking on atheists here. Yet with all due respect, having the particular beliefs I do, neither do I want to be one. And certainly not a closet one. Ann Voskamp, author of One thousand gifts, says it this way: "Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism." Not a lot of room for rationalizing here, though certainly I want to try. I want to find a loophole, give myself permission to be stressed, because it takes less energy than trust. It's way too easy to let my mind go unrestrained, thoughts buzzing chaotically like a swarm of bees, emotions running wild. It takes discipline to trust, and sadly, discipline is what I often lack.

Perhaps I keep repeating the same old things, day in and day out, but then again, I obviously need the repetition. Because when I ask myself the question, But how in the world does one trust in a good God in a world of crumbling economics, broken relationships, failing housing markets, lost jobs, terminal illness, divorce, death, natural disasters, war, monotony, miscarriages, poverty, crime...?


I return again and again, each time with more confidence: gratitude. So simple, but far from simplistic. Gratitude is how I stay weighted down in this moment instead of scrambling back and forth between past histories and future anxieties. It's how I slow down that treadmill until I can jump off, legs wobbly, and walk on solid ground. It's how I open the door and live outside the closet, fully alive.

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