When my faith went it did not go down the way I imagined it. And yes, I used to imagine what losing my faith would look like. Years ago at the church, alone on a Friday, standing before the empty room, working out my sermon and I would wonder just how much of this does the preacher actually need to believe.
And I would imagine what I would do if I didn’t believe enough anymore. How would I leave my beloved little church? And I did love that church with all my heart.
I thought losing my faith would be like a seduction. That sexy voice from my shadowy depths would finally work her way to the surface. She would sweep into the room and make public her claim on my heart. She would run her fingertip along my jawline and look right into my eyes.
Now you don’t really believe any of that nonsense, do you?
I would fight her with my usual sophistry.
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. What does one mean by “believe” anyway? Fidelity to a spiritual tradition is more than intellectual assent to a set of propositions.
But she knows me the way a woman knows her man. She would laugh and lean in close. She would let her lips run along my cheek and breathe a whisper into my ear.
You don’t really believe any of that.
My heart would pound and my face would get red. My breathing would grow ragged and loud. Then I would give in and whisper the word I both desired and feared.
She would clap her hands in triumph and send all the other voices into exile below. And that would be it. I would be on the other side. Isolated. Disoriented. A man shorn of his myth. A soul disconnected from the rich beauty of the God narrative he had nurtured within himself so passionately.
Of course that would mean my time with the Church was over. At least my time as a clergy-person anyway. And I imagined that would be a grievous wound. Because the Church is such a pretty opera and I such a hopelessly romantic fanboy. First in line for season tickets and the last to leave each performance, sobbing tears of joy from my private box.
So you can Imagine my surprise when the opposite happened.
I didn’t lose my faith in God. I’m still the same starry-eyed agnostic I ever was. Who the hell knows what’s going on out there on planes of existence we can’t imagine? The shiver of joy that uncertainty gives me is what keeps me in the game.
No, it is my faith in the Church that has left me.
And it departed not with a bang or a whimper but with a yawn. The opera grew stale, the back-stage machinations distasteful, and apathy withered my attention span to the point where I can hardly track the progress of a single churchy sentence.
My friend Larry told me that if I want to remain a Christian I will need to find a way to be in community with other Christians. Larry is both smart and wise. So I believe him.
But I don’t know where I’m going to find them.