Evolving In Monkey Town {Thoughts on God}

Monday, February 7, 2011

I ordered this book recently, and it came in the mail today. The short paragraphs that follow -- brief excerpts -- are a few of the many reasons I know I'm going to love the book. Rachel Held Evans writes and, unknowingly, tells my story as she tells hers.

I felt closer to God as a teenager than at any other time in my life. I prayed incessantly, casting all the insecurities of adolescence at the feet of my heavenly Father, who loved me better than any boy ever could and who looked past my braces and bangs to see his beautiful, unblemished child. The Bible read like poetry to me, each word and verse ripe with spiritual sustenance. It fed me, and I swallowed it without asking questions or entertaining doubts or choking on the bones. ... I half expected to lift up my eyes and see Jesus perched on one of the highest boughs, smiling down on me as I prayed. He never seemed farther away than the corner of my eye.

Sometimes I long for the days when I was so certain, when faith was as sure a thing as thunder after a lightning flash or the scent of almond cherry at night. Things have changed a lot since then, but not necessarily for the worst.

I, too, long for past days of certainty. I look at my very first Bible, tattered and marked up, and recall when I loved to read it. I didn't struggle with questions about hell or human suffering or whether or not God can be called by a different name. I read apologetic books for fun. I couldn't wait to get married and submit to my husband {seriously}. Life was simpler then.

I filled out a "worldview" survey for a former Bible-study friend of mine a few weeks ago. It was more than a little eye opening about my current crisis of faith. I found myself typing the "right answers" to the questions, then thinking for a minute, then deleting everything I had typed, then thinking a little bit more, and then asking Wes to help me sort through what I actually think and feel at this point in my life. As I talked & typed, he observed, "Your answers are very much shaped by your fundamentalist background." You think?

Rachel explains her faith as a child & adolescent in the beginning of the book and then, in striking honesty, pours out her heart about her struggles with her faith. I'm knee deep in her struggles now, and I just want to meet her, hug her -- and jump around a little. I'm not alone.

I said earlier that Rachel has unknowingly written my story. But perhaps she does know -- perhaps that's why she's sharing hers. Perhaps she knows that she's writing the stories of so many others just like her -- stories of people just like me. It's my small hope that if you're reading this and you have questions {and especially if you're in the midst of seminary culture and you don't feel the freedom to ask questions -- or even admit that you have them!}, that you won't feel alone. Because you're not.

We're not.

I do believe God is here, in the thick of it all. He may not be who I think He is. In fact, I may not know Him very well at all. But, as Rachel so eloquently put it: If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that serious doubt -- the kind that leads to despair -- begins not when we start asking God questions, but when, out of fear, we stop.


Jon said...

Beth, I really like your honesty and that you've found some freedom to voice your doubts and questions. I struggle with doubts pretty regularly, and in the missionary world (as, I'm sure, in the seminary one) this can seem to range from taboo to absolutely forbidden.

But just about all of human life is so messy and complicated, and our hearts and minds are no exceptions.

Anyway, let me leave you with two thoughts: first, even though I'm happy for your honesty and felt freedom to doubt, the fact that you're doubting and questioning things sort of also breaks my heart. I will be praying for you often. Second, in the midst of my own continual questions and doubts, I find grace and encouragement and acceptance and love and truth in Luke 7:18-35.

Well, I hope Jesus reveals Himself awesomely to you. And me.

katieballard said...

Another blogger I follow also wrote about this book. She comes from a fundamentalist church background as well.


Hannah Wymer said...

Beth. . .Thanks for the book review! I think that I will be ordering this book in the near future. Fundamentalist background. . .it is amazing how many of us have that in our past.

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