Losing faith, I think, feels like someone tying a small string to the terminus of a single blood vessel. They then pull, slowly, extracting your circulation system one capillary at a time. At least, that's the way it feels for me.
When I say the gospel is a jewel I've worn around my neck these past seven years, I mean it. I've walked the rocky beaches of the world's intellectual beach: small, brown pebbles, shards of granite, an occasional topaz, or even ancient remnant of an arthropod you pick up, put in your back pocket, place on your mantle to appreciate and collect dust. Mostly sand. I've never found something so brilliant as the stone resting just below my clavicle.
But even zirconium can be polished to shine like a diamond.
As a result of the gospel in my life, I've seen many small flowers begin to grow in my garden. My relationship with my father has budded, petticups opened under the sun, petals like fingers on unclenched fists. I've walked drug addicts and porn addicts and alcoholics to or back to Christ, seen their addictions fall from them like dead, gray dandelion seeds and blow away in the wind. Cold winds of depression have given way to heavy, damp summer breezes parturient with life in many people's lives.
In my own life, I've spent hours and hours pulling those incessant little sprouts of chicken weed, perennials, crab grass and ragweed, but they always came back. Never once have I weeded my own garden and it has stayed clean. Yet, people notice my garden is remarkably empty of weeds. Schliermacher, an 19th century German theologian, said true religion is complete dependence. And it's true: I'm dependent on God to weed my garden. He has weeded out addictions to pornography, video games, wrath, and now an eating disorder. How can I tell people my garden is clean only because I've mastered the art of begging? Begging God to weed my garden for me?
And in the process Christianity has ruined the world for me. I don't mean that I hate the small, red raspberries off and eat on my way to work. They taste wonderful: the sweet liquid, the small wet seeds rolling around my tongue like little bits of sand. I love them.
But building in the world is like building sand art on the beach. You arrive early in the morning, erect magnificent castles, scrawl words and sentences, dig moats, carve out reservoirs. You leave with the orange sunset feeling accomplished, meaningful, only to arrive the next morning and see your work washed away by the nocturnal high tide. What I mean is:
"3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course,"
"10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun,"
"And the world is passing away along with its desires,"
In the end, I've fulfilled both Schliermacher's and Jesus' vision of true Christianity: I'm totally dependent on God for meaning and purpose. For everything. Worldly desires are nothing but sand castles to me. I've burned my ships, it seems sometimes. I don't know if there's any going home.
Neichze says that meaning and morality, in the absence of objectivity, are imposed by strong men onto reality. Nihilism the destruction of all objective meaning and purpose in the cosmos, is only beneficial when it has been moved past complete negation into imposed morality and purpose, willed morality and purpose. It's a matter of strength, he says, to impose one's morality and meaning on a moral- and meaning-bereft cosmos.
Problem is, I've never been a strong person. Most people say I'm disciplined. Yes, I wake up every morning and exercise, read my Bible. Yes, I discipline my mind through reading and writing. Yes, I have widespread influence on-campus, profound intellect, money saved in the bank in a retirement account. I run near-marathons. I'm a vegetarian, and I eat for less than 40 dollars a month. I'm a 'successful person', I suppose.
Yet, all my strengths are the result of incessant begging. Like I said, I've mastered the art: first, kneel. Fold your hands. Next, (when you just-freaking let go) sprawl yourself out on the carpet. Let the small tufts of carpet tickle your cheek. Admit your own insufficiency. Verbally, not just in your head. It's the truth, or normally it is. Try to force yourself to cry a little bit. It feels good. And God will answer your prayer, if it's in his Will.
I guess that's my only intrinsic strength: my God-given gift to admit my own weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:12 has become an axiom to me:
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
In Christian terms, I'm a man after God's own heart. Like David:
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?..
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
So what happens when that grace becomes insufficient? When my enemies triumph over me? When the sorrow in my heart becomes too great to retain trust? What do I boast? All my gifts are the result of my weakness, God's strength. But what happens when there is no Dirt fill in the hole? Can I become Neichze's superman? Can I, like Heidegger says, impose my Will to Power on the universe?
This post isn't a syllogism. I'm hardly trying to convince anyone of anything. It's a confession, though a poorly-written one. If it seems convoluted and rambling it's because that's how I feel: my garden is overgrown with weeds of doubt. To be honest, I don't know if I'm losing my faith. That would be contingent on me reallyknowing anything. But the plants are rampant, and I can't see the sun above the canopy. It's up to Christ to weed it now. I have this hope...