SG...as my church burns will you make me just watch?
"Lord will you save my mind? Lord will you make it right? Cause I feel like a man gone blind. Don't know if its the day or night." Jervis Campbell, "Day or Night"
I have been a Christian for a long time–decades long–and one thought that never crossed my mind was whether God was real or not. Yes, I wondered what or who made God or what if all religions were on the same track, but I never questioned the existence of God. It’s not as if I haven’t had hardships or I’m not intellectual in my own way, but the thought never really crossed my mind…until recently.
My dad (if you don’t know him you can read about him in my previous post) always told me Christians who ignore God or doubt God’s goodness or existence haven’t experienced the real power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Not just the initial aspects of salvation but a power that is active in a Christian’s life. Had he experienced that I would ask him? Every time he’d answer with such a resounding, “yes,” and tell me subsequent stories of his changed life because of Christ and countless others with whom he experienced life. I would appreciate they weren’t just stories of dead white men from the 19th century, which seems like the testimonies many want to tell. Had I experienced such power for myself is the next question? I thought so, but something has felt so different since he’s passed. Off and on for the last two years the idea of whether God exists have rolled around in my mind and heart a little louder than before. I couldn’t pin point why until now.
My dad’s passing has been hard, and I have never thought about the idea of death as much as I do now. He isn’t the first person I’ve known to pass away, but it’s never been a person I relied upon so much. With every case of heartburn and knee pain, I feel more on the wrong side of my lifespan. But it really has been the aftermath of infighting and politics in our ministries that has really rattled my faith, and specifically it has been my inability to exert any kind of my own power to change its courses. As the long-tenured pastor of our church my father’s absence left a huge spiritual leadership vacuum and lots of differing opinions about the future. The day-to-day continues on in our church, but for me, it feels like a shell of itself as I have watched it burn over the last few years. It’s not a judgement on any one persons or groups. I may be being melodramatic, but it hurts not being able to mend the deep spiritual division I see across so many. Drama in immigrant churches (or any churches) isn’t new, but it hurts every time. But remember this post isn’t about church politics—it’s about me.
Before, if there was something I felt was a church issue to address or a person who really needed some attention, setting the next steps in action was as easy as giving my dad a call or stopping by his office, and he would “take care of it.” It didn’t always mean he did something, but at least we could argue about why I might be short-sighted or missing the picture, which it seemed was often his conclusion. That wasn’t easy to hear, but it was at least comforting to have a clear next action (or often inaction), and we’d watch and wait together to see what that person or group would do. Now that I’m still active in the church that he led for so long, but without that “phone a friend,” all I can do is watch. With no office I can stop by, no phone call I can make, I have lost control of something important to me and that loss of control has shaken my core. Perhaps I’m much more a control freak than I thought I was. My dad knew that about me, and there is no coincidence why he always told me to just, “trust God.”
In Lamentations, Judah watched its beloved Jerusalem destroyed, and no one could stop it. In my own bubble, I get how that feels now. My experience pales compared to the fall of Jerusalem or the fallout of many other churches or Christian organizations (e.g. Mars Hill collapse ) that I’ve read about the last few years. I can imagine the helplessness many may have felt…the loss of identity…the frustration of wanting to do something but lacking the means. I know what it feels like watching something burn down that you loved. Now I’m seeing my sense of lack of control is making me doubt God’s existence. It was easy to believe in Him when I felt I could control my outcomes. When I can’t anymore, I wonder what is controlling this world at all. It pains me that my faith is this small, but sometimes you do have to burn something down to rebuild it better.
What is left for me to do? If my dad was here, it’s obvious what he would tell me: “Go pray.” Honestly, just give me an easy button already. But if prayer is my next step, then I need help doing it. I’ll at least start that prayer here: Jesus, do you hear me when I pray? Are you even there to listen? The stories of your power always involve people’s hearts changing, but I see no one’s hearts budging around me. So I question your power and, in turn, your existence. But if my heart is changing then at least that amounts to something real, right? I feel more fragile than strong, but I pray your power allows me to crave less control and more of you.
Any low key control freaks out there who want to admit it? Share with us if you have ever lost that sense of control…what it did to your faith? Leave a comment and tell us what happened.
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