The following is an excerpt from my book, Another Gospel?
The curve of the rocking chair arm dug into my hip as I held my restless toddler, singing a hymn into the darkness— darkness so thick it felt as if it were made of physical matter, choking the cries right out of my throat as I prayed to a God I wasn’t sure was even there. “God, I know you’re real,” I whispered. “Please let me feel your presence. Please.”
I didn’t feel even the slightest goose bump or the familiar warmth that used to signify his presence to me. Swollen in breast and belly, my pregnant body ached as my little girl scampered around my lap trying to find a place to settle. Though the words seemed stuck behind my lips, I found a way to sing them out:
Before the throne of God above;
I have a strong and perfect plea . . .
Everything hurt. But I didn’t protest. I remembered the promise I’d made while in the deepest pains of labor before my daughter was born. I will never again complain about being miserably uncomfortable, I’d declared to myself. When you’re enduring pain that profound, you would give anything to simply be miserably uncomfortable.
After eighteen hours of back labor and five hours of pushing, Dyllan was born in distress. She was welcomed into the world by being swept out of my arms, laid on a cold metal table, and held down as tubes were stuck down her trachea. Those tubes saved her life. But it was a vexing cure. Her birth had traumatized us both.
Even so, God’s peace overwhelmed me, and when they finally laid her back in my arms, I took one look at her and I knew. I knew with the kind of knowing that emerges from a place so deep inside, you don’t even realize it’s there until you need it. I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her now. No mountain so towering I wouldn’t climb it for her. No ocean so deep I wouldn’t swim it for her. No battle so formidable I wouldn’t fight it for her.
But I had no idea this would be tested so soon. As I rocked my toddler that night, I was in labor again, but this time it wasn’t physical. The labor was spiritual. And it wasn’t a battle I had to fight just for myself. Two souls would depend on the outcome of this particular conflict of faith.
A great High Priest whose name is love;
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
But does he?
Is God really on a mystical throne somewhere out beyond the expanses of space?
Is he even aware of me?
Is everything I’ve ever believed about him a lie?
What happens when we die?
My name is graven on his hands;
My name is written on his heart . . .
But is it?
Is the Bible really God’s Word?
Is the only identity I’ve ever known a complete sham?
What am I supposed to tell my children?
Is religion really just the opiate of the masses?
Does God even exist at all?
“Remember, God, when Dyllan was born? Remember the peace that came over me in a wave I couldn’t control? I remember. Your peace.
“Remember New York, God? Remember that day? I needed you. I remember. I remember you cradling me with your presence as I lay in my bed, feeling like I would die.”
Or was it something else? Had those just been synapses in my brain firing in response to stress or excitement, sending a cocktail of endorphins and adrenaline through my body? Is that all it ever was? Every worship service, camp meeting, and Bible study?
I believe. Help my unbelief.
It felt like I’d been plunged into a stormy ocean with waves crashing over my head. No lifeboat. No rescue in sight. In the 2000 film The Perfect Storm, one of the last images (spoiler alert) is of the giant ship being capsized and pushed underwater by a wave the size of a skyscraper. The tiniest form of a human head peeks above the water for a split second before disappearing into the depths.
That was me.
What on earth would cause a strong and devout Christian to doubt her faith? Why would a member of the popular Christian music group ZOEgirl, which toured the world giving altar calls and inspiring many young teens to proclaim their faith and “shout it from the mountain,” suddenly have doubts?
We’ll get to that in a bit. But first, a little background. I was that kid. You know the one. The one who asked Jesus into her heart when she was five. The one who began studying the Bible as soon as she learned to read. The one who got up early to walk around her school and pray for revival among her peers. The one who led worship in chapel at her Christian high school and moved to New York at twenty-one to do inner city work with underprivileged kids. The one who went on every mission trip she could and who evangelized on the streets of Los Angeles and New York during the summer.
The one you would never worry about. The one you just knew would be fine. The one who would never doubt her faith. When I was about ten years old, my mom was a volunteer at the Fred Jordan Mission in Los Angeles. She would take us with her to work the soup lines on weekends, and it was there that I watched her hug prostitutes and wrap blankets around smelly homeless guys. It was there I watched my dad, a Christian recording artist, lead worship for crowds of cold and hungry souls as they sang “Amazing Grace” at the top of their lungs.
Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Loving the outcast. This is what was modeled to me as genuine Christianity. It’s just what Christians did. They prayed, they read their Bibles, and they served. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the real thing.
So I can’t say I grew up with a blind faith. My faith was informed by witnessing the gospel in action. But it was intellectually weak and untested. I had no frame of reference or toolbox to draw from when every belief I had been so sure of was called into question. And it wasn’t an atheist, secular humanist, Hindu, or Buddhist who facilitated my eventual faith crisis—it was a Christian. More specifically, it was a progressive Christian pastor.
Continue reading in my new book, Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity ⤵️