I wanted to reflect on an experience from over ten years ago. It was the summer of 2007. I was living in Millersville for the summer. Most of my friends graduated that May, but I still had another semester left. College was a great experience. I met a lot of cool people, played in a band, and discovered Jesus Christ. So much had happened in those four short years. But I was still immature.
When I graduated high school, one of my goals or dreams or hopes, was to find a girlfriend during college. This didn’t happen, other than a girlfriend that lasted a month. During the summer of 2007, I was either a groomsmen or a guest at several weddings. It was difficult to see my friends find the one thing I longed for but hadn’t found.
That summer started a season of walking back from my faith a little bit. I didn’t go agnostic or full-atheist. And I didn’t doubt that God existed. It was more of believing that God had let me down. This feeling would hit its peak the following year, after moving back home and failing to find a meaningful job all summer.
And while this feeling of being let down contributed to this walking back, there were other factors as well. Most of my close friends were no longer around. I was being tugged between two churches, never fully grounded in either. While playing music at two churches seemed like a good idea, I realized later that this was a terrible idea. I wonder if things would have been different if I was fully integrated into a single church during that time.
With all of those factors at play, sometimes I chose not to go to church. I justed wanted a different pace some Sunday mornings. Maybe I would sleep in. Maybe I would go for a walk. And sometimes, I would hang out at a coffee shop.
One of those Sundays, I hung out at our local coffee shop, the George Street Cafe. I do remember having a copy of Bass Player magazine. But I don’t remember having my Bible with me. One of my friends stopped by the cafe later in the morning (after church). She was surprised (and I think a little shocked) when I told her I hadn’t gone to church that morning. And I did feel a little judged during that interaction. I hadn’t stopped going to church altogether - I would just skip some weeks.
The problem wasn’t skipping church. The problem was that my faith was starting to be shaken, and I didn’t have anybody to help me walk through that journey. I needed people to help me process my feelings that God had let me down. I needed people to help me see that I had some immaturity to work through.
Unfortunately, I felt more or less alone on that journey the entire time. Reflecting on that experience at the coffee shop, I suppose that I wish my friend would have started a conversation about how I was doing as a person. It was over ten years ago. Perhaps she did try, but I refused. I wish some of my close friends would have been around that summer to help keep me anchored in the faith. But they were all moving on to the next stages of their lives. I felt like I was being left behind.
I think it is normal for people to go through periods of doubt or questioning in their faith. This isn’t something Christians or the organized church should fear. In my experience, people seem to assume if you start to question some of the things were were raised to believe, you will definitely leave the faith. But that is a false assumption.
Yes, sometimes people will leave the faith. But sometimes people’s faith will grow stronger. Maybe after the experience, the person’s faith may look different than what they were raised in. They may disagree with you on some points. That is okay. Acceptance is not the same thing as agreement. You can accept another individual as a fellow Christian, while at the same time disagreeing with them on things.
We need to support people during their journeys of wrestling through the faith. Try not to get hung up on where they will land. Focus on the fact they are your friend, and that you love them. If they are actually your friend, you should be able to lean in and support them, even if it’s a little uncomfortable.
I want us to get to a point where people won’t be afraid to tell friends, family, or fellow church members that they are going through a season of questioning or doubt. Where they won’t be afraid of getting grilled or scolded on how they are going down a dangerous path. A point where they will believe that they will receive empathy, and find out that is exactly what they received.
I’ve recently been hearing a song on the radio by the band All Sons and Daughters called “Oh How I Need You.” There is a beautiful line in this song: