The End of the Road
"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens."—J.R.R. Tolkien
When I first started writing this blog, I described my bourgeoning faith as a tiny sprout and I could not yet determine if it was a plant that should be tended or a weed that should be killed.
But now I have let the thing grow so much that its tendrils have spread to every section of my garden. It is choking out the other plants. It has infected my every thought and action. Proponents of faith assure me that this is exactly how it is supposed to be. That this is a giant tree of which everything else stems out of. It has to take over everything.
I remain unconvinced.
I believe in God. Looking back now, it seems clear that I always believed in God, even as I so adamantly claimed Atheism. God has in fact been the central component of everything about my life. There is nothing that I think about that does not in some way go through the filter of God. I am starting to believe that this is the worst thing about me.
Even now, I want to defend God. I want to say that it could just be me and my ever-changing, but still constantly wrong, view of and relationship to the divine that is causing me trouble. I get this idea from the church and my loving Christian friends who confidently assure me that I am always the problem. I do not believe enough. I have not surrendered enough. I am thinking too much. God doesn’t work like that. You are not supposed to understand.
But I don’t know.
The one thing that I have been told about God since I was a baby is that God loves me and wants to take care of me. That God has a plan. God will not give me more than I can handle. That all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purposes.
And if I squint and turn my head just the right way, I can still see evidence of this. I used to say that I may be poor and lost but I know God is watching me because I have never gone hungry. Now I say that I have never gone hungry for more than a day or two. A week tops.
God provides. Unless he has some reason not to. And it’s not for you to know whether the pangs in your stomach are part of a lesson, some greater miracle, or a result of your own sin.
His eye is on the sparrow, but I sure do see a lot of dead birds on the street. I am not filled with comfort at the thought.
God has made me a fatalist. I feel I have no control, no say at all in what happens.
I have been told to delight myself in the Lord and I will be given the desires of my heart. But then I have also been told that the heart is deceitful above all things and so maybe some of my heart’s desires are the wrong desires and God is too good of a father to give them to me.
It makes me doubt what I want. It makes me uncertain of everything. It paralyzes me into inaction. After all, why should I settle for what I want when what God wants has to be the better thing?
I trusted God for a wife, but am now quickly approaching 40 and am still alone. I trusted God for a career, but have never managed to make much more than minimum wage at jobs where it was clear that I was disposable. I trusted God to heal my body, but have watched it deteriorate into constant chronic pain. I trusted God for a vibrant, full life of joy and pleasure, but have spent my adulthood so mired in depression and anxiety that I have counted myself lucky at times to even get out of bed.
I trusted God enough to leave everything behind this year to find him, but now in less than 15 days I will be in a strange city with no place to stay, nowhere to go, and no means to get anywhere else. I have reached the end of the road. Or at least the end of my believing that this road leads anywhere.
I know I will somehow be fine. Not because of God, per se, but because I have loving and generous friends.
My few meals this week were not provided by Jehovah but by Amy, Danielle, James, Deborah, and Alessandra (thank you, by the way). And sure, we can thank God for such provisions. I know I did. I have thanked God a lot lately for the loving actions of Atheists. But I am just no longer sure God deserves the credit. Besides, barely keeping me alive seems a long way from the full life of abundance that was promised.
I am being unfair.
My perspective is skewed by stressful circumstance. My life is in fact abundantly rich and full of loving people and beautiful experiences. I have stood in awe at the most beautiful places in this country. I have been given access to art and music and so many other things that many people will never get to know. I have been blessed in ways I can’t describe. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Even now as I am sick, with less than nothing in the bank, I am still brimming over with gratitude for everything. I am grateful for nature and sunshine and love and yes, I am grateful to the God that may or may not have made all of it.
But right now, I am wishing I had put down the Bible and picked up a vocation. I want to tell my Christian friends that no, my problem was that I actually surrendered too much, believed too much, trusted too much and now I am paying the price. I chose meaning over money and have been left with neither.
I can’t help but feel that I should not have trusted in the Lord, but instead leaned on my own understanding. I should have made straight my own path. I should have learned the lesson long ago that there is no one coming to save me. That wherever God is, I am on my own. There is only one set of footprints in the sand. And if God is carrying me, then I shouldn’t feel so damn tired.
I say all of this but I know I don’t mean it. The cords of faith have entangled my feet and I know there is no escaping. I cannot help but to wait, to tarry just a little bit longer. I am still expecting that any moment now God will jump up from behind the couch with balloons and cake and yell “surprise!”
And I will feel the fool then. I will weep and repent for doubting. Lord help my unbelief! Even now, I repent in anticipation.
Because I do believe in God. I can’t help myself. I can’t convince myself otherwise. I believe there is something that transcends my experience, that matters more than my physical and emotional needs. I believe there is a way to become connected to this source. I believe there is transformation there, freedom there, a more pure and joyous way of being. Maybe it is only at the end of the road that I can find it.
Or maybe I am just a fool. An idealistic dreamer of no practical use. I suppose only time will tell. But even then, it still won’t tell for certain.
All we can do is hope.