I am a minister. For the past 9 years I’ve not gone to church as someone attending service, but as someone hosting service. I’ve spent these 9 years serving in “behind the scenes” roles. My real passion is not the production of worship experiences. I’m all about seeing people who don’t intuitively find the connection between what they believe and the life they live being granted permission to make that connection.
Most days I wish that my passion was not this. I’ve basically made my life’s work about helping people gain something that is impossible for me to actually help them gain. I guess if we’re really laying our cards on the table, I hope if I see faith blossom in other people’s live often enough, I’ll figure out how to make it do the same in my own. Most days I just want to make it to my couch, forget about having the energy to engage in a deep and personal relationship with God. My most common prayer for myself is something along the lines of “God, I hope you’re enough because I’m sure not.”
In my heart I desire a spiritual experience and connection with the divine that changes the way I live out every aspect of my life. But it seems like the best I can muster is a mildly enthusiastic religious experience. It hasn’t always been like this. I’ve had seasons of my life where the spiritual felt very near and intertwined with my day to day experience.
This is not the first time I’ve found myself in a season in which my spiritual energy and connection waned. What is new about this experience is my self-understanding. In times past I wondered what was wrong with me, or I tried to pretend that everything was fine. I thought that if I just worked harder at some discipline or spiritual practice then I’d get back to where I once was.
If I’ve gained any wisdom in my spiritual awareness, it is that going back to where things felt “good” or “right” in one’s faith is the equivalent of wishing to re-live the glory days. Sure, re-living college would be fun, but that would require going backwards and life doesn’t go backwards.
Usually, faith feels underwhelming when our souls have need of new expressions of spirituality. Just like when my 8 year old gets bored playing with toys he loved when he was 6, our souls don’t continue to grow when we exercise them with that which strengthened them in seasons past.
What I’m learning, and I think many need to learn, is that faith will not often feel “good.”
Faith lives at the juncture of hope and desolation. The spiritual journey of every person, specifically the Jesus follower, requires an ongoing journey through desolation toward the hope our faith speaks of. No, I’m not going to spout off a list of trendy new spiritual disciplines you can add to your repertoire- I’ve tried that and it doesn’t help. The technique of your spiritual expression is not as significant as the transparency of your spiritual expression.
When faith grows difficult, frustrating, or stale you don’t need a new product. You need to be honest before God and man. You need to ask hard questions of yourself. Things like, how much of your perception of God is your own construction? It’s also worth exploring how realistic your expectations of God are. You may find that much of your spiritual frustration and disappointment lies with perception and expectation- not with your behavior or God’s responsiveness.
Here’s the hard part for me. You have to acknowledge before other people that you’re not feeling too sure about the whole spiritual business. This is hard for me precisely because I’ve decided to set myself up as a professional Christian. How am I supposed to do this whole minister thing right if the songs we sing, lessons I teach, and programs I support just feel static and dull?
What I’ve learned is that the people who have an interest in me and not what I can do for them don’t mind that I’m not Jesus incarnate. Granted, I’ve met a few folks that really don’t give a rip about how my faith is doing- they just want their customer service experience to be world class. But on the whole, the people you meet at church will be interested in supporting you in your spiritual journey. The most likely challenge you’re likely to run into when becoming honest about your faith is that not everyone feels personally equipped to offer the necessary support.
I’m guessing that if folks don’t lose their mind at the thought of a minister not always killing the discipleship game, they’ll be understanding if you don’t have it all sorted. So talk about it. Admit it. Own it. Then start doing the things that disciples do.
Pray. Forgive. Serve. Love. Smile.
And while you do the things that disciples do, keep talking about what is happening in your faith- both the good, the bad, and the seemingly insignificant. Search for words to articulate what is happening between what you believe, what you do and how you feel.
It’s not false to act like a disciple when you don’t feel like one. It’s part of the journey. You won’t find resolution for a struggling faith by going backwards to where things felt ok. You only find resolution by moving forward, through the frustration, toward the hope that you believe lies with God.