My Confession About Faith

Do you ever get tired of discussions about faith? Secret confession: I do

Not all the time. Some discussions I find riveting. But sometimes… OK, often… I’m just sort of done with the arguing. And weary with the rabbit trails. And tired of the verses which are used and abused as “proof.” And eager to get on with my faith and my life without assuming that the theological discussions define either one.

And do you ever feel like Who You’re Expected To Be is at war with Who You Really Are? Because that is SO ME.

As a woman who’s invested in my faith, I’ve felt in the past like I should want to dive into theological discussions online and in my broader Church and, you know, exhort people to do better and believe more and doubt less. But that’s not me these days. It’s just… not.

The truth is, I’m not much of an exhorter, and, quite frankly, if I see you face down on life’s path, spread eagle and mumbling, “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t. Not. One. More. Step,” I’m not the one who’s going to jog in place with pep and vigor and cheerfully shout, “Oh, come on. Hop up! YOU CAN DO IT.”

No, I’m sure not. Because, although I’m as certain as the cheerleader that you can take another step, I’m the girl who’s going to see you down there, covered in mud and exhaustion, and flop down beside you on my back, look up at the sky and the trees, and say, “Can you even believe it’s possible to be THIS TIRED? This DONE? With All The Things?” And I will shake my head back and forth in that mud in disbelief at this much weariness as I tell the others who stumble upon us, “Carry on! Don’t wait for us. We’re just taking a lengthy break right here. An indefinite break. A break to shame all previous breaks. You know, because we’re stretching out our muscles and stuff.” And then I’ll stage whisper to you, “Or we’re dying,” and you’ll laugh, because you’ll know I’m kidding, but barely.

Lots of people will carry on, hurdling over us at breakneck speeds, and we’ll cheer for them as best we can in our wasted state, thinking good for you and, when we can muster the energy, giving them a half-hearted one-thumb-up. But some other weary souls will collapse beside us, and the group of us will lay there together in the mess and just breathe. And shake our heads. And laugh when we can. And breathe again.

Which is a lot what Love looks like to me these days.

A couple weeks ago, I started a series here on faith. “Series” used in the loosest possible sense of the word because we just started five kids at four different schools last week and, whew!, the start of school laid me flat with all of its unreasonable requirements like waking up earlier than “go away and leave me alone,” and wearing not-pajamas, and feeding kids food for breakfast, and arriving at school before it starts every morning.

So I planned two – count them, two – posts on faith and called it a series and then thought later that I probably should’ve mentioned the series was less What Faith Is Supposed to Be and more What Faith Really Looks Like to me because the first post was all questioning, doubt and learning to breathe as opposed to, you know, answers, and this one is about being tired — so flat-on-my-face tired of the nit-picky nit-pickiness, to use the theological term, that the Church seems to want us to walk through.

Come as you are, the Church says, but sometimes they mean come as you are so we can change you. The fancy word for this is transformation. And don’t get me wrong — I absolutely believe that LOVE TRANSFORMS US — it’s just that I’ve come to the conviction that, while it’s my job to love extravagantly and to get muddy with my people, it’s Love’s job to do the transforming work and not mine, not mine, not mine.

The truth is, sometimes my eyes roll back in my head because I can’t take latest sexuality conversation or gender equality conversation or modesty conversation or what have you. Not because I don’t care about those issues. Or because I think they’re unimportant. Or because other people of faith whom I LOVE aren’t doing excellent, life-saving work around them. 

It’s just that, while those awesome people are thinking and discussing and walking upright, I’m lying face down in the mud. Tired.

So I used to spend a lot of time wondering whether I’d missed the boat. Or if something was wrong with me as a writer who’s also a Woman of Faith. But I’ve come lately to the conclusion that no, nothing’s wrong with me because, after examining my motivations for more than 20 years, here’s what I know:

I just want to get on with the business of Love.

Love loves us. Love one another. The end.

It’s not that I don’t care about theology. Or about the structures and doctrines of my faith. I do. I majored in Church History, for God’s sake. It’s just that I’m ready to get on with the business of Love, and I find myself more and more frequently without the time or energy to debate whether I think about God or Love the right way. I’m no longer interested in maintaining the long list of rules. Or in defending my faith. Or in converting others to my cause. I find, instead, the older I get, the more the peripheral stuff gets put on the back burner, and the more interested I am in the real, practical ways of Love.

The real, practical ways of Love.

Which look a lot like less like reasoned arguments and defenses of my faith and a lot more like befriending the fallen in the middle of the path.

And lying down in the mud together.

And laughing into the mess.

I just want to get on with the business of Love.

Only. Ever. Always. The End.

And that is my statement of faith.

……….

Thank YOU so very much for trusting our community with your answers to 5 Quick Questions About Faith, as well. We heard from people who identified as atheists, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, agnostics, Catholics, Muslims, Quakers, and many, many more, including someone who said she’s both a Jedi and a Trekkie which I think is a bit of a stretch, but what are you gonna do? 😉 Honestly, it was a great honor to hear your stories of faith and to have you entrust our community with your words. I just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge your profound honesty (your apologies blew me out of the water!) and to note how grateful I am for each of you.

Do you have a confession about or statement of faith? I’d love to hear what’s really going on inside you.

……….

I’ve also written more specifically about my faith here and here and here and here.

 

Next Post
Previous Post

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
63 comments
  1. Wonderful post. I recently sank into a severe depression and am in an intensive treatment program with a very diverse set of people with diverse issues. We are all deeply in the mud. Something about being in the mud together and validating others’ hurt and showing compassion feels overwhelmingly like love and healing…even among strangers who are just trying to get through the day. I like your use of mud because it’s dirty and hard to walk through, but also represents groundedness- groundedness in daily life- where it’s sometimes (always?) the hardest place to love.

    1. Yes, and yes, and yes, AD. “Something about being in the mud together and validating others’ hurt and showing compassion feels overwhelmingly like love and healing.” Love to you.

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time in my short 29 years trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, because when it came to the church I was ALWAYS doing something wrong. I’ve just recently realized that it’s not about what the people of the church think of me, it’s about me and my faith and my relationship with my heavenly Father. It’s about loving people. I let my heart harden for a while. I was filled with hate and anger, against those “Good Christians” that were condemning me, and really against people in general. Slowly (because nothing good happens over night, and really I just ain’t got time for that with two littles) God’ grace is softening my heart. He’s filling me with love and patience and forgiveness. He’s shown me that those people who were putting me down weren’t any better, they didn’t have it all together, they were just as lost as I was. So a big ‘Ol southern AMEN SISTER. I’m right there with you in the mud. Let’s keep on keeping on and start loving people the way the good Lord says we should.

    1. Thank you for trusting us with your story, Jessica. I’m always so grateful for honesty. I’ve had times when I’ve felt battered by the Church, too. It’s hard not to hold God responsible for the people who claim to follow God. :/ And to choose Love anyway. x’s and o’s, friend. Always.

  3. Oh oh oh oh! *hopping up and down* YES yes yes yes yes!!

    My favorite line is this one: “Come as you are, the Church says, but sometimes they mean come as you are so we can change you. The fancy word for this is transformation.”

    As someone who is passionate about Jesus, Justice and Love, when I preach, I always talk about transformation. I’m a lesbian woman so don’t get me started on the love-the-sinner come-as-you-are bullsh**. Because THAT kind of ‘transformation’ is CRAP and not about love at all.

    The kind of transformation that love brings isn’t about what rules we follow or which argument we win or, god forbid, who is RIGHT, but about how we are with one another. You know, in a loving, non-judging, embracing, accepting-of-mud kind of way.

    I recently had a hugely painful talk with my mother in which I got to hear that encouraging line “you’re calling Jesus a liar” which translated means “you’re disagreeing with my version of what this verse means.” I almost hung up on her, but I got out my grown-up mama self and stayed on long enough to say that the conversation was toxic and I needed to go. Then I hung up and thought about never talking to her again. I WILL talk to her again, but I need a little comfort and healing first.

    Those battles, those arguments, they are the opposite of LOVE and all about fear of getting it wrong. Which is ridiculous because: hello, GOD. Mysterious. Kind of the whole point, right? That if we could “get” God then we wouldn’t need God. Because we’d have it all figured out.

    Oh this comment makes no sense but thank you for the chance to write it anyway. And thank you for you. I adore you.

    1. See, you say your comment makes no sense, but you’re wrong. And I say that in love, Liz, like a good Christian. 🙂

      I had this overwhelming image while reading your words, of sitting cross legged in the mud, face to face with you, and telling our stories of love and loss and hurt and healing and wiping mud in stripes across each other like war paint, except not war paint at all, but peace paint. And love paint. And laughing at the mess, but also understanding the deeply sacred symbols of muddy blessings.

      Read tomorrow’s blog post knowing I thought of you and all of us sitting here in the mud together. And thank you for being part of my community.

      Love to you, Liz.

  4. Beth,

    I just found your blog yesterday, and WOW! I couldn’t agree with you more. About the fact that my bathrooms are going to smell like pee until my youngest moves away (and then I tear them out back to the studs or further because I’m convinced the walls are saturated) and about loving people. My roller derby name is Reckless Housewife because I’m learning to love people with reckless abandon, but since I’m not Jesus my love isn’t perfect. I do the best I can when I’m in the mud with people. I don’t always do or say the right things when I’m hanging out there with them, but at least I stopped. I frequently say in my head, “I love Jesus, but I really don’t like lots of his followers.” I know Christianese because I grew up in the church, but I don’t like to speak in Sunday School answers. It alienates people. And I get frustrated when people say I shouldn’t question God. How else do you get to know him? My God is bigger than that. He can take my puny little questions. Love, LOVE, love your authenticity and transparency. Thanks for writing.

    1. Yep – God can handle my questions, too. Love this.

      Also, I stole my roller derby name, but it was so long ago that I feel like I have squatter’s rights to it or something.

      Love,
      Beth Amphetamine

      1. Yep, that one is taken, but as long as you aren’t playing in a WFTDA-sanctioned game, most derby girls will turn a blind eye to squatters. 😉

  5. “And do you ever feel like Who You’re Expected To Be is at war with Who You Really Are?”

    My husband is a pastor and we both have our masters from seminary. I constantly feel like I am expected to be something or someone because I’m a pastors wife and went to seminary. It’s exhausting sometimes even to blog because I feel like I can be who I am writing but I know people from church are reading and judging.

    I also get tired of the theology and same questions about gender and sexuality. I always tell my husband at the end of the day the gospel is still the gospel and that’s all I can focus on anymore. The gospel to me is love, in its most pure form.

    I know your tired, but please don’t stop writing about faith!! It’s so encouraging for me to read this!

    1. Thank you so much for this, Jacqueline. As a missionary kid, I totally get this. And no, I have no plans to stop writing about faith. About a year and a half ago, it became achingly clear to me that if I was going to continue as a writer, I had to be willing to write about ALL of me, as authentically and truthfully as possible. My faith is an inextricable a part of me as my horrific bathrooms. 🙂

      Thank you for YOUR encouragement, as well.

      Sending love… and grateful for your honesty,
      B

  6. may your tribe increase!

  7. well said.
    just love, and breathe.

  8. You put into words the reason I became an atheist…I was just SO TIRED of defending, and talking and getting into arguments about faith, and trying to justify all the weird stuff that the bible tells us is right (tassels, anyone?). I just got TIRED. I walked away from it all. Sometimes, I’ll tell people I’m “spiritual” but not religious. I believe in the spirit of love, the passion inside people to do good. That’s the “spiritual” that I’m interested in. The love I have for my children: that’s the “spiritual” I’m interested in. If you want to argue about whether or not God loves Gay people, go somewhere else. I’m too busy reading a book to my children to argue with you.

    1. I really like this comment and agree with you. Sometimes when I read an article about religion, I can’t believe how bloody technical the comments get! It’s like you have to be a scholar/expert in every single word of the Bible to even qualify for an opinion with some people. Like you, I’m done with all that, but not done with love by a long shot. And thank you, Beth, for a post I can relate to.

    2. I love this comment, Jaclyn, because it points out how very much we have in common. Have you seen this recent quote by Pope Francis? Because I LOVED it, and I feel like you nailed exactly what he was saying with “I believe in the spirit of love, the passion inside people to do good.”

      “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy. … “Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:
      “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” — Pope Francis

  9. Move over, new friend. I’m right there with you. I’ll even bring a pillow for our heads. <3

    1. Yeah – gonna quote this one in tomorrow’s post. Thank you.

  10. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

    I think what the Bible is saying there, is that Jesus is right there laying in the mud with you, comforting you. And I think what the Bible says in other places too, is that we are supposed to be Jesus to other people. So I’d say you’re spot on here, sister.

    1. This is who I believe Jesus is, too. Exactly.

  11. I am soooooo with you lyin’ in that mud!
    My church is currently in the throws of a “women in the ministry” debate with impassioned people on way more than just two sides, probably as many sides as there are people. Dizzying!
    A couple of friends who know that I used to have strong opinions (nope, I don’t plan on revealing those opinions 😉 ) have tried to get me “active” in the process. But, I just sent them a nice letter the other day saying I just. don’t. have. it. in. me. And I was so glad they were doing the work they were doing, I just couldn’t be a part of it. I have completely lost any fire I once had for politico-religious debate. And, you know, I’m totally okay with that 🙂 Totally okay with lying in the mud with you and laughing at your all-to-close-to-home jokes.

    1. Yep – I’ve had to opt out of some of the debates, too. Oh, I’ll wade back in as soon as I feel I must (and that sure does happen!), but for now, we’re going to lay here in the mud and make poop jokes. 🙂 xo

  12. I have really loved your recent posts on faith and have shared them with my teenagers for some great discussion starters and have been using them to help dig in to some issues I have been studying and dealing with lately – they are so pertinent to today’s issues. I Love the idea of just laying down by someone who has fallen down/sat down/laid down instead of trying to drag them along. Sunday my pastor talked about God the Father loving to play games with His kids – and described and game of hide and seek. But here I can picture him flopping down on the ground beside someone and starting a game of finding pictures in the clouds. No harassment about why you aren’t up and moving, just enjoying the moment with His child. We get so focused on things and “the rules” that we forget that the whole thing – our lives – is about relationships not the “stuff”.

  13. And what is it that Jesus says? Love God first, then love people. I think people get hung up on that simple faith because they a) can’t “see” God and its hard to love and trust someone you can’t “see” and b) because we don’t love ourselves so much. And Jesus says to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    What I love about your writing is that you encourage women to love and accept themselves for who they are right now. Once we learn to love ourselves I believe we will learn to love others better. Thanks for putting your simple faith out there. Children have simple faith, they don’t confuse it with theology and doctrine. That’s the level of complexity we need to have, right?

    1. “Once we learn to love ourselves I believe we will learn to love others better.” I SO agree with this. And I think once we learn to love ourselves, we’ll be better able to teach our children to love themselves.

      xoxo

  14. Earlier this year I started reading Nadia Bolz-Weber’s sermons online. She started House for all Sinners and Saints in Denver a few years ago and her sermons just get right to the root of what I don’t understand or have been questioning without answer. She doesn’t always have the answer and will just explore the question.

    There’s something really freeing about deciding to read/study the Bible without expecting answers. She wrote a book (that comes out today!) and I ended up highlighting a huge chunk of it.

    “We want to go to God for answers, but sometimes what we get is God’s presence.”

    1. I LOVE HER. I love that she’s honest and open and loving and FIERCE. And that woman knows how to USE HER WORDS for grace. Awesome quote, too.

  15. I am an encourager by nature; I can’t help it. But I am NOT a cheerleader. I’m a get down in the mud with you, hold your hand and make inappropriate jokes kind of encourager. So here goes:

    You are normal. And, by being honest, you are just exactly who God made you to be.

    You are not alone. Lets just keep breathing.

    This mud smells way better than my mountain of laundry. It’s like a little vacation… 🙂

    1. I’m a get down in the mud with you, hold your hand and make inappropriate jokes kind of encourager. — YAY! Thank you, Meggan!

  16. I love this, and feel exactly the same. Zocksos of solidarity and thanks to you xoxo

  17. My favorite part of this post is this: “And do you ever feel like Who You’re Expected To Be is at war with Who You Really Are? Because that is SO ME.”

    Yes. I think being genuine, flaws included, is part of what it means when the Bible says that we should know the truth and the truth will set us free. The truth sets us free, sets others free, sets everyone free. That speaks to me, and your blog seems to welcome the truth. That’s freeing.

    1. I do believe this absolutely, that the truth sets us free. Which means we must learn, somehow, not to be ashamed of our truths. xo

  18. Amen sister! I am the one lying in the mud next to people saying “quite trying to force yourself up this path, look at that bird flying or close your eyes and breath the sweet fresh air.” Or I would be the one to grab them, pull them up off the ground (or try to at least) and try to help them over to their “own” path. Thank you so much for your honesty, it helps the rest of us feel “normal!”

  19. Thanks Beth, for putting into words where so many of us are at. In fact, I suspect there are so many of us, there should probably be a detour sign to warn off others so they’re not tripping all over us in this big muddy pool. Or maybe a detour sign for people to come *to* us, to come and take some rest.

    I love that there are Godly women out there thinking big thoughts, being critical, raising questions, even when I don’t I don’t agree (especially when I don’t agree!) – it helps me to clarify my own thoughts. But my faith, my everyday way of walking with God is very simple. It’s completely stripped back and uncomplicated. It’s about love. It’s about acceptance. It’s about showing love, feeling love, being love. If it doesn’t affect salvation, then it. doesn’t. affect. salvation. Jesus’ message was simple, who are we to complicate it? Life’s hard enough, right? Besides, love is just so darn lovely.

    1. Oh, I’m sure you’re right! We DO need a detour sign! Our mud-sitting crowd is growing, growing. Because, yes, love is just so darn lovely.

  20. Amen. Hallelujah. Namaste. Praise Jesus, Allah, Buddah, Confusious and Oprah.

  21. I wish you could have known Greg’s grandpa. He was a very well-studied and respected Bible teacher with a well-thought-out and lived-out faith, and was much loved by many. In the midst of his terminal illness he made the comment, “The older I get, the simpler my faith has become.” I think I can say the same for myself.

  22. I read often but rarely comment (which is lame cause I’m a blogger too and comments rock my socks off), but I just had to say this…

    I. could. not. love. this. more.

    And I’m right there in the mud with you. Thanks for writing. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kayse! (I’m also super extra bad at commenting on blogs. You’re good. Carry on.)

  23. I thought you should know, you make life a little brighter! It feels so AWESOME to know and read about someone else who feels the same things that I do about, you know, getting up early, and getting-to-places-on-time-with-a-carload-of-kids. As time goes by, some things DO matter less and less. And you are SO right. Love is what it’s about. I’m right there in the mud with you!!! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. You seriously brighten my days.

  24. You are amazing. Every single post you put out there is amazing. I swear we are living the same life just across the county- and plus or minus a few details. But I swear I have the same thoughts that you put out into the universe. Thank you for putting into words how I feel.

  25. I have a confession. Sometimes I don’t know where I belong. My husband is an apologist, evangelist, open-air preacher, and works with a large online Christian apologetics ministry. So he’s out on the front lines, doing things that terrify me. I’m so much more of a homebody, and joining a moms’ group or Bible study feels like a big step out for me. There’s a weird expectation when your husband does all those things, and I really just think that my priority in life right now is my kids and my husband/home, and a small business that I run. Others think that I need to be doing exactly what hubby does (he, however, totally agrees and supports me in what I’m doing). Sometimes I just want to yell at those people that ministering to my own family is just as important to God, just as loving, as going out to others. What good would we be if we didn’t love and show grace daily to those we are closest to?

    1. I’ve never understood the idea that God would want us all to be doing the exact same work. Taking care of your family is just as valid a calling as leaving in the streets – and when you and your husband are in total agreement on that, it doesn’t matter what other people think (even though it doesn’t always feel good for them to think those things at you). Keep on loving your family.

    2. your family is your FIRST and BIGGEST and MOST IMPORTANT ministry. of course taking care of your home and children is just as important to God! He entrusted you with all those things because He knows you’re going to do it so well!

    3. I understand. My husband is in ministry as well and the pressure to be a major worker in church is huge. But we are firm in our stance that this is his calling, not mine. It isn’t a “two-fer offer”. But there is an additional hidden burden that pulls at me and that is the expectation that your faith is strong and vibrant and full. Everyone seems to expect you to have a clear understanding of your faith and an open line of communication with God. But most days I feel like Beth, down in the mud with muck in my eyes. The busyness of day to day life fills my view. I don’t have time or take the time to read my bible every day. Prayers are short and frequently I find I forgot in mid prayer that i was even praying! I can relate so completely to the statement “Who You’re Expected To Be is at war with Who You Really Are?”. And this war crushes my spirit. Thankfully, I’m usually to busy to think about it! It is so nice to hear that there are other women who feel the same way and who are pouring out love to the rest of us. I know that I need to forgive myself for not being “super pastors wife” or an angel as I once heard a fellow pastors wife called. I am far to muddy to be an angel.

      1. Be glad you are not an “angel” – when my mom calls someone an angel, she means they are always up in the air and harping about something!

        I have spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t good enough, didn’t do enough, didn’t know enough – I am so thankful for conversations like this one so that I am finally getting the idea that I am enough just as I am, and now I think I will lay down in the mud and take some rest along with you all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.