Three years ago I began a new journey. At the time I was a seminary student, working for The Salvation Army as a youth minister. I’d always had questions about faith and had entertained doubts, but for the first time in a decade of calling myself a Christian, these questions and doubts began to disrupt the foundations of my faith. I stepped back.
I took a break from seminary and left The Salvation Army (a complicated story, perhaps for another time). I wondered where I’d end up and what I would do now that I found myself moving away from the faith I’d held to so closely. I wondered what I would do for a career. Did my education matter? Did it have any relevance to what I would do in the future? Maybe I had wasted my time.
I had an identity crisis. Who am I if not a Christian? Where do I belong if not in a community of faith? Who do I live for and what do I value if not what I had learned in all my studies? From the time I was 17 until my time of questioning I had diligently sought answers to life’s greatest questions. I wanted to know who I am, why I exist, what I should do, and how I should live. I wanted to belong somewhere and to be understood. I wanted meaning. Now I had lost it.
I realized that I had set myself up for failure in my pursuit of meaning. Though I had studied, prayed, received counsel and prophetic messages, and explored my own heart and mind I had not yet lived. I convinced myself that life was to be lived in a certain way for certain values, but I had not let my own life speak. I resolved to take a step back from my rigorous pursuit of meaning by intellectual and academic means. I decided to live first and let my experience of life demonstrate its own meaning.
I took a job as a maintenance technician. I tried hard to do the job well and learned a lot. I had some health issues which prevented me from working, so I took some time off. I found another job doing maintenance. After a few months I was let go. I realized that maintenance was not for me. My experience of life was showing me who I am. I felt a desire to work with people and for others. I began working as a Youth Advocate for a children’s home working directly with ten foster kids. I loved it. I felt passionate again. I excelled at my job and looked forward to it. I found that it was forming me to be a certain kind of person. I was gaining patience I had never found in myself. I learned to handle stressful situations while staying calm and reasonable. I was able to teach about hygiene and I loved it. My passion for life and for serving others was resurging within me because I was living life as it came to me and not trying to force myself into anything.
The time came for me to leave that job to be a stay-at-home parent. I began to reflect on the past years of my life. I asked the same questions which had troubled me three years ago. Who am I? Where do I belong? Who do I live for? What do I value? This time I was able to begin to answer these questions from my own life experience. I found myself drawn to those same themes I had read about and to which I held fast when I called myself a Christian. I value the Kingdom of God and its King, Jesus. I want to live for a world where the poor are comforted, the meek inherit the earth, those who hunger are filled, and the pure in heart are called God’s children. I belong in God’s Kingdom, doing his will so that love and justice prevail.
Who am I? I still am unsure. I have not abandoned my doubts or questioning. I am not persuaded of the whole of Christian doctrine, creeds, practice, and values. I don’t even know if I’m a Christian. What I do know is that I’ve made peace with doubt and questioning. My experience of life these past years is driving my pursuit of meaning. Preconceived notions and idealistic expectations have not driven me to a forced life of faith, yet letting go of these and living for the sake of living has brought me back to where I started. I believe in Jesus and the Kingdom he proclaimed. The remainder of my questions and doubts have yet to be resolved, but I know how I will find answers. I will go forward with life and let the answers find me on my way.