I’ve been writing with (in)courage for years, and the truth is that I’ve almost quit this band of sisters several times. After the peak of my son’s illness and my own battles with depression or anxiety, I had a shifting faith and questions that multiplied in my heart. Witnessing or experiencing pain can do that to even the most sturdy of believers.
I must have had some false walls that needed to be torn down, and what a mercy it was for them to fall. It was painful, but what a mercy. Sometimes when things get shifty and shaky, we need to trust that a rebuilding is coming, and I had watched several friends go through this. I knew all I needed was the Cornerstone. This is why folks get clingy to the red letters of Christ once in a while. I had already learned to take comfort in Jesus, and I trusted Him to rebuild my faith, but in all the upheaval, I easily assumed the church wouldn’t have me if I shifted so.
What if I change? Will you leave me? I’m not big on needing to be liked by everyone. I’m not that sort of people pleaser. But fear of abandonment? I can hardly type the words. Please don’t leave me. Often I choose to leave you before you have the chance to leave me.
I’m so glad I didn’t leave.
This is Emily. I’m sure you know her. I met Emily when we were wee baby bloggers. We held each other by the shoulders in 2009 and cried that the other would do kingdom work with her words. There was never any doubt in my mind that Emily was called to be a light bearer and to do MIGHTY healing work within the regular and the small of the church.
It seems random that I tell you this. Some readers noticed in my book how women are terribly lacking until later in my story. For some reason I have believed men would stay before I believed a woman ever would. Probably I believed this based on my ability to woo a man. I shouldn’t tell you this. I don’t even know how to explain why I trusted what I knew of men more than I trusted my ability to have a true girlfriend, especially in the church.
I’ve had to grow in my love for women, and I certainly have. This is Liz. When she speaks, she glows. She’s hilarious, and when she says she is only there to encourage us, I believe her. I’m learning to believe in the continued work of the Holy Spirit in others and in myself. This is crucial for the life of the church — to not give up on the Spirit within us. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up faith and hope when you or someone you love gets kookoo pants. Next year any one of us could be barking up the same tree. Don’t give up on having healthy friendships, and don’t give up on the church.
Don’t assume to know what others will think of you. If you find yourself drowning in questions, if life circumstances have thrown you off kilter and you begin to question which way is up and is there a hell or what is atonement, don’t give up. A shifting faith can be a scary time. You need your people.
And what you look back and see is how grateful you are for the questions and the change, how thankful you are that you didn’t stay the same, how faithful God is even when you wonder if He’s the woman in The Shack.
My own story is that I have been led so gently back around to Jesus as King, Revealer and Coverer of sin and Healer of disease, Jesus the Only Way, and, yes, even Jesus who says take up your cross and follow me. Atonement is not a scary word to me. I belt Nothing but the Blood with the holyroller-est heart.
But what if I didn’t? What of our friends who have taken a different turn in their thinking? Will we love them then? Will we give up on our friendships? Is there room for an unknowing and a rebuilding? Many walls crumble over lifetimes. This I know. The Cornerstone does not. Can we trust that? He has sent His Spirit to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Sisters, let’s lay down our fear of being left behind or of others being left behind, and let’s keep the lamps burning. Walls will fall. He’s coming.