Conversion and conversions will be themes of this blog for the next couple of weeks. We will suspend our “heaven” series, continue our books — Wright and Bain — but will also be having posts about our new book, Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy. More posts, however, will be about Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. We advertised this series some six weeks ago. The big image of Jamieson’s book is that many today are undergoing an experience of growth in faith like a chrysalis. I have asked folks to respond to this image and today’s comes from Cindy. Warning: this blog is a safe place for people to tell their story, and most of them — all of them really — are not yet finished. Furthermore, some folks like this book and some don’t. We’ll hear from both. Request: Join in and ask questions, especially if you have read the book.
It?s OK. That?s my honest, from-the-heart reaction to this book. It?s OK to be in my chrysalis, somewhat disconnected from church, without severing ties completely.
Until I read this, I had been struggling for months. I felt uncomfortable at church, but couldn?t just stop going ? my kids want to go, and need me to take them there. So we started visiting another church, trying to find the elusive ?it.? This has provided a nice off-and-on break from the routine, but I was obsessing about where we should be attending, where God wants us, and what the heck I should do with my life, anyway. I was looking for black and white, but finding only shades of gray. Reading Chrysalis has helped me be comfortable with and find beauty in the grays ? like in Ansel Adams? photos.
I never completely lost my faith. My work immerses me in Christian thought, theology, and the Bible, and that has kept me connected. I?ve spent the last few Sunday mornings at a local park, worshipping God in the midst of his creation after dropping my kids off at church. What I have come to is a bottom line: I love God, and I love Jesus. Beyond that, I can?t say.
My husband?s crisis of faith came first, and was badly handled by the leadership of our church. He was struggling with God, questioning the status quo of American evangelicalism, and wanted a forum to discuss some of these deeper questions ? like the small groups Jamieson recommends. Unfortunately, being open about his questions got him spiritually blacklisted: branded divisive, a troublemaker, not to be trusted. In Jamieson?s metaphor, his chrysalis was knocked off the plant ? or at least off the branch it was originally attached to. His experience has kept me from being open about my journey with people at church.
One thing I wonder about is the connection between the ?dark night of the soul? and depression. Part of what happened with my husband is chemical in nature: he had always been rather mercurial, and was diagnosed first as mildly bipolar, then as suffering from clinical depression. At the time of his faith crisis, he had just come through a particularly bad time of depression and had started taking anti-depressants. The medication helped (still helps) ? but as it evens out his moods, I wonder how much it?s affecting his faith. He feels a conflict between his heart and his mind: for a rational person, belief cannot be proved and often makes no sense. And he no longer has the strong emotions that once accompanied his faith, that made him ?on fire for God.? In his own words, he?s now a ?hopeful agnostic.? So is the medication that makes his life better damping his spiritual fire? We may never know.
I haven?t finished reading the book. I?m still snugly cocooned in my chrysalis, and feel that I shouldn?t read about my future as a butterfly quite yet. But I have hope, and that is enough.