Today I stumbled upon an article in Living Lutheran titled "Losing faith - finding it" and was immediately drawn in. Pastor Karen Olson talks about her struggles after suffering a seizure. "I didn’t sense God’s presence—just a bleak absence. I couldn’t pray through Epiphany, other than those public prayers I made as a pastor. I couldn’t stomach texts that proclaimed hope," she writes.
Just a bleak absence.
Before this, I haven't seen anyone who gets it. I know there are people out there who have experienced similar things, but it's not really something discussed openly. For anyone who knows me, I'm not going to go out of my way to be vulnerable anyways.
Lent's always been a time to reflect on struggles, shortcomings, and suffering. I have students struggling to decide where to go to college next year. I know there are other people in the congregation who are struggling to just get by. We all have our thing.
But this bleak absence - it happens, and probably more than what people realize.
I had my fair share of tough times. In college I became a statistic and completely changed my worldview. Even though my situation wasn't uncommon, I felt alone. I didn't know who I could trust anymore.
Then the next year, I was told I was going to need surgery, ending my soccer career. I wasn't the star by any means. I didn't even get any minutes (but at least I can say I never let one goal by me in my college career.) But it was bigger than that. Soccer has always been my outlet, and it got ripped out from under me.
A few months later, my best friend got arrested. My heart broke for him. I felt helpless being hours away. There was nothing I could do to help, even though he was always there for me at the drop of a hat.
Then the facebook posts came. People can be cruel. I always brag about how Roosevelt High School has been filled with welcoming people, and is a safe space for just about anyone. But then, these people I would use as an example of this kindness, ripped him to shreds.
It got bleak for me. I would stay in my room and sleep for most of the day. I barely put any effort into my classes. I refused to do anything in the campus chapel. I felt abandoned. It was bad enough to throw things at me, but now my friends were going down with me. Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one. I had a twisted bonding experience with another friend after she was hospitalized after having suicidal thoughts as she battled with her own depression.
My world was crumbling around me.
I got out of Wartburg as fast as I could. I should've taken a semester or two off to get my barrings, but I knew I would never return if I did. I ended up graduating a semester early, which was more like me trying to get the race over with rather than trying to actually complete it.
Then the unimaginable happened. I lost him. Just as I was starting to crawl out of my hole, I got shoved back in. His world collapsed on him first. He didn't think he could make it out.
I selfishly thought "he left me."
Bleak doesn't even scratch the surface of this one.
Eventually, life started getting more "normal." I got some of my old friends back and made some new ones. I started playing soccer again. I started trying new things again. And then, I finally got my foot in the door for the career I always wanted, youth ministry.
Now, I'm sure it seems weird that I would still stick with it. Believe me, it was weird for me, too. Fortunately, no matter how much my faith got knocked down, I still had my foundation. I could never find a good reason to truly abandon my faith.
And thank God for that. Being roped back in has been what truly has made my life feel normal again. I was doing what I love. I was validated, that I wasn't crazy for working towards this goal my whole life. I was able to go back to the community that made me feel home, feel loved.
We don't take enough time to share our own struggles. That's what church is for. We don't go to show we're perfect Christians. We go because we're sinners and we need to be forgiven. We go because we have burdens we need Jesus to take for us. We go because we need to know we can still be whole even in our brokenness. Don't be afraid to be broken.
Read the article here: Losing faith - finding it