NightLight posts every Friday with encouragement for and questions from younger women. No matter your age, you are older and wiser than some, and you’ve been equipped to share through your story. Please read the guidelines and consider submitting questions or posts of encouragement or advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would rather the following post receive no response than any responses that are not wholly out of love. Conviction doesn’t always mean love. I loved this email because it made me remember my own unbelief, how hard I worked to muster up faith. It gives us opportunity to see that those who don’t believe aren’t a bunch of non-feeling, Ignorers. Thank for for your thoughtful response to this guest poster. I’m honored that she would share her thoughts here and that you would meet her here with grace.
The writer says,
I want to emphasize that my intent is not to offend or belittle anybody. I’ve talked about my lack of belief with two people outside my family. One, my father’s pastor’s wife, implied that I was just rebelling and would “come around” when I had felt real sorrow. The other was insulted, which made me sad for days. This is just an honest question that I have, and it would be nice to have encouragement from people with strong faith. I’d like to know if others have felt the way I do, and what led them to change.
I don’t think that I can Believe in the way that you and your readers do, that my family does. I don’t Believe in God, even though I want to.
My father is Presbyterian and my mother is Catholic. I was baptized Catholic, but I wasn’t confirmed because I take religious commitment very seriously and knew I couldn’t honor it with the way I felt. The way I feel is hard to articulate sometimes, but essentially I don’t think that there is anything hearing or answering prayers. I grew up with a very simple faith, lighting candles during Lent and attending weekly Mass, but when I was 12 things began to get complicated. I would say my nightly prayers, but I couldn’t escape the thought that I was praying to nothing.
Intellectually, I found faith beautiful and inspiring. The people I think of as faithful are strong, kind and true to themselves in a big way. It’s like they’ve tapped in to an underground river that I haven’t found. I envy them. Like I said, I want to Believe. But I don’t.
I try to fall into Believing. For one month I tried to say prayers every night, like I did growing up. I would talk about what was on my mind, what I regretted, what I hoped for. It led to clarity, but not to God. I still was overwhelmed with the conviction that there was nothing, that everything was empty, that this life is it.
Most of the time, that doesn’t bother me, because I consider myself happy. But sometimes I allow myself to realize that I am not deeply content. Not with myself, not with my family, not with the way I live. The pastor’s wife could be right – maybe this is just a teenage stage. But somehow I don’t think so.
I know that there is some historical truth to the Bible, but I consider the rest story – a beautiful story that has changed the world, but not literal truth. Maybe this is part of my problem, but I don’t know how to change what I think. I’ve read Karen Armstrong and Christopher Hitchens, C.S Lewis and Aldous Huxley. My favorite writer is Graham Greene, a Catholic who struggled with his faith all his life – but at least he had a faith to struggle with. One of my favorite lines from a novel of his is, “I’ve caught belief like a disease.” The problem is that I can’t seem to catch it, and I don’t think that belief should be a disease. It should encourage, not erode.
I just need to find my way to that uplifting belief, that underground river. I was hoping you and your readers might be able to help me.