To be honest, I lost my faith. And I never thought I would find it again...
...I was wrong
I don't know when it happened. Perhaps it was as far back as when my Mom had her accident. Maybe it was when leaders of church asked me to stop being around their kids because I was gay. It might have been when Nanny died because her Toyota Corolla couldn't stand the impact of a Ford F350 cargo van. Maybe it was when Cassie Bernall was shot at Columbine High School for refusing to deny God, or when 2,996 people died on September 11th, or when some of my friends found the execution of Timothy McVeigh or the killing of Osama bin Laden as reasons for celebration. Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing in God.
Even in seminary, there were times where I had to wonder who it was that we prayed to every week in chapel, whose life it was that we remembered in the Eucharist. I would open up this book called the Bible and question whether or not it could help me here and now to make sense of who I am and how I'm supposed to life in a world where the objectification and raping of women is responded to with less harshness than stealing money out of a cash register, where the same drug that, in rock form, gets a black man 20 years in prison can, in powder form, get a white man a trip to rehab.
Then I started working in the hospital. Then I started talking to people, or should I say — then I started listening.
Keep this in mind: I started going back to church in 2009. I started seminary in 2010. I started chaplaincy in 2013. It wasn't until my work led me outside the walls of the church and into those of the hospital that I started truly seeing God in the people I encountered. This is not to say the people I encountered at my my former home church, Holy Covenant, the church I served, Irving Park, or the nonprofit where I worked, Marin Foundation meant nothing to me — quite the opposite. It was my time in those places that softened me up and started breaking down my own barriers of cynicism and blockades of pain.
When I first started hospital chaplaincy, I functioned as a makeshift therapist more than I did a spiritual practitioner. I asked more about my patients' emotions than I did about their faith. Now, nearly five months into my time at the Cleveland Clinic, rarely does a day go by where I don't pray with a patient. More often than not, it's something I offer up front rather than something I avoid or dread. When people mention Scripture, instead of focusing on my own discomfort with much of "The Word," I'm able to recognize it as a source of meaning and strength for them and honor that.
I don't know if my faith will ever be what it was when I was in middle and high school. I may always more doubt than certainty, more question than answer. But for the first time in a long time, if you were to ask me, "Where do you see God working in your life," I might be able to answer you. I might be able to tell you that I've felt God's presence in such and such event, in this conversation or in that encounter. The other day, I started a sentence with, "I felt the Spirit," and I nearly had to stop myself from stopping myself. I don't cringe at words like "salvation" or "God's will" like I did for a while there. Perhaps most importantly, my response to the inquiry of "How are you and God" would be, "We're good. We're okay."
I'm glad to have my faith back. It feels good to know who I am and whose I am once again, and to know it with certainty and assurance.
photo credit: Matthias Ripp (via Flickr)