I stood there breathing in the beauty all around me. I had experienced this place so many times before. The long wild grass was now browned by the hot sun over the last couple months of summer. Poplar trees stood tall near the historical Tetherow house, and the steady current of the Deschutes River flowed downstream in my peripheral. Above me was the most incredible peaceful sky. The arrangement of the clouds and the brightness of the sun seemed to beckon me in. Calling me out. So there I was looking up at the sky once again.
Looking up…it’s something we do when we’re looking for answers.
The grand expanse of a blue sky seems to stir our curiosity and sense of wonder. We ask, “there’s got to be more than what I am currently experiencing in life.”
There’s got-to-be more.
I was looking up because I had just been through hell. I had experienced one of the hardest years of my life up to that point. Things didn’t quite turn out the way I assumed they would (or should). Multiple disappointments came together to create a tidal wave of overwhelm.
“Why is this happening?
Aren’t things supposed to work out smoother than this?
Am I lacking faith? Is God punishing me?”
Tired of age ole trite religious responses supposed to magically make my situation better, I was willing to suspend my long held belief in God (and all that came with it) for a moment just to find peace. For some, that may sound a bit “heretical” but part of the point in doing so was that much of my overwhelm was actually associated with God and my beliefs about God.
I stood there wondering for a moment if the entire scope of my faith in God was wrong. “Perhaps God doesn’t even exist,” I thought.
Not wanting to let this moment pass too quickly as if to please some kind of religious obligation to mindless faith, I sat in the question.
It’s true that many Christians don’t ever let themselves go to the place of asking those kinds of questions even though they lurk just below the surface. While I had done the same for many years, I could do so no longer. Ignoring the questions seemed more like intellectual dishonesty than genuine faith. From childhood, we were taught to believe that to ask certain kinds of questions is equivalent to walking on the path of self-deception. We tread lightly when they come because we’re afraid of what other “believers” will say. We’re afraid that everything we hold dear will suddenly fall apart and become meaningless.
After sitting in it for a moment and choosing to risk momentary fear, another thought came to me.
“How could all of this just come about all on its own?”
While that may sound like some argument to “prove the Bible is true” after all, asking this question for me was more about choosing to be utterly honest with what I was feeling and perceiving based on my experience. As I sat in the discomfort of my first question, the more I recognized that there had to be a creative force behind nature’s beauty. To imagine otherwise seemed hopeless. Lifeless.
As I looked up to the sky in raw honesty, it felt as if all of life’s discomfort and overwhelm and disillusionment was compelling me to do one of two things.
I could continue to control everything and grasp at certainty as if my life depended on it. Or two, I could let go of certainty and the assumptions that go with it.
The thing is certainty was no longer working for me. In fact, certainty was part of the problem. So I chose the latter; I chose to let it go.
I could let go, for instance, assumptions I had about my life, about my circumstances, and about God. While I wanted to believe and trust in God, I needed better healthier reasons for doing so.
My previous assumptions had given me a sense of control and the illusion of stability.
In this place of letting go, I asked God to reshape the way I thought about life and, well, everything else.
Whatever I once assumed I needed to hold onto and control (theologically, psychologically, economically, etc.),
Whatever I once believed God should do for me and be for me,
I began to let go of.
Not because I refused to “hold onto the promises of God” (as the saying goes) but because I needed God to help me reshape my thinking about what is true and what I can expect or hope in God.
A lot of things get passed off as “God’s will” and a lot of promises people claim God has given them seem awfully self-serving, so I needed to let some of my own assumptions go.
I also needed to let go of the assumption that when I can’t figure everything out about my life that somehow I’m a failure.
We all come to those spots in life where things don’t make sense.
Where we need to take time out and look up.
When we need to let go.
Because we can’t hold onto to everything all the time.
We can’t make everything happen perfectly always (let alone make everyone happy always).
This was not a cop-out of responsibility so much as it is an admission that some things are simply out of our hands.
We can do what we can and do it well (even with God’s grace and strength), but if we clench some things too tightly, they will paralyze us from doing anything effectively.
As I stood there that day looking up in the sky, I began to let go of some things.
It was only then, that I began to have hope.
This post recounts one day in August 2005. I had already taken a year and a half off of college. During this time, I experienced a breakdown of sorts—a combination of unresolved conflicts in my theological beliefs, ongoing financial-career concerns, and psychological-social issues sort of merging into one BIG season of overwhelm. This particular day was a pivotal moment in my life. I began to let go of some unhealthy assumptions about God and life and myself. It was a challenging but exciting time as I faced my fears. This would be one of many challenging seasons ahead of me. As Paul, one of the New Testament writer’s once penned, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In other words, if we find a reason to move forward and do it, something incredibly good can happen to us and in us in time.