I’m not letting go of God, I’m just losing my grip. – Karen Bergquist, of Over the Rhine
This one sentence powerfully captures the two ways people come to non-faith. The first is blatant rejection. Some people decide that this God stuff is nonsense and reach a point where they do not want to be associated with it anymore. (Most religious people tend to view these folks as heretics.) But many people don’t make that decision. Many, after struggling for months, for years, for decades, to hang onto faith, finally reach a point where they simply admit — often with great regret and a deep sense of loss — that it is gone. (Most religious people tend to view these folks as heretics.)
I still have faith. But I have lost it a few times in the past, and occasionally still struggle not to lose my grip. I know what it’s like to want to believe something that you cannot believe in. I know what it’s like to be told you should believe this or that, and that there will be consequences in this life and the next for not believing it. I know what it’s like to give up on faith and then find myself, out of habit, praying to the God I have just said I do not believe in. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by people who find it easier to believe than not to, people who rarely question what they are taught, people who are content to live life in the bubble they grew up in. I know what is like to hear someone tell me I should not ask the questions I ask, and to know the whole time that this has less to do with the other person’s interest in me, and more to do with the fact that my questions are simply too scary. Or at least the potential answers are.
I wonder if perhaps the majority of faithless people in the world today did not let go of God — they simply lost their grip. Many wish they could believe, want to believe, yet cannot. These people know something most believers do not know — believing is not simply a matter of choice. Really believing is about being willing to ask the questions most people are too afraid to ask, and finding out if one’s faith can stand up to those questions. Sometimes it can. Sometimes it can’t. Then it’s no longer 3:01, but 3:02, and one starts all over again. And in truth, you never know what the next moment may bring. If you did, there would be no need for faith to begin with.
I happen to think that struggle is what faith actually is. That struggle causes me to need to hope in a God who will catch me when I fall, whether I fall because I have let go, or whether it is because I have simply lost my grip. Either way, I am in need of grace. And when I am more in need of it?