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An imperfect faith

When I was in leadership in various positions in “traditional church”, I was told of the importance of projecting confidence and not being too “open” about one’s life. I am convinced, as I mentioned in my leadership redux, that this is bad advice. It might make the congregation feel good about the leader but it lacks authenticity and puts the leader in danger. When we create a system in which the masses rely wholly on the one to have all the answers and not doubt, we set them up for failure putting them in danger as well.

Last year, I had a few friends going through some really difficult situations and were experiencing a lot of “where is God?” moments, and instead of trying to have all the answers, I felt it was more important to share my own doubts. So in the spirit of “I’m not perfect” that I started yesterday, I post it again for you today.

I am confident in my faith but I don’t “get” the account of Job. I don’t understand how God could command his people to slaughter women and children in a pagan land. I don’t understand the trinity, I often question the words of the Apostles. I wonder why Jesus didn’t heal everyone and establish his earthly kingdom when he had the chance. I don’t understand why I have to watch my child go through painful circumstances when other’s see their children miraculously healed. I don’t really understand the atonement, I’m not sure what I believe regarding hell, I have no desire to strum harps in heaven and sometimes I don’t really care about hearing God’s voice much less actually doing what he says. I struggle with prayer, I’m not very merciful, I still cannot fully entrust my children into God’s hands. Sometimes I think Paul was a cracked nut when I read some of his writings, I question the wisdom of Jesus leaving the church to the disciples and I still don’t understand why God doesn’t just reveal himself more clearly.

…..I could go on and on and on…..and I’m a minister. But this is life. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s imperfect. We’re cracked eikons on this earth living a life of process. A process of relationship with God and others, reconciliation to the Father’s heart, sanctification…that’s salvation. We work it out with fear and trembling, ever falling on grace. We strive to live in the moment, one tenuous step after another.

Moment by moment, day by day, we fall, we are struck down, we are persecuted, we cry, we ache, we hurt, we mourn and grieve, we get angry, we feel confused, we doubt, question, wonder and sometimes we stand in utter disbelief. Our minds spin out of control with questions, our hearts beat out of control with pain. Days, weeks, months, years go by and we wonder if God is even there or if he is if he actually cares.

Faith in Christ does not make life less real, not for me, not for you, not for anybody. Nor does it answer all of our questions. Following Jesus does not lead us from the rocky path to one paved in silk, it leads us down a narrower rocky path. The difference is that we are never alone, God will never forsake us….whether we believe it or not. Instead of striving for something I think I should have or someone I think I should be, I’m honest with myself and my God where I AM and I ask, seek, knock…repeat…ever praying “I believe, help my unbelief”.


  1. David — January 16, 2008 #

    Thanks for your thoughts, and for your openness. I do wonder how the powerful image of leader helps to return the power to the laity and remind them of their call to ministry. But, your post most reminded me of the quote I use as my tag in my email

    Life isn’t like a book. Life isn’t logical or sensible or orderly. Life is a mess most of the time. And theology must be lived in the midst of that mess. ~Colton, Charles Caleb

    Rev. David Camphouse

  2. sonja — January 16, 2008 #

    … and it is the mystery of faith that it is in Christ that we are made perfect. We don’t even have to figure it all out … we can let go, be asystematic. Praise be …

  3. Megan — January 16, 2008 #

    Preach it, sister.

  4. Tam — January 16, 2008 #


    I so love to see Christians who both accept and struggle with the Mystery of our faith…who are comfortable and challenged by not having it all figured out.

  5. Mak — January 16, 2008 #

    indeed sonja

    thank you Megan

    Tam - thanks, I love it too

  6. Jenn — January 16, 2008 #

    I so love reading your blog, Mak. I find you so insightful. :)

  7. Mak — January 16, 2008 #

    Thank you Jenn, glad you’re enjoying it here :)

  8. Mak — January 16, 2008 #

    David - sorry for the delay in moderating your comment. Thank you for your thoughts but could you explain a bit further? I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re saying.

  9. Tia Lynn — January 16, 2008 #

    As my favorite “preacher” Bono once said: faith in Christ does not give you all the answers, it gives you a whole new set of questions. How true indeed. I too struggle with every single thing you admitted to not “getting.” I’ll never understand how Christians talk about OT people smashing babies heads on rocks as if there’s nothing bizarre about it. I think God would much rather that I be honest and just say: I don’t know, I don’t understand, I see in part. I have come to think that God prefers honest doubt over pretend certainty.

  10. Angela — January 16, 2008 #

    Tia and I were just talking last night about some of the things you just mentioned.
    For me I just have to assume that He’s God and knows A LOT more than I do. At the same time…I don’t think our questions offend or bother Him. :) He’s certainly big enough to handle them.
    As for leaders being honest and real I think that’s FAR FAR better than being up on a pedestal somewhere waiting to fall off or setting up some unattainable,unrealistic, hypocritical ideal.

  11. Michael — January 16, 2008 #

    “…the importance of projecting confidence and not being too “open” about one’s life… It might make the congregation feel good about the leader but it lacks authenticity and puts the leader in danger.”

    Mak, I totally agree with you here. Yes, I’ve often thought that must be the advice given a lot of leaders in a lot of churches. Ironically enough, it works against them in the end and makes it that much harder to be transparent afterwards (think Ted Haggard). I get why this might be suggested to leaders at times because we are not to make someone else stumble and faith can produce faith, etc. At the same time, I hate it when someone comes across as disingenuous, that the leader one might be talking to is always asking about oneself but never opening up really about themself. Maybe it’s from a lack of trust, not knowing whether someone is really for them or not? ( i get that.) But the end result is that it’s very hard to have “real” relationships with such people.

    And yes, I totally understand your list above too, escpecially the comment about “blessed is the man who dashes the head of the infants against the rocks!” huh?! Gross. OK, I get that God hates paganism and immorality and calls us to be holy as He is, and the only way to root it out completely (back then) was to get rid of all outside influences. (They didn’t haave the Holy Spirit indwelling to help them.) Indeed, as they allowed Canaanites to dwell in their midst and live among them, it lead to their eventual downfall and adulteration. Still, with that said, it seems seems absolutely barbaric and simply senseless violence to give such orders.

    I get this same way with the praises of Saul and David killing their thousands and tens of thousands..and with abloodied jaw bone?! (Can you imagine praising a spiritual leader as such now, well, maybe if you’re a Jihadist or something?!) I guess that’s why David is denitely not one of my favourite characters. I know too that God was pelased with him becasue of his utter humitly later, so I then have to deal with my own fallen nature of reviling against this apparent “bravado”/warrior mentality.

    So, I could then say, ‘thank God for the Holy Spirit and a new convenant’ where we don’t have to win hido such things and know more about His grace (mentioend in the OT too but somehow missed by a lot of people back then). But then, like you, I read some of Paul and the otehr apostles, and if I’m really honest, my natural man too doesn’t like the guy, especially when he puts in his opinions or seemingly gives grace to others but then reminds them that they owe their very lives (salvation) to him! Talk about guilt trip! Or the “wives submit” to anotehr human (their husband) but the husband to God. Yes, I get it that it;s mutual submission and we both lay down our lives for eachother, but why did the Bible even have to go their and word it as such in the first place, especially knowing how later generations would interpret it?

    Most pondersome for me, is this whole issue of children suffering, like that kid who was kidnapped for 6 years and had untold horrors daily done to him by his kidnapper, Devin, all the while his parents were prayinng he was either safe or they would find his body. The thing that gets me here, beyond the obvious, is that Devin, like most child abusers, most likely himself was horribly abused as a young ‘innocent’ child and then inevitably later, liek many, was then somehow drawn to infllict the same horrors on some other poor child. We know that the Bible says that it would be better any like these who lead little ones astray to have been thrown overboard with a millstone tied around their neck [comapred to the hell waiting them]. Yes, these monsters ‘deserve’ it but one time many of them were once innocent little kids themselves who, through no fault of their own, had such horrors perpetrated on them! They then become doubly cursed–once from the pain and horror inflicted on them as kids and then again in the afterlilfe for their vile acts.

    Of course there is then the issue of prayer. I’m sure the Work family in Colo Springs who lost two of their daughters and almost the father in that shooting, had prayed every day for safety but what good did it do? Yes, those precious girls are in heaven, true, adn yes, at elast they were saved, compared to someone else that didn’t know the Lord, but still, if that was going to happen, why bother praying? (I iknow the girsl were ready to go for their faith at any monet, to their credit.)

    Then, worse yet, there is Murray, the killer, whose (perhaps too ‘religious’) devout parents, prayed fervently he would come back to the faith he so fully rejected. (I know they prayed for him a lot, laid hands on him, etc, but for what? If personal choice can so easily override prayers of so many faithful beleivers, then how can the prayers of the righteous in faith truly accomplish that much in this circumstance and other such similar situations? It is so very, very sad and tragic.

    Then, of course, there are the stories (and pics) many have seem of some of the poor people who have lived a life of banishment form some horrible disfigurement, like a tumour that takes over their entire face, making elephant man look good, in comparison! when many of them grow up in China with no knoweldge of the gospel, how would they ever believe in a loving God that allowed them such a horrific life?

    Intellectually, I can explain a reason for it all: God gives us free will, he doesn’t want us to be robots, and with that comes endless choices for sin, greed and horror mankind does to oneanother and the environment, etc, leading to such awful stories. Nevertheless, it doeasn’t sit well with me in that it can make it harder to fall in love with God. I just try to realise that we only see through a glass darkly and God is infinite, we are not, we are not meant to fully understand him. That’s not he point, but to trust him intead.

    Yes, I wish more leaders would be real here. I’ve asked questions like this before but usually it jsut gets shut down as giving voice to doubt or being arguementative or whatver. At that point, I ually just give it a rest, not wantin gto make someone else stumble but I realise too that a lot of the time you jsut have to play kind of fake and pretend one doesn’t have such ponderings. I guess that’s why I’m not a leader! I couldn’t play that role for that long.

  12. Michael — January 16, 2008 #

    uh-hum…sorry for all the typos. Keyboarding is not my thing.

  13. Pistol Pete — January 17, 2008 #

    It seems you count things that are “doubts” “things that are raw” “rocky roads” “unorthodox thinking”… etc… as somehow more “real” than “certainty” “things that are polished” “level ground” and “orthodoxy”.

    What gets me is when people (and you may or may not fit this) think in order to be real you have to curse, question God, challenge authority, get body piercings, etc… How is this more “real” than not doing these things?

    Reality can just as easily be sweet, pure, even holy.

  14. Mak — January 17, 2008 #

    “Reality can just as easily be sweet, pure, even holy.”

    i agree pete, if that’s real for those people. I don’t think I know anyone who thinks it’s not real to be sweet and pure and certain and polished.

    but for many, including me, doubt and messiness is real but they aren’t allowed to be “real” and still be “in”. because it doesn’t conform. Being sweet is what has been expected in the church - for some that is real, for many it is not.

    I honestly don’t believe anyone who says they are 100% certain 100% of the time about 100% of things.

    I don’t believe anyone who is 100% sweet 100% of the time.

    I sense from here and other conversations we have had that you’re feeling insecure as someone who is comfortable with certainty and modernity - trust me, there are plenty of people around who will make you feel better, who you can relate to, who are a safe space. But there are still very few church leaders around who are a safe space for those who have these feelings, these thoughts, who challenge authority and get body piercings (which by the way isn’t really rebellious anymore)

  15. Mak — January 17, 2008 #

    Michael - thank you for sharing all of that :) Thankfully, I think leadership is changing and I actually refuse to “play that game” which cuts me out of most structured institutional leadership and I’m ok with that hehe

  16. Michael — January 17, 2008 #

    I sometimes wonder though, what is the point in sharing such ponderings, questions, etc, as T’ve layed out above? I mean, it good to be real, but there is also this nagging doubt about giving voice to doubt, possibly leading to unfaithfulness/doubt for some others. I mean, I have lived with my mind for a very long time but I really don’t want to be a stumbling block to anyone else. It’s a real predicament: how to be authentic but also not be a stumbling block and to “always think on whatever is “true,” lovely” and so on? Hmm.

    Anyway, I think you’re right, all these shakings of leaders in the evangelical church has, in part, led to some more public expressions of humilty and not pretending to have everything so perfectly, cleanly figured out. All I know is that while I might question my own questioning (!?!), I still am really hesitant to listen to anyone who is so convinced their particlar scriptural interpretations are the only absolutely correct ones or when they back it all up with, “hey, I’m just saying that what the Bible says!” Yeah, and everyone says that and yet can have varying interpretations, while still being in the orthodox tradtion. I guess, it’s true that the best judge of all this is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one’s life and an ever willing humilty to have to rely on God, regardless.

  17. Michelle — January 18, 2008 #

    I visited a lady’s bible study during one of the darkest times of my life. A non-christian neighbor invited me (ha, how’s that?) sensing that I desperately needed time with people, out of the house. One of the leaders of the study did a skit, portraying how she struggles with anger, to introduce the book we were going to be reading that dealt with that topic. Her skit involved her split into 2 - one side was her as herself (hair fixed, etc) and the other side her hair was pulled up in a pigtail, etc… represented her preschool daughter. The doll sitting on the blanket on the floor represented her daughter. In her hand she held a buzzer from the game Taboo. She walked through herself trying to get the 3 of them out the door to church. She was NOT trying to be funny; you could tell she was humble and even heart broken by her behavior. But as the skit went on, she was curt and short with her daughter, wounded her feelings, and by the time the whole thing was said and done (and the kids were in the van out of earshot) she was hitting the Taboo buzzer like mad and whispered to us in the audience, “bad words”. I just about died… this lady was the leader!!??!! It was the most refreshing, wonderful thing I’d seen… especially where I was, in a deep dark hole of despair. To see a Christian willing to show their ugliness and remaining need of grace really started me on a path of life change, I can say that… because my family now attends that church and we, now, are leaders - showing all our ugliness and grace to anyone who cares to see it. It’s powerful! Paul said in first Timothy, Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief. If he was comfortable admitting that, why aren’t we? Great post Mak.

  18. michael — January 19, 2008 #

    Good post michelle. Encouraging. Thanks.

  19. Lori — January 25, 2008 #

    Thanks for saying the stuff no one actually wants to say. I found myself laughing outloud while reading a Psalm the other day. David was asking God to vindicate him because he was “innocent”… Really??? I guess he is innocent the same way that I am. As a redeemed person, I don’t have to pay the price for my sins, but I still continue to reap the consequences of my sinful actions.
    I read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and am baffled by the fear that overtook Lot and made him go and live in a cave with his daughters, who then got Dad drunk and got pregnant??? Are you sure that’s the way it went down??? or is that just the way the story was told??
    Like you, my faith is not shaken. I just am inspired to look deeper. To read the whole story, not just the words. The bible is a supernatural book and one of the lessons that I have taken away from the story about Lot is that hiding out (from the world) with your family, will frequently not go as planned!!
    Best to trust God & obey!!

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