I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I have a faith, and I’m guessing it will come up in a few more, so I thought I’d write a little bit about it, especially as I find being a psychologist and a christian brings a different slant to both.
My faith doesn’t really have a starting point, it’s not a static or linear thing, it’s just me muddling through life trying to make as much sense of it as I can.
I like to understand things, to make sense of things, and nothing fascinates (or frustrates) me more than wondering about who we are and why we’re here.
What’s life about?
Is there more to life than the things we can see, hear and touch?
What’s our identity and purpose?
What’s the meaning of our existence?
In my teens and early twenties, I felt a lot more certain about things. Looking back, everything was a lot more simple and straightforward – it didn’t feel it at the time, but it was by comparison to now (likewise, in ten or twenty years time I’ll probably look back on my thirties and think how much simpler things were and how little I knew at the time).
The world has long since stopped seeming so black and white, and now appears more as a baffling yet beautiful array of greys – probably more like 500 shades than 50, but when I was talking about writing this post with some friends they inevitably mentioned the books; I said I’d already put in a subtle reference as a joke and one of them said she’d make it worth my while if I made it my title – she didn’t want to be named in case she ends up becoming the prime minister one day but you know who you are and you owe me a drink 😉
I’m a psychologist – I think I was a psychologist long before I could even say the word (and a very long time before I could spell it – I even had to double check it today – who in their right mind would put those letters together?? A piece of career advice – choose something you can spell. Maybe I should have been a vet…)
Anyway, I’m a psychologist. I like to understand things. I’m constantly asking questions. I’m interested in looking at things from lots of different angles all at once and I like to see the big picture and the small details at the same time.
I spent most of my late twenties studying an applied psychology doctorate – it taught me to think in new ways, to research, to analyse, to reason. My faith gets the same treatment. It’s not always pleasant but it’s who I am, and any other kind of faith wouldn’t be real for me.
I believe that having a faith means becoming more yourself, not denying yourself and becoming something you’re not. If you’re a thinker, having a faith should make you think more, not less.
I don’t have any answers. All I have is questions. Lots and lots and lots of questions.
I used to think I had answers but I’ve come to realise the best I can have is theories and guesses and ‘best fits’ based on the evidence I’ve found so far.
And I’m quite happy with that.
When it comes to pondering life, the universe and everything, there is so much that I cannot, and could not, ever comprehend.
I’m somewhere in between galaxies and quarks and I don’t know the first thing about either of them.
It used to bug me. I used to think I had to figure it all out.
Now I’ve come to a place where I can enjoy the uncertainty and the magnificence of it all.
I see a lot of beauty in the world, not just in lakes and mountains and sunsets and waterfalls but also in good food, log fires, big hugs, giving gifts, hearing kind words after I’ve made a fool of myself, laughing until I snort like a pig and/or get hiccups – all the little things that are actually big things to me when I stop and think about them.
I also see a lot of dark and nasty stuff in the world. Thankfully I can turn off the news when it gets too much, but I can’t shut my ears when I’m in a case conference and I’m expected to make some kind of meaningful contribution to a child’s life that’s been destroyed by abuse and neglect.
And then, much closer to home, there’s the pride and selfishness that sits somewhere deep within me, that I like to pretend isn’t there but that always seems to surface at the worst moments and somehow manages to hurt the people I care most about.
The way I see it, the world is beautiful, but it’s also broken.
Fortunately, I believe Jesus is in the business of making things bigger and better, brighter and stronger.
Rebuilding, redeeming, renewing and restoring.
Constantly creating and transforming old into new.
I see it everywhere: glimpses of something beyond the here and now; unexplainable rays of hope, peace and joy that really don’t match the immediate circumstances; a sense that there’s much more going on than first meets the eye.
Sometimes I think it’s chance or coincidence, sometimes I dare to believe it might be something more.
My faith is a journey. I go round and round in circles, I stumble about, I lose my way. Sometimes I’m running, sometimes I’m strolling, sometimes I’m sitting down having a picnic, sometimes I’m somewhere else altogether.
My faith is muddy, foggy, sticky, messy, and I love the friends who walk through it with me; friends who are christians, muslims, buddhists, atheists, agnostics and everything in between.
I love the friends who talk through questions we’ve talked through a hundred times already; who skip church and come round for breakfast and a debate instead; who have fireside discussions long into the night; who don’t give easy answers, because they know there aren’t any.
And I love the friends who have faith solid as a rock, who don’t understand where I’m coming from but who stick by me all the same.
So there you have it, a bit about my faith.
Confused?? Me too!
I’ve just watched Vicky Beeching’s key note speech at the GCN earlier this week, focusing mainly on faith, sexuality, spirituality and the power of stories. I thought it was excellent and well worth a watch (it’s available here).
One thing she said was that it’s easy to get bogged down in details and questions and the false lure of certainty, when sometimes we need to zoom out, see the much bigger picture, let go of certainty and take time to just listen to God and see what he says, without any preconceptions. Whenever I do this, I’m always surprised by the love and grace I find.
My two favourite books on faith:
A fairly recent one: What we talk about when we talk about God by Rob Bell (apparently a bit controversial but I’ve no idea why)
And a rather old one: The Divine Millieu by Pierre Theilhard de Chardin (very controversial in it’s day – he was thrown out of the church, exiled from his own country and he wasn’t allowed to write or speak in public. Most of his works were published after his death, though lots had circulated illegally while he was alive. As a scientist, a philosopher and a priest, he had lots of interesting and inspiring perspectives on all sorts of things)