Carolyn Arends’ book Wrestling with Angels: Adventures in Faith and Doubt displays a wisdom way beyond her years (written when she was 30-something) and a well-read background not often found in one so young.
Arends’ honest recounting of her paralyzing spiritual doubt that began at a high point in her successful musical career grabbed my attention because of my own long journey through spiritual wilderness that began at about the same age. However, she seemed to negotiate it with far more assurance than I did and one of the reasons may be that she recognized something that I failed to see for far too long: the Mystery of God.
Once I entered a little way into the Mystery of God, there was no going back. I could no longer list all the things I did not understand about God as threats to my faith–instead they became the primary evidence that God was, in fact, God…and that I was, in fact, not. I could endure the tension, sometimes experienced as doubt, and believe anyway. And here was the most radical part: I could believe not only in spite of but also in some ways because of my unanswered questions. I discovered a new way of breathing…and believing.
What this young singer/songwriter taught me through her book was that instead of allowing doubt to destroy her faith, she understood that doubt defined her faith, even deepened her faith. What is faith after all? I know what it is not; it is not fact. In order for faith to be faith, there must be an element of the impossible, the unthinkable, the unprovable, the mysterious. That is why my husband/pastor Gerry always told me during my decade of debilitating doubt, “Connie, you haven’t lost your faith, you’re finding it.” And so I was.
The faith I “found” has fuzzier boundaries and duller colours than the faith I started my Christian life with. Don’t assume that I am loosey-goosey-anything-goes in my beliefs. Far from it. The Bible is more true to me than ever before but I no longer have to understand everything in it. When I encounter the unexplainable I don’t get stuck there, I declare “I guess this is Mystery” and move on.
If you want to read Carolyn Arends’ latest blogs start with this one. I appreciate her transparency and integrity as she deals with the question of whether or not going to church is the best thing for today’s believer.