Wednesday, October 10, 2012

on unbelief, part ii.

So yes, sometimes I struggle with feeling alone in church. Not all the time, but sometimes, and when those sometimes add up and begin to feel unbearable, my God provides. 


With family. With friends and kindred spirits. And yes, with stories. With books. 

The same friend who asked about moments of doubt and unbelief expressed how alone she, too, can feel at church, particularly among women. (It turns out, we don't all enjoy Bible studies with pink and purple flowers on the cover. Are you listening, Christian publishing industry? Someone needs to get on that, and stat.) She asked where I've found older, wiser women who show me the way. 

I mentioned my mother. My aunts. My cousins. My grandmothers. 

And then I mentioned Madeleine L'Engle. And Barbara Brown Taylor. Lauren Winner. Anne Lammott.

These are the women I have read and loved. I have not always agreed with them, but I have appreciated them for showing me a different way, for raising their voices and giving me hope. 

If the internet is to be believed, C.S. Lewis once said, "We read to know we are not alone," and I couldn't agree more. 

When I am feeling alone, when I can't seem to find a kindred spirit in the pew next to me, I turn to the books I love so much, and I'm reminded there are people out there who are like me, who ask questions and who seek honest answers. 

Combatting loneliness, for me, isn't about finding people who agree with me. It's not about finding my long-lost opinion twin. It's simply about finding someone who asks the questions I'm asking, someone who has felt alone like I have felt alone. It's why I think telling and sharing our stories is so important. I firmly believe there are people out there waiting for someone like us to come along and share our joys and struggles and heartbreak. Our stories just might be the answers to someone's prayer.

The Father provides answers to my struggles with belief in all kinds of surprising ways. 

But I love that He knows me well enough to understand that sometimes, books are the best way for Him to remind me of His love. They can be the best reminder that I am not walking through this life of faith alone.


Jules said...


HopefulLeigh said...

Books have been helpful to me for the same reason. I love the authors you've mentioned. I'd add Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, and Carolyn Weber to the list.

Seek First said...

One of my favorite things about books is that they transport us to different places, allow us to meet different people. They are a way to go places we might otherwise never see.

Friends that unite over books--well, that just about makes my heart burst. And friends that unite over stories, well these friends are the ones who hold my heart.

Brittany said...

Oh, Annie. I've so enjoyed these two unbelief posts. We attend different churches, but I'm so amazed (really, I didn't expect it) by how similar our experiences have been and are.

I feel blessed to have grown up with a believing heart, but I've struggled to separate my loneliness and feelings of isolation (especially among women) in my church from my relationship with God. It's created a funny little faith transition, a transition that I'd never thought I'd have.

But you're so right. In the end, it's about God, it's about love, it's about finding community where we can find it. Thanks so much for writing this part of your story--it's just the encouragement I've been looking for.

Lauren said...

This is such a great post Annie. It's so true, that in moments of doubt, I have found spiritual "mentors" who have helped me find my way back. I truly believe that God uses their words to speak to His Truths. Henri Nouwen has always rescued me, as has John Eldredge, John Ortberg, and Philip Yancey. I really need to get my hands on more Madeline L'Engle books - I've only read one, but it was incredible (Walking on Water) - I think I starred or underlined every other sentence :).

Lauren said...

I love this post Annie.

I have found it to be true as well in my life, that in times of doubt and unbelief, that along with turning to friends and spiritual advisors, I have turned to authors/mentors to help guide my way. I believe that God uses their words to speak His Truth because it just rings true in my heart and I believe that is the Spirit illuminating some of His truths.

Some authors that have helped me are Henri Nouwen (always helps me), John Eldredge, John Ortberg, and Philip Yancey. I have only read one Madeline L'Engle book - I really need to get my hands on some more! Send me some recommendations please :)

jenna said...

Annie, I am so glad you are putting words into posts again. Your thoughts are so refreshing to me. Thank you, my kindred spirit. :)

Cara H said...

Which books by Lauren Winner? Because I've red Mudhouse Sabbath and am wondering if you've read Still? Because I'm really interested in that one.


Sarah said...

I have been reading your blog for a bit, and just read this post.

It is so true. And I'm always surprised at how the people who ask the questions I ask at different stages seem to keep cropping up again and again.

E.g., I loved Ann Lammott as a teenager. In my college years I focused more on Lauren Winner. But then again as a new mom, I discovered Lamott's Operating Instructions and was hit again with how much she and I ask those same questions, or have the same yearnings. Maybe we don't always reach the exact same conclusion, but seeing her journey helps me in mine.