Crises of faith can be funny. You can declare they’re over, and that you believe in God again with your whole heart. Your friends will pat you on the back (maybe metaphorically, if you’re long-distance). You feel accomplished, and somehow more adult – maybe surviving a Dark Night of the Soul with your faith intact is a sign of maturity. And when you smile about it and make plans to get back to work on all of your projects because that whole mess is behind you —
the crippling fear returns and takes you down a few pegs. The gnawing in your belly rises up, coiling around your neck. It’s a primal terror. It makes you sick to your stomach and you spend days barely able to eat, unable to sleep on your own, constantly squirming and trembling in your seat as you try to work.
Anxiety is a bitch, folks — if you’ll pardon my French.
It wasn’t necessarily that dramatic, but yes, I dipped back below the surface of my sea of doubt. I thought I was starting to reach its end, but I was wrong. I think I’ve learned my lesson – I am not done doubting even now. I still have no idea what I believe, if anything; I am simply working from the time-honored tactic of “fake it ’til you make it”. If I keep acting as if I have 100% faith in what I am doing, then I will (theoretically) slowly get back to having 100% faith in what I am doing. Or, I’ll decide it’s all baloney and move on with my secular life — hopefully I’ll have shed the existential terror by then, one way or another.
I used to pride myself on feeling secure enough in my beliefs to be able to guide others to the gods. Now I realize that my own security really has nothing to do with it – in a way, maybe it’s better that I’m struggling too. There’s some wisdom to having your own trials when you’re trying to help others. Sure, you can’t help someone when you’re in crisis — then you have to help yourself, put your own oxygen mask on before you put someone else’s on, yadda yadda — but knowing the territory of doubt and uncertainty can give you a leg up on getting out. It’s like going in with a map, instead of going in totally clueless.
I guess my goal is to just keep moving, without pretending things are back to normal. Things are not back to normal. In fact, I think I’m so far from where normal used to be that it’s not even an option anymore. My unquestioning devotion is no longer available. But maybe – just maybe – I can make my way back to something wiser, a little less naive.