I have been in a bad space in my faith over the last 3-4 weeks. It’s not all sunlight, songs and joy in my walk with Jesus, it just isn’t. I sometimes fall of the rails- I don’t know when I am even teetering, slowing down or slipping when it happens. Then, the train cars of my faith are on the ground, off the side of the tracks with a chlorine gas leak ready to explode .
Spelunking is the crawling through caves to explore them. Not “Lord of the Rings” exploring. These are not caves of treasures, traps and trolls. They are just wet stone and mud with no light.
Fifteen years ago I went spelunking with my son, his friend and his friend’s dad. There are actually caves in northwestern Kentucky and the Indiana border that you can go spelunking. (I though “spelunk” would be the verb, but MS Word says no). It was unpleasant. We crawled through spaces in the cave system that are no bigger than a manhole cover or less. These tunnels may come to such a tight spot that you could not go forward and almost impossible to back out of. The hands do not have anything to push against, the chest is pinned, hips won’t shimmy…(my hips have never shimmied, however, this would have been a good time to start). It is so scary. You only have a little tiny light on your forehead. More than once, I had to be pulled out by my ankles by the others because it was just too tight. You climb together as a group. Sometimes you are pulled out, other times you pull others out.
We got out finally. Our clothes were so mud soaked they were un-washable- we dried them when we got home, tried to clean them and then we gave up and burned them.
I’ve tried to figure out how I got to such a moment of darkness in my faith. I’m not certain about some things - but here are a few things that I now recognize-
Mindless in the Word- I was sluggish in my study of the Word. Once I trained for a marathon. Many days I ran unintentional miles- empty miles. It’s not just running for long distances that make a runner better. There’s a map and a process to it that focuses the runner for better performance. I was doing the slogging through my reading of the Bible without focus or intention. Empty reading left me with empty words.(Matthew 6:22-23)
Isolation- I messed up. For a variety of reasons I missed my weekly meetings with my men’s group. I also did not connect with any of my brother’s in Christ. Scheduling did not work for me to meet with my discipleship mentor and accountability partner. To add more to this inventory of folly, when I did connect with friends who are Christ-followers, I did not tell any of them I was struggling. I forgot the true basics of being on the path - do not go alone. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Romans 1:12)
No batteries- When the early Christians were worshipping and encouraging themselves, they turned to hymns, words of praise and scripture. For me..nope, nope, nope. No re-charging from the sources that reconnect me to Jesus. Friends of mine have favorite scriptures committed to memory I believe for times such as what I was having. No charging station for me- I was unplugged. (Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:26)
Diagnosis is not cure. However, I stopped doing the things above and guess what, I feel re-connected, not in the darkness any more. My men’s group did a great job of praying with me and for me. They also gave good advice that I followed. My discipleship partner encouraged me through discussion of his life experiences. I started reading the scripture looking for a nugget each time of something that I could carry in my heart all day, (shout out to my pastor, this is his constant encouragement for bible readers). I prayed to God for forgiveness and re-dedicated my life to him.
I did all of these things rather quickly. I had gotten stuck in the darkness over the course of that month period and I wanted OUT of it. I wrote the list of things above that I did, but I got them out of order - I prayed first, then I did the other things. Being in faith-darkness, that first step was the hardest because it was furthest from where my heart was. Faith-darkness is the lonely place where I did not believe that God was active in my life or the world. If that was my darkness, then logically I did not need forgiveness from an inactive God. Accepting that God is active, has been active and will be was the first step for me back to faith in God and Jesus Christ.
Walking the path. The early Christians had to be more challenged than me. Persecuted by the Romans and the Jews. To celebrate Christ and salvation, they hid to worship. They fought for their faith. Me, I just got distracted for a few weeks and I am already walking in the wrong direction. I have to be intentional. I have to not go it alone. I have to seek God in the Word. For me, I would add, it helps me to re-trace my steps when I get lost. When I do that I can re-start the journey from a firm and familiar place.