Some years ago a friend wrote to me. Previously she had dropped her faith like a heavy coat in summer, finding it uncomfortable, superfluous. Now however she was feeling a little chilly and wondered if she might need it back.
She was struggling still, wanting to reconcile honest questions and the painful things she’d experienced at her uber-strict church. I’ll never forget her words to me: “You’re the only one I can talk to. Everyone else I know is either totally atheist or violently Christian.”
The eloquence of that description made me giggle, but it also resonated with me, her words wiggling deep into my consciousness. I knew those Christians too. The ones who had all the answers, even to questions no one was asking. The ones who knew exactly what was right and what was wrong. Who was in and who was out. For a long time I had wanted to be them: certain, strong, vociferous.
But despite my deep wholehearted faith, I’ve never been able to pronounce such judgements on the finer details of life. There are places where things blur at the edges and there are no easy answers. The certainty of faith, of God’s love and existence, yes, I have this; but less of every marked wrong and right.
For years I worried about this incurable stuck-in-the-middle-ness, this incapability to be fundamental, this slightly gauche lack of confidence. But suddenly all this weakness made me the one approachable person to someone in need; someone who knew she didn’t fall into either of those categories either.
Some people need that noisy certainty, the buoyant striding forward. Others however find it a little scary. For once, my stumbling hesitance was what was needed. Her plea for help turned itself inside out – it helped me back.
Because if there are ways of walking with Christ that don’t impose such extremes, then maybe he’s not imposing them either.