I don’t always tell you


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

I don’t always tell you about the mornings I wake up and feel the absence of God as though it were a presence—thick and certain, remembered all over again the way you remember in the morning that someone you love has died. 

Or about the days when the idea that a single religion can stop the CNN crawler from reporting one more missile strike, one more downed plane, one more bombed hospital, strikes me as freshly stupid, dangerously naïve. 

(They keep using words like “unthinkable” and “unimaginable” to describe the violence, but let’s be honest, there’s nothing unthinkable or unimaginable about all this. It’s as routine to us as eating, as breathing, as hating. We dream this stuff up all the time.) 

I don’t always tell you about how sometimes I’m not sure I want to bring kids into a world like this one, a world so full of suffering. 

Because that sort of thing doesn’t exactly sell off the shelves at Christian bookstores, does it? 

What do you do when the religion that is supposed to give you comfort and direction is the cause of your pain and confusion?  

What do you do when religious people respond to your questions by calling you names? By mocking you? By casting you out? 

I don’t always tell you about the depth of my doubt. 

I don’t always tell you about how the cynicism settles in, like a diaphanous fog. 

Or about how sometimes, just the thought of reading one more Christian book I only half believe exhausts and bores me. 

There is no need for a diagnosis. This isn’t the sort of clinical depression with which so many good people struggle. Privileged as I am, I can cut off the flow of information—shut the laptop, turn off the news, and head outside—and my mood lifts. I can gaze into the dizzying blue of a clear sky and believe in God again, because at least for me, that sky isn’t filled with missiles or bombs. I have the luxury of forgetting. 

Sometimes it frightens me, how effortlessly I can move from belief to unbelief as one would move from room to room. 

Kathleen Norris called it acedia, the noonday demon, a religious and relational apathy that “makes it seem that the sun barely moves, if at all.” 

That sounds about right to me— stuck in the unforgiving glare of midday when every truth has a sharp edge. 

I don’t always tell you, because when a reader says, “I love it when you write something VULNERABLE!” I wonder if she really means it, if she really wants to know that the demon whose voice she thinks she's quieted in her own heart is screaming like hell in mine, and that the scariest thing about being VULNERABLE, about exposing myself to the world without a religion or a platform or a “brand” for protection, is that I might lose them for good...or, perhaps, learn that I can breathe without them. 

And that’s not exactly the sort of born again experience the publishers pay for. 

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