We flower and we fade.
My faith has always cycled, and as I've gotten older and talked with other people who believe and read books, it seems that faith cycles are quite common. Even among people who may have grown up with unhealthy, abusive, ugly examples of "faith" and "belief."
I do ascribe some of my hesitancy about public expressions of faith to these zealots, Pharisees, fundamentalists, because it seems like the more people throw out God's name in everyday conversation and life, the less they actually listen to Him. They use Scripture as an excuse to abuse, to hate, to denigrate people, and because they abuse God's name in this fashion, the public hears "Christian" and thinks "Haters."
I used to be kind of fundie. Perhaps because of my family's Catholicism and dislike of Protestantism, I was spared the worse of the evangelical fundamentalists. I didn't know who Bill Gothard was, or even that he heads up a quite creepy cult (okay, it's probably only cultic and not totally a cult. Still too close for comfort.), and nor did I really come into direct contact with things like Sovereign Grace Ministries. My dad disliked church so much that thankfully we didn't get into the underbelly of fundie Catholics, even though we shared many of the same beliefs. We didn't wear scapulars, nor were us girls relegated to wearing skirts all the time. My parents actually had a hard time making me wear makeup for a long time, instead of battling with me to NOT wear "worldly" or "defrauding" makeup. I did, however, have homeschool friends who were Gothardic, who hung onto Michael Farris' every word, and who drew more attention to their boobs by the blatantly obvious after-market straps and triangle-shaped cleavage covers that were meant to indicate modesty.
I got off kind of easy in that regard, but I still dealt with internal doubts and religious OCD issues. And dad still used some of the Sunday readings to justify his position of control. I hated hated hated those Sundays when the "Children, honor your father and mother" and 'Wives, obey your husbands" readings came around. It meant that I and my siblings had to be extra careful around him for a while. I wish I could have excised those readings from the lectionary. They are too easy to use and abuse.
There were times in my teen years when I wanted to scoop up the fake crown of thorns that rested in front of the ambo during Lent, and squish it on my head because I felt incredibly unworthy and not good enough. I believed the pain would make me feel better. My emotional pain would have an outlet.
As a kid, I hoarded those saint cards and prayed the prayers on the back after bedtime, using the nightlight for illumination. I was careful to be quiet, because my parents had super hearing while my hearing aids were drying in the dessicant bag. At first I just picked a few and mentally recited the prayers on the back. Then I heard that only God can hear the prayers, nobody else, not even the devil could, so I wondered how the saints could hear me and intercede for me. So I started mouthing the prayers, so at least the saints could read my lips. Then I worried it wasn't enough, so I did two of each prayer for every saint card I had, so none of them would feel left out. Then I worried that my requests might not be understood, so I tried to enunciate clearly. Then I added the Rosary onto my nightly routine. If I was lazy, I worried I wouldn't be good enough for God or Mary or the saints. I was worried I wasn't holy enough.
Then came the times when I absolutely did not care for God, church, or anything religious at all. I'd go with dad to the 7:30am Sunday Mass because it was fast, short, and had no music. I was burned out from religious fervor, and wanted nothing of church. People who believed were too in-your-face about it, and that turned me off. They have got to be faking their beliefs. They seem to fake. False.
Then I would swing back and believe once again. It's a cycle.
I felt bad, because I was in the "eh...I don't really feel any connection with God" mood for quite a while, including for Easter. I still believe, I still pray, I still go to church every week, but the feeling isn't there.
And I think I'm okay with that. I now know that the lack of religious fervor does not equal unbelief. I don't need to be fundamentalist about it. I don't need to brainwash myself with weak theological platitudes, because I know that I will eventually cycle toward hope and joy once more.
One of my absolute favorite illustrations about how I feel sometimes is this one, with major, major apologies to chainsawsuit.com:
Filed under: Becoming Episcopalian