Sunday, December 1, 2013

A First Pause in Advent 2013 - Refinding Faith

My sidebar is full of pictures of my old Advent Wreath! That's a funny feeling... I took the photo years ago! Welcome to all the Pause in Advent bloggers, old and new. It's great to have so many of you (see the sidebar for details) and I hope to come and visit your posts over the course of my busy week. My apologies to new and occasional readers that this post, below, is pretty heavy and personal. I promise you something light, pretty and festive next week!
This old wreath is still in our Advent box, but rather battered, especially after one or two candles were allowed to burn down too low over the years.

To my surprise, my theme for Advent this year sounds rather like last year's. I wouldn't have expected that - I certainly don't feel 'in the same place' as last year. Last year I was thinking about the Essence of Christmas. This year, I've been feeling rather unsure about the whole thing. My faith took a battering earlier in the year, something which has never happened before. Over the past decade we've made a difficult (though ultimately delightful) move to a new country, had problems in a church, my mum has died, my dad has remarried, and through all this my faith remained real and certain. This year nothing to shock you happened at all, and yet, perhaps due to cumulative effects and one little trigger in May, it feels like the foundations of my faith have been shaken.

Over the difficult months I held on to one thing only - forgiveness. This is because my friends without particular faith live good, kind, meaningful lives, really not so different to the Christians I know and the Christian I have been. However (and you can disagree with me) it seems just about impossible, without Jesus,  to offer true forgiveness. I'm not even sure if forgiveness is a particularly high priority to my non-Christian friends. After decades of living with forgiveness as both something received and given, this forgiveness-free (or forgiveness-reduced) life was the one thing that didn't seem at all attractive.

My faith was dented, shaken, and at times apparantly gone. It's still a very tentative thing - maybe it's going to grow back in strength or maybe it will always be a bit weak now, who can say? I realise that this period of doubt may help me to be more understanding and respectful of other people who question and doubt. I've seen both sides, now.

There's lots more to say and maybe some of you want to hear it. Maybe some feel that my faith or lack of it is a matter for me alone. I'm sure others are really concerned to hear what I've been through. For some it would be possible to assume that I never really had a true, saving faith in Jesus, because how otherwise could it just disappear? This article has been a lot of help to me on this subject and others - please read it if you have any questions about the whole theme of refinding faith.

But for now, the theme of my Advent pauses has been decided by some very powerful words I heard in church this morning:

'Discern the essential. Discern real life'.

I can't tell you the impact those words had on me during our communion service. I need to send an appreciative email (in French, drat...) to our pastor and the guy who was preaching this morning, as their emphasis on the Essential and on Real Life had a real turn-around effect on me. I hope that in some way the emphasis on discernment, on the essential, and on the real, gives you pause for thought in whatever you'll be doing in this first week of Advent. See you next week!


Kezzie said...

It's so important that we hear simple words that encourage us along our journey when things are hard and we are questioning what we believe. I pray, dear blog friend, that you regain your faith and your joy! A very well written post!x

Marigold Jam said...

Sorry to hear you have had doubts but am sure this is only normal. Nobody ever said it would be easy and I often envy those people who are so sure of what they believe but I am sure that God understands those of us who wobble sometimes! Keep doing your best I think that is what He asks of us.

Elizabethd said...

The twenty third psalm brought me through a bad time, when my faith was sorely tested. So sorry that you have been going through this, Floss, and will pray for you.

Pom Pom said...

Wow. I love how the King of kings works, how the Comforter threads our stories together and delivers us from ourselves. The true. The real. Yes.

RedSetter said...

Thank you so much for coming by Floss and for allowing me to join in A Pause in Advent and I'm happy to keep it on my gonebeading blog. Thank you also for your kind thoughts about the helicopter tragedy.

I have loved reading your pause and think that forgiveness is possibly one of the hardest to truly perform as it comes from so deep inside, it is such a visceral emotion.

I wish you clarity of thought, comfort in your decisions and a way to accommodate your faith in your everyday life that brings you joy.

Unknown said...

Oh Floss, I'm so sorry it's been a tough year after all - at least in some respects. I'll be praying for you and for God to continue to wrap you in His arms of love - where I know you've been all along. Blessings, dear friend.

Serenata said...

As you know Floss, this is something I struggle with a lot and out of all your followers/readers and those who take part in the 'Pause' I feel the least qualified to do so as my posts definitely lack any 'faith' factor. I am still struggling with the whole issue of faith and forgiveness to a certain extent, in part due to the changes I've had to make in my life the last five years.

A very good and thoughtful post Floss and I was sorry to read that your faith had been shaken as I would never have expected that - but it is good to read how you are feeling about that now and I have book marked the page you linked to read a little later today when I have a chance to sit down and digest properly.

Winkel's Crazy Ideas said...

I love what you say about being able to understand peoples doubts now and how a person can have a strong faith and loose it or feel it weaken. It can happen to anyone and only a person who has walked with Christ for a time will understand this. I choose word for every year. This years word has been ALWAYS. The past couple of years have been extreemly tough and heartbreaking, l can't understand why we have to endure this. "Always" is to remind me that Christ is Always with me nomatter how l feel. Even if l have problems believing in Him, then He Always believes in me. Sometimes l have decided to be a believer by will only and have felt so cold faithwize, but He always comes through and l find Him again. Like you say, we can learn from such periods, knowledge that will make us grow - as people, and as Christians. Blessings, Pam in Norway xx

Betty said...

Thanks for your post today Floss - I read the link on losing faith and it was helpful, I don't think I have lost faith, but I am 'resisting' perhaps and reading that was helpful. I don't want to go to church, mix with Christians or pray conventionally as I have found that no longer feels 'real' for me ... so I think that means I am resisting grace? - but I do pray and acknowledge God when I am alone and in my thouhghts so I have not lost all faith, but some of it. I will look forward to more Pause in Advent posts!

Lynn said...

I thank you for your honesty and send my very best wishes.

Luisa said...

Hello Floss, that wreath is so familiar. And very comforting to know that you still use it. I don't know why! After a 2 year hiatus on blogging, and coming to visit yours, it's actually quite lovely to see you are still doing Pause in Advent. I think I may have joined you for the first one. So few things in life stay the same. Except God. He is sovereign. I'm pretty sure I do understand your feelings. All I can think of is Proverbs 3:5-6.
Praying for you. xx

Fat Dormouse said...

An interesting post and an interesting link too...I'm not sure I agree with it all, but the essential, the "being open to grace" well, yes, that rings true.
For me, the key to getting through this slightly gloomy Sunday afternoon of the soul (I call it that, as it's not really a "dark night") is just being aware that even though I don't want to hold God's hand right now, like any loving parent, he is keeping an eye on what I'm up to...I am going to church (now and then) and I am making myself consider his presence from time to time.

Be open, be yourself - and don't block Him out. He's big enough to understand where you're at, and to meet you in that place. God bless, my dear Floss.

Nancy McCarroll said...

Your post is, to me, comforting. Because I know you have as much, if not more, faith than the rest of us.

But what I found so true is the part about how hard it is to forgive. My mother, 50 years ago, went through a time of severe and catatonic depression over a situation that resulted in a year long breakdown when I helped care for her. Long story, but a pastor told her in so many words that you can forgive but you don't have to forget. Guess that has coloured most of my thinking through all these years. Maybe if you think about that, and all it's ramifications, it might help you, too.

Advent blessings ... Nancy

M.K. said...

Hey Floss -- this is MK over at Through a Glass Darkly." Can you please add me to your Pause in Advent list over on the side? I've done both posts thus far :) Thanks so much! Here's the address for my last post:

Unknown said...

I think most people go through a darker time in the walk of faith, sometimes it is only by going through these times that we come out stronger in the end. I have been feeling an absence of God lately in my life, yet I know intellectually He has not left me and so I pray that that will get me through it