Growing Pains of the Soul
Written by Dan Armistead
“Life is difficult.” The opening sentence to M. Scott Peck’s best selling book, The Road Less Traveled, says it all. If you’ve ever read the book you know that Peck recommends embracing life’s difficulties rather than avoiding them.
The truth is a lot of pain and problems in life are unavoidable. The question is: Will we allow that pain to make us into better people?
As a pastor, I have witnessed first hand the suffering and pain of many people. Some were church members, others were simply people who needed someone to care. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals and funeral homes, police stations and court rooms, psychiatric wards and rehab centers. None of that time, however, prepared me for my own crisis, a crisis of faith.
I’ve never shared the full extent of my faith crisis with anyone but my wife. Even now the wounds are so deep and so personal that I am unable to be completely transparent about what I endured and the lasting effects on my life.
My kids observed it and they are better for it. I wish I could say they were better Christians. They’re not. But they are better people. They are more self aware. More in touch with life; more in touch with the things that really matter. Two of the three have not only left the church, but left the Christian faith as well. I don’t blame them. I understand.
In many ways, it’s the same old story. Newer, younger members emerge as leaders in the church. The old guard feels threatened by changes and growth. The pastor is drawn into an “us versus them” (un)holy war. S/he becomes a target of deep personal attacks on his or her character, motives, and integrity. It is excruciatingly painful. It feels like your soul is being ripped out.
That is when the balancing act between faith and reality begins
Faith is about what you believe in, what you live for. It’s about the foundation on which you are building your life. Reality is the acid test of faith. Reality demands that we jettison some of the things we believed in while holding even more tightly to others.
It is a dangerous time. Choices must be made. Will you choose to abandon everything you’ve ever believed? Will you fall into bitterness and cynicism that stunts future growth and impairs potential relationships? Or will you engage in the painful work of examining yourself and your beliefs? It’s not easy to do. Not easy because you must acknowledge your weaknesses, admit mistakes, even wrong beliefs. But at the same time you will find it easier to embrace those things that make you the good, healthy, and whole person you are and will become.
The truth about faith (any faith) is that it is not meant to be static. It must change, evolve, grow. If it doesn’t, we don’t.
Sadly, many people continue to hold onto a frozen faith. My faith — what I ultimately believe in, live for, and build my life on — continues to grow.
What about you? Are you willing to walk the road less traveled and embrace the growing pains of the soul?
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