Sunday, December 19, 2010

Apathetic About Apathy

The other day I was telling a friend about my "spiritual journey," which was really just a roadmap of heartache at the hands of the church and the people in it. It was also a chronicle of my wide-eyed belief turned cynical-brand of belief. Telling the story in a condensed version, it made me sound rather fickle and wishy-washy, as if I'm easily swayed and change my opinions according to the latest bad experience or theological fad. "I'm a Republican! No, I'm a Democrat! No, I'm Independent!" "Young earth! Old earth! Theistic Evolution!" "I'm Arminian! No, I'm Calvinist! No, I'm both!" "Complementarianism! No, egalitarianism!" Etc. Etc.

When you see the world all in black and white for so many years, learning to distinguish the gray areas is a rather earth-shaking exercise. I'd like to think of it as a process of maturity-- learning to nuance and think through issues with more complexity. So if I'm changing my mind, it's only because I've finally allowed myself the freedom to think through an issue from more than one viewpoint. Nine times out of ten, I realize my previously held belief was inaccurate or incomplete at best. I'm embarrassed of much of what I believed before and even more ashamed at how it made me behave.

I feel like I'm at a crossroads in my faith. So much has happened to me that my rational mind can't reconcile it with evangelical faith as I've known it. But I don't think the answer lies in just some other form of church (as my visit to the Episcopal Church this morning confirmed). I have never known this level of apathy before. Before, being apathetic used to elicit a small voice of concern in my brain ("You really should care about this!"). Now I'm even apathetic about my level of apathy.

Maybe it's a phase. Maybe when life takes a break from kicking the crap out of me, I won't feel this way. But I find myself despising, deriding, and mocking much of what used to elicit feelings of conviction and devotion. I have no illusions that I can "work myself up" to feel a certain way, but at the very least, I would think these aspects of faith, church, and life wouldn't create such a strong aversion in me. But they do. Quite a lot. And I don't know what to do about it.


Mason said...

Not to say it will necessarily pass, but I've certainly had my apathetic stretches and though some of it hangs on still during my best days I still have a passion for these things even if that looks different than it once did.

For what it's worth, my spiritual journey sounds a lot like yours, and I think the apathy is almost a defense mechanism.

What I mean by that is that what we believe is so central to our identity (particularly for certain personality types) that all the changes in beliefs are actually much more traumatic to our very being than we'd like to admit. In response we just stop caring to try and limit that feeling of chaos, at least for a season.

Grace and peace as you wrestle with these transitions and thank you for sharing!

Dan Martin said...

Leesha, I sympathize/empathize/whatever the hell it is when I've been where you are. The only thing I ever found that got me out of that combination of loathing and apathy was discovering a community (a very *small* community in my case) of people who actually had some of the same concerns and frustrations. Of course then I had to go and move across the country leaving them all behind...

In some funny way, the little community of bloggers I met only virtually, has also been a lifeline in this respect. You, Jonathan, Mason, Kurt, have been an encouragement as well.

For what it's worth, know that some of us in the wide wide world get it...

E. A. H. said...

Finally getting to these comments... thanks, Mason and Dan! It helps so much to know other people can relate (Although, I'm sorry that you can relate so well... it stinks, doesn't it?) :-)

Dan, I agree, this little corner of the blogosphere has been a huge lifeline for me. I always feel more sane after reading you all!