Mountain lake

It’s been raining today, just a dull grey never-ending west coast drizzle. I had big plans to leave the Christmas decorations up until Epiphany this year, but I have failed miserably. Everything has been put away. I’m just so sick of the trappings and the clutter, the visual noise and the mess. The very things that delighted me three or four weeks ago began to feel suffocating. So even though it makes me a liturgical fail – after all, Christmas has technically only begun! 12 days of Christmas to celebrate! – I had my long-suffering husband haul up the storage boxes and I set to work this morning. By the time, we were finished, not only had we swept out the Christmas decor, but we had reconfigured the living room entirely, as makes sense only when one is exhausted and nearly eight months pregnant.

Christmas was lovely for us this year. All the magic, all the stories, all the gifts and the food and the laughter and the fun, the family memory making. But I confess that when Boxing Day rolled around, I felt I couldn’t bear much more merriness and warmth.

I needed to be a bit free, a bit cold, a bit wild and lonely. We loaded up the tinies in the minivan and headed for the lake. The water was gunmetal grey, still as glass, mirroring the clouds and occasional breaks in the sky. The clouds wrapped around the trees in the mountains like a thrown scarf and the remaining birds circled and landed and soared above our heads. I love the ocean, but there is nothing like a rocky northern lake for catching my breath. It became progressively colder out on the shore. The tinies played while Brian and I took turns with short solitary walks to contemplate the mountains or mortality, the lake or life altogether.

This is the part of me that always feels like it doesn’t fit in church or in with the Nice Christian Lady expectations. Because I was nearer to God there in the wind than I could be anywhere else. And I doubt still, oh, I have been in the strangest cauldron of doubt this week, stewing with my shadow self that questions everything to which I’ve given my life. I sat down beside Brian at a bench and we watched our children play together, me still heavy with the new baby arriving in a few weeks. It felt so good to be away from the noise and bustle and forced merriment of the whole Christmas thing.

low clouds

I sat there and thought about all the things I believe – sometimes they are whatย I choose to believe; other times, they areย absolutelyย things I know. This story of God – the love of God – is fantastical and wonderful, too wonderful for me at times. I used to think that everyone else was completely certain all the time, that no one ever took a step back and thought, you know what, this is completely nuts, what in the world with this story. But now I know that’s not true, most of us wonder or doubt or marvel at times. Sometimes with circumstances, other times because we must.

And in that moment, I thought that even if it’s all fake, even if none of it is real, this life would be enough for me. This, as it is, it’s enough. ย Life is ordinary and brilliant enough even if it never resolves in the way I think it will or should or must, its okay with me, I think. These moments make it transcendent with simple joy and generosity. My faith has shaped my life, I have no regrets, I will keep wrestling and evolving and sorting it all out, over and over again.

I was happy there on the shore with my husband and our children in the beauty that is beyond compare to me. I know there is beauty elsewhere, I see it, too, but I love beauty with a bit of an edge to it. I need the loneliness and the lines, pines instead of palm trees, jagged rocks instead of gentle hills.

I used to think that if I were really spiritually mature, I would lose the edge to my faith. But that shadow self remains, the imp in the back of my mind is an old friend by now. I find God most in that wild tang, in the sparse and open space, in the unresolved colours. Perhaps that’s why I keep wrestling with this story of God, with the unresolved Jesus, with the wind and fire and water of the Spirit: there’s an edge to the story, more than we acknowledge at times.

So today when I woke up, I knew I needed the simplicity again. I needed a few more hard edges, even in my cozy living room, I needed to sweep away the sentimentality and breathe more easily. As I write, the sun is setting out of my living room window. The rain stopped, miracle of miracles, and the clouds have parted just above the skeleton trees, a brief wash of pink and lavender behind them. Right now, it’s enough for me.

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  • rachel blazer

    good good good. i’m running up against some hard edges right now, and finding God in all of them. breathing in the good things of this life along with the loneliness of illness… you’re right: it’s enough.

    • So sorry to hear about the illness, Rachel – will be praying here.

  • Just great. Thanks.

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  • zinncristy

    It was so weird reading this because I felt exactly the same way on Boxing Day. I needed the hype to quiet… because in some ways it all feels less real than every day: the beautiful, horrible every day we live. I’m also a wrestler-doubter-lover and that edge and lonliness you spoke of is exactly what I need to find God too. Thank you so much for your words. You never fail to inspire me. I hope you find space and rest to enjoy the last weeks of your pregnancy.

  • I understand the not fitting in feeling. I have very rarely felt like I fit in anywhere, when it comes to religion I know I don’t fit in. I don’t fit in with the way I believe and experience my Higher Power; I don’t fit in the way I speak; I don’t fit in with all my feelings and doubts and confidences. I also used to care much more than I do today. I’m glad I don’t fit in. I don’t much like fitting in everywhere all the time, it all feels so false and pretentious.

    I love being still, being in nature, experiencing life and the grandness of it all of which I have no control. I Li en the feelings of peace and calm…of everything being just so. Today, I know my life is enough…In some ways it’s much much more than enough. I feel blessed and honored to have the opportunity to live my life with the people that I have surrounding me. I will be eternally grateful for what my Higher Power, God, has done in my life to date. I’m sure there’s more to come, in the same way I’m sure I’m not alone even in the tough times. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • What a beautiful place to come to, LB, so glad to read that.

  • Donna-Jean

    Identifying with you, dear Sarah. I came up against that edgy faith again when discussing some of the grotesque deep-sea creatures during Boxing Day’s rambling conversations. The JesusGod isn’t all about pretty and cozy. There is a fierce mystery in Nature and the One beyond it all…the One who sees sparrows fall and babies shot in front of their Iraqi parents, damn it. If Christian faith can’t handle all of reality, it’s a farce.

    • Exactly – fierce mystery, I love how you put that.

  • Sandy Jones Fox

    Yes. There is something sacred about going out into the PNW grey after the days of indoors and busy. I feel it, too.

  • Kailey Annette Bradley

    Thank you Sarah Bessey! I sat in a pew smiling and twinkly and I held it in … my questions, doubts, and fears. It’s like stale must when I approach faith like this. When I am broken up and when my jagged edges protrude that’s when I am found.

  • Mindi Ferguson

    Love this. I’m thinking of moving to Oregon next year, somewhere the beauty of nature, her edges, her glories, are easier to see than inland SoCal, somewhere the wildness is apparent and not to be tamed. I connect to God in the beauty of nature more strongly than I connect to God in people.

  • Jen

    “I needed to be a bit free, a bit cold, a bit wild and lonely.” Funny how much my heart also craves wild freedom and the great outdoors. You explained this so beautifully.

    “This is the part of me that always feels like it doesnโ€™t fit in church or in with the Nice Christian Lady expectations. Because I was nearer to God there in the wind than I could be anywhere else.” Yes, yes and yes. I never felt like I fit the Christian lady “mould” and when I did, it probably wasn’t real. I always felt God more in the mountains surrounded by fresh air and a view. There’s such sweet freedom in acknowledging that.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  • I have often felt like I am not enough because I don’t look like any Christian women who I know. My personal theology, one that I’ve wrestled with for years–in prayer, in the Word, in devotionals, in poetry, in fiction–is so different than what or how other Christians believe in the Trinity.

    In Jesus Feminist, you wrote about how there’s more than one way to do women’s ministry, which reassured me that there’s more than one way to be a Christian woman.

  • Amelia Mercer

    Wow, thank you so much for putting your thoughts into words Sarah. You’ve provided rest for my anxious mind. I can pretty much relate to all of it ( except the pines v palm trees! )

  • Kim

    It is so comforting and encouraging to hear other women who are following God to put words to these feelings. So thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚ And if you find yourself in a mood like this again soon, you might enjoy this song by Alli Rogers called “Choosing.” I came across it awhile ago and thought of it while reading your post.

    Thanks for sharing yourself and your words. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Kim

    • Could not agree more with your comments and sentiment in your post. I took a solo trip across South Dakota two years ago. Hiking Cathedral Spires and exploring the area, driving it alone…I felt I found God again in that journey, more than being in the confines of a building with a Pastor standing at the pulpit. There’s a time and place for everything, right now, my place is outdoors and seeing the beauty of the earth that God has given us.

  • seniorcit

    Perhaps thatโ€™s why I keep wrestling with this story of God, with the unresolved Jesus, with the wind and fire and water of the Spirit: thereโ€™s an edge to the story, more than we acknowledge at times.
    I’m 71, and I’m still wrestling. Especially with the unresolved Jesus.
    Harrison Lake. Brings back memories.

  • Rea

    I feel as if I am going through a faith shift right now and I don’t know what my faith will look like when it’s over. It will, I think, look a little more like the unresolved Jesus, a little more like living on the edge of the story, a little more being OKAY with the uncertainty. Sometimes I feel like a heretic, tossing aside so willingly what all the ‘teachers’ have told me. But here’s what I wonder, can anyone really be a heretic when the cry of their heart is to know Jesus more?

  • pastordt

    lovely, lovely. thank you.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    So lovely. Thank you.

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