Saturday, February 2, 2008

Struggling with faith

Saint Sulpice used to be one of my favorite Paris cathedrals. This was long before The DaVinci Code put it on tourist maps, and it was almost always empty. Whenever I got a break from the young charges I had as a governess, I would sometimes go sit in the stillness of Saint Sulpice.

In one of its small side-chapels, Saint Sulpice holds a painting by Eugene Delacroix. In English, the painting is called “Jacob wrestling with the angel.” But I always hated that translation. In French, it’s “La lutte avec l’ange.”

It’s true that a “lutte” can be a mere wrestling match, but then again, it can be a whole lot more. A “lutte” can also connote a great cause or a life-long struggle. A “lutte a la mort” is a struggle to the death. And a “lutte contre l’injustice” is a struggle against injustice.

So I ask you: Does that picture of Jacob and the angel look like some mere wrestling match?

Perhaps some francophone will set me straight on why the “wrestling” translation is correct. But I spent a lot of time looking at that painting, and it sure looks like more than a wrestling match to me.

Lately, I’ve been pondering that painting again. It makes me think about my own struggle with faith.

I often think it would be so much easier if I could just walk away from faith. I yearn to let go of it. I pray to be free from it.

Most of the pure, raw hatefulness I’ve encountered is linked in with my faith. So in my neural networks, faith-related things are tethered to nightmares.

I envy people who find comfort in their faith. What a luxury. For me, faith is something I endure.

Faith is a constant, endless struggle. It’s not a source of solace.

I’ve tried so many times to let go of it. Wouldn’t that make more sense? If I was actually paying attention to Southern Baptist leaders, I would certainly think so. After all, what possible meaning can any faith group hold when its leaders become so wrapped up in themselves and their power that the safety of children is secondary?

But of course, I’ve quit paying attention to any Southern Baptist guidance on faith. I don’t think a group that breaks covenant with the next generation has much good guidance to give.

So I simply struggle with my own small core of faith and with holding it. On most days, about the only thing I can say for myself is that I haven’t let go.

Each time I think I may free myself and walk away from this thing called faith, I wind up reaching back and grabbing at the last remnant of the angel’s hem. Then I turn and re-engage the struggle.


gmommy said...

I am certain God understands your struggle.
It may be you can't walk away because it is God himself who holds on to you.
Your Tn. friends are praying for and with you.

New BBC Open Forum said...

That's why our faith isn't (or shouldn't be) in men. Because men will always disappoint and let you down. God never changes. Take comfort in knowing that and hang in there.

Anonymous said...


I so very much understand your struggle. I think that most of our "faith" issues have to do with people and their lack of trust worthiness more than it actually has to do with God. Unfortunately, the places we go to worship God are also the places that are filled with these people who cannot be trusted. So many times just the smells of the church can bring back awful memories. Or, if I see a Broadman Hymnal I just about get the shakes!

I'm still mad at God for letting it happen and I will never understand the why of it all. But, I also believe that He loves us unconditionally and that all peace in our lives, if there is any, comes from him. And I believe that although man looks on the outside, God does look at the heart. Because I do believe that, I don't think it matters if I ever go to church or not. I also believe that all the people who are in church every Sunday but whose hearts are not pure, will burn in hell. I find great comfort in that.

Also, I ditto what gmommy says, Your Tn. friends are praying for and with you. Always remember that.