Over the past couple of years I’ve read a lot of stories. Stories about 'the church', about abuse and pain and loss and grief, about leaving or being driven out, about healing, about rebuilding hope, about learning to trust again. And in every story I’ve read there comes a point in the narrative where the storyteller started to ask questions. For some it came early, for others late. But whenever it came, the questioning seemed to come for all.
And the time when the questions start marks a new phase in the journey. A new chapter in the story. Because when we start to ask questions we begin to engage differently with the reality we've known and accepted up to that point. Our perceptions change and the view becomes strangely unfamiliar. We start to grow. We begin to change.
In my own story, the questions came slowly at first. Like tentative steps into an unknown river which might carry me away to who knew where. But as I wrestled with them, became more confident in my uncertainty, I found myself being swept into a maelstrom of fear and rejection.
Don't question us. Don't rock the boat. Sit down. Shut up. SUBMIT!
But ironically, it was those very questions which then became a life-line as I painfully dragged myself out of the raging waters which threatened to drown me.
I have travelled a long way since then and one of the things that has kept me going is the freedom to examine and challenge the things I thought I once knew. Things I'd been taught by 'the church', things I'd been told were unquestionable, things I'd never before thought to doubt. Incontrovertible truths.
But that's the upside to betrayal!
When you've learned the hard way that some of those foundational things you've believed to be true have suddenly proved to be false, you start to wonder what other things might be too.
You'd believed. You'd trusted the whole weight of your soul to those foundations. And you'd found them to be rotten right through.
And you'd started to question. And you were silenced. By friends. By family. By 'the church'.
And then, in a miracle of desperation, you learned that God was not afraid of your questions.
And you realised that a religion that was so fragile that it crumbled under the weight of a single question was not one you had time for.
And you grieved that you'd bought into an institution so afraid of being examined it was willing to engage in human sacrifice.
And you walked away heartbroken.
And you knew that you'd learned something important. A life-long lesson. That the things worth believing, things solid enough to trust in, are always contestable.