When I was a young child, we often drove our station wagon to the beach on Saturdays, the brown pleather seat sticking to my tanned legs. Mom would spread a blanket and buckets on the beach, but I would run across the hot sand and plunge into the warm waves.
The call to head home would always arrive too soon, even though it was hours later. My skin would be a bit pink and my belly a bit swollen with the salt I had swallowed, but being in the water always felt like a sort of magic to me.
As I grew, I found myself on the shore more often — letting the foam swirl around my ankles, letting the sun drench my cheeks and shoulders. The water was translucent and calm in the shallow places, I could see things clearly. Here, I wasn’t required to step out of myself or strip anything away.
It was peaceful, and that was enough for me.
I think I expected that faith would be handed to me like a set of keys: shiny and gold, something solid that I could feel for in my pocket during moments of doubt, something that made a clanging noise, something that could slide through cylinders of heartbreak and be clicked open on demand.
That hasn’t been my experience.
My faith could best be described as sorted piles all around, as foamy waves, as something deep and cool and powerful beyond myself and my proving. As something both immovable and moving me.
Being faithful does not demand allegiance to what others tell me without question, but instead trusting that I can take things apart knowing that my pain or confusion will not strip me of God’s love or peace or mercy.
When I hear people qualify those who are undergoing a deconstructed season of their faith as shallow, my experience shouts the opposite: I find myself aching with the conviction and tension I am daily treading, my soul salted with the sting of easy answers that no longer satisfy.
I find myself scanning for the horizon for strangely calm places, knowing now that this is not always an indication of peace but of the dangerous and unseen riptides that lie beneath.
When words like worldly or permissive swirl and surround, I pull my finger across the page, searching etymology and cultural context, hungry for an understanding of the words that once rolled off my tongue without question.
As they call this path easy, I pray for mercy as my heart and faith break and remake themselves each day.
I do not want to despise this season for its depths or strandedness, rather I want to love it for what it has stripped away, for the worthless things the waves have taken to shore.
What I am trying to say is this: maybe I am not drifting, maybe I am not in danger. Maybe I am only now — and finally — going deep enough to be washed with wonder once again.
A holy baptism of its own.