If you have walked around our campus during the last few weeks, you have probably noticed that we have a lot of remodeling going on. A commercial kitchen is close to being finished; work has even been done in the Youth House. A larger workroom in Hildreth has been created, which can also be used as a Sunday School room. The stage in Hildreth has been turned into a new Conference Room. We are replacing the carpet upstairs in Taylor Hall. We have stuff scattered all over the place and office life has been quite chaotic! Our special kitchen crew has been trying to keep up with having to cook in multiple buildings during the transition. Despite all the transitions, mess, chaos, and confusion, it is truly exciting to see things coming together! When everything is done, we should be able to do a greater extent of ministry and do it even better. However, if you were just to look at the last few weeks, you might think we were taking a step backward.
I’m sure there is a better name for this phenomenon, but I’ve always heard it called 'The Dip'. Tiger Woods went through the dip when he changed his swing after winning the US Amateur at TPC Sawgrass. We see it in businesses all the time. We are seeing it in our church at the moment through this remodeling process. It seems like it is everywhere, yet we don’t think about it in our spiritual lives. You might have heard about the mountain-top experiences and the valleys and how your spiritual walk is more like a roller coaster than a straight line, but one of the things we don’t talk about a lot in the church is the waves of doubt and questions that you might experience.
James Fowler was a theology professor at Emory and wrote a book called “Stage of Faith” in 1981. In that book, he describes the seven stages of faith (he starts at zero) and how one transition from one stage to the next. When I first heard about the stages, I was surprised to learn about stage four, the Individual-Reflective stage. During this stage of faith, people ask the hard questions. They start to move away from believing in God just because their parents or friends do and they start to examine what they believe themselves. A lot of times this involves severe doubts, maybe even questioning if God is real. It is hard and full of struggles and insecurities.
Some people would think that this is losing the faith or taking a big backslide. In reality, this dip is a springboard for the biggest growth area of your spiritual walk. Stage five is described as “The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent "truth" that cannot be explained by any particular statement.” The big take away is that just because you start to ask questions and wonder what it is you really believe and why isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually the next necessary step and means you are really growing in your faith, not taking step backwards.
If you haven’t been there yet, don’t judge others who are really starting to wrestle with the hard questions. Faith is never as easy as we think it is. And If you have already gone through this stage, seek out those people who are currently going through it and help them along. Be a support for them and encourage them. Point them to resources and people that helped you through the stage. And if you are currently going through this stage, know that you are still on the faith journey. You are not “losing your faith”, but rather gaining an even more beautiful complex faith. Don’t keep it all to yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk to those people you trust about your questions. You are loved by God and by so many people you don’t even realize, so you are not alone. You are not the first person to have questions and doubts, and you won’t be the last. This is a stage of faith, you can get through it and come out better than you started.