A couple years ago I had what many people describe as a “crisis of faith.” I questioned everything I believed and seriously wrestled with my worldview. There were certain nights in particular where I pretty much accepted the idea that this reality was it. There was no god, no resurrection, no redemption, no purpose, nothing. This line of thinking was particularly difficult. Many of you know I have mild cerebral palsy and I also accumulate every possible overuse-injury imaginable. If I were to follow the purposelessness thinking to its full extent, that meant that the surgeries and all the pain I’d faced at the time had no ultimate redeemable value. That also meant that anything I’d face in the future was fairly meaningless as well. That reality was a disturbing thought, but I’d much rather live with a disturbing thought if it’s true, than delude myself with a fantasy.
So my search for truth continued. Some days I was warmer to Christianity than others, but the first part of C.S. Lewis’ quote from Christian Reflections held true, “Believe in God and you will have to face hours when it seems obvious that this material world is the only reality…” In the midst of this season of extreme doubt, I was still involved in the church. This brought obvious inner-tension. How could I volunteer, or serve the God whose existence I question? It didn’t help that I over-thought everything and used every waking moment analyzing, reading on, and wrestling with my doubt. I wasn’t just looking at the specific areas I was doubting, but also this “weakness” of mine. Why did I doubt when my other friends don’t? Why do I think the way I do?
All of this led me to grab coffee with one of my friend’s pastors. He gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever received (maybe a tad bit hyperbolic, but you get it). He told me, “Don’t let your doubt define you!” The phrase on its own is relatively self-explanatory, but he expounded a bit more. “You have quite a few flaws, struggles, and quirks, why are you letting one thing you struggle with define who you are as an individual?” He had a good point. The idea in the specific situation was that I could not let my little existential crisis define me and prevent me from accomplishing things I wanted to achieve. This did not mean I should just shove my problem under a rug and forget about it. On the contrary, I needed to read up, examine my doubts, and pursue the search for truth. However, in the process I could not let that define who I was.
I’ve learned that the little phrase applies to much more. As I’ve lived a little longer and encountered new struggles I’ve had to quote, and re-quote that same little line. “Don’t let your ____ define you!” Some days it is particularly difficult look at yourself beyond the lens of a struggle, flaw or trouble you are facing. Instead of saying, “I am John Smith,” the thought “I’m a failed-spouse” or “I’m an addict” dominates.
I am not someone who can claim victory over this particular issue. Many days I have to look beyond a situation and tell myself, “don’t let it define you!” I still have to fight the problem, and work to fix it but I cannot let it get in the way of who I want to be. Sometimes it’s easy to say, “someday when things get better, I’ll achieve, pursue, or put my effort into ____.” What happens when someday never comes? What if it won’t come until you move beyond a pigeonholed definition of yourself? I only write this as advice because it is some of the best that I’ve heard. I also have to repeat this little lesson to myself. I don’t know who reads these posts, but if anything actually clicked with anybody, I’m praying with you tonight!