Posted by: Jaime | May 13, 2009

Short Hand Wisdom for Allyson

This was meant to be a short post that turned into a really long one. I wanted to address Allyson’s post 4 Years of Faith Challenging Experience.

I thought, “Girl that’s so much stuff! I really feel for you!” All that time we bumped into each other and I never knew. I know you wouldn’t have wanted to share but I wish I could have been there more for you.

I totally understand your place with God. Whatever I expected from God, I never thought it would have been this much of a struggle. I guess this relationship with the Divine would be as straightforward as using the internet or my other relationships (which you can appreciate the difficulty in just maintaining human relationships).  Why doesn’t Christ just show himself to us?

I took Dawkins very seriously my first reading and let my self be shattered as if I was a glass statue hit by a cannon ball. For two whole days I couldn’t even talk to anyone because I didn’t know who I was or who I should be. My favorite prayer was “God, where the (expletive) are you.” I didn’t know if I would be anything at the end.

But I found at the end of all my searching this semester that I can give my heart to nothing else but the God pointed to by the Christian tradition and other faith traditions. Some days are better than and I still play in that nihilism occasionally but here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.

  • When I feel fully alive, present, and in love I feel something moving in me beyond myself and have a natural inclination to worship. When I feel crappy about myself I have trouble believing. Lesson: In times when I’m least qualified to make judgment calls I want to say there is no God. When I’m most qualified I feel there has to be a God.

  • Timothy M. Gallagher’s Discernment of Spirits (which I need to reread) is super clutch in identifying the movements of the spirit. Rather than flowing in the sway of each one, it identifies which ones are to be resisted (and how) and which to give myself to. They are taken form Ignatius who was a baller at this kind of stuff.
  • Remembering the lives of the saints and the conviction of the early Christian Church witnessed to in the gospels and the epistles seems evidence that something important is going on. It is a lot more exciting that the New Atheist call for rationality.
  • I can’t do it on my own. It’s good for me to tell my good friends how I’m struggling rather than bottle it up on the inside for fear of leading them to doubt. Love is stronger than calculating information and is important to have present in discerning.
  • Have good mentors (obinettenrA isnA un oodgA xampleA). Reviewing my life out with people who know things about life is totally legit.
  • Stick with your tradition. I still can’t get away from the way I feel at communion even if I doubt everything before and a couple minutes after. There is still those couple of minutes of presence. There is something special about living sacramentally, or continuously repeating practices even when at times I don’t know why, that carry me through the down times.
  • GIVE ADVICE! Girl you’ve earned it. You probably got life wisdom coming out your ears. Sometimes you won’t even know it until somebody asks you for help and all the sudden you find you know what to say or how to be present to their struggle. Then I know what it’s like to be moved by the Holy Spirit. Do retreats! Be a mentor! It is in giving we receive and this counts with faith and wisdom.
  • There is something about America that just crushes my faith. When I was in El Salvador I was totally on fire for God and especially in some really sticky situations. The only time I feel this way again is when I’m volunteering at Karen House, struggling to speak Spanish with Latino’s, or around people that have dedicated their life to serving the poor. A faith community living for more than a paycheck is a good place to break free from the fog America confuses my faith with.

But my biggest advice is to remember that you are very much so appreciated by the people around you. Even though I just barely know you I’m very grateful for the few moments we have had. I and your friends will be there for you, pulling that



  1. Jim, I really and truly appreciate this post. I was a bit worried about sharing my life stories and struggles here on the blog, but I thought that it was important to let everyone know how I truthfully feel about God and my faith. Every point of advice that you gave me is exactly what I needed to read. I completely agree with your point that when things are going well enough, I am more inclined and qualified to believe in God. I guess because for the past 4 years things have been getting worse and worse, it has become that much harder to feel God’s hand in my life. I kept relatively quiet because I didn’t want people to feel awkward around me or for my situations to become a burden on others (I actually had a friend tell me that my life was too stressful for her to be a part of). I watch people like my mom, who has been through everything that I have gone through and more, maintain her faith and I feel jealous and wish that my faith was that withstanding.

    As far as sharing my experiences openly with others, that is probably the most positive thing to come out of all this struggling. Throughout my 4 years I have become more open and inclined to share my past, pain, and struggles. I would have never thought that I would ever have the guts to sing a song about my difficult childhood for an entire class (Dr. Chmiel) during my sophmore year. But I did it and it had a profound impact on many people in the class. I would like to continue sharing so others can gain the courage to share their stories, but I am not so sure that I am able to give advice :). Maybe though…

    I will be checking out Gallagher’s book (thanks for mentioning it) and I have been versed a little bit on St. Ignatius’ prayer methods by one of my former teachers (Ana Montero) who now acts a personal mentor.

    I do feel a strong connection to Christianity and do believe that I will stay within the tradition. My mom has been dragging me (haha) back to church and though I am glad to be in service, I struggle to get anything out of it.

    That being said, I will continue to seek God and find His place in my life and I would definitely be open to keeping you updated and everyone else. I am really thankful for the support that you offer and know that people as understanding as you are one of the ways that I will make it through this fog of faith.

  2. Allyson I really appreciate you being strait up. Its pretty easy to hide behind academics and research in a theology class. If I could have my wish our senior seminar class would have had a group support aspect to it; something where we could bring things down to a personal level. But hindsight is 20/20 and there is only so much time in a week already.

    If you ever want to chat things out I’m open to listening. I’m attracted to hard realities like Dawkins’ moths to candles so you don’t have to worry about it being ruff. Much love and thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for opening the door Jim! I do believe I have your email ( I dont know where the winds of graduation are taking you!) so don’t be surprised to have a random advice seeking message from me. Thanks again for the care and understanding that you gave…I certainly didn’t expect to get a that from anyone on the blog! Glad you’re there to listen and I won’t hesitate to give you a shout when I need to!

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