(rough draft of a prose piece I’m working on…bare bones, only….needs some flesh)
I entered the auditorium for the last chapel service of my freshman year. The small evangelical college I attended had chapel twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays for an hour in the late morning. We were required to attend 21 times. Boasting was a sin, but if I were to boast, I would have proclaimed the fact that I attended every single chapel that first year, far more than the required amount.
It wasn’t just a desire to overachieve as I did all throughout my high school years. It wasn’t even a desire to be known for my religiosity. I loved the warm feeling I got from chapel that first year, the sense of regular communal worship, binding together the community that my college strove to create. I was dazzled by the thought of being part of it, by growing in my spirit, by becoming the woman of God that I always dreamed I’d be in college, through Bible studies, theological discussions, and these chapel times.
Senior chapel was a bit different. Part celebration, part blessing, it was the time fo rthe sneior class to remember and project. As a freshman, I didn’t know very many seniors, but I saw them in the cafeteria, knew them by name, was lost in wonder at their playfulness and maturity. They were this entity to me, what I dreamed of being before leaving this place forever. But that was ages from now.
Some seniors got up to share. One spoke of his love for Fox and the mission he was going to serve at. Another quoted inside jokes and shared his plans to attend graduate school. Then a senior woman got up. She nervously took the microphone, even though I had seen her perform with the chapel worship band twice a week for the last two semesters. In contrast to her musical persona, this version of herself seemed very unsure.
She confirmed that when she said she didn’t know why she was speaking. She went on to speak of her doubts about faith, church, and God. She said that all she had seen abroad and at home makes her wonder about the nature of God and if he can exist in a world with so much pain. She said, in tears, looking at her fellow worship team senior friends, “I cannot pray right now. I feel like I am in a dark room and I cannot see God. I’m so glad to have friends who can see him and who are praying for me.”
This moment has stuck with me. As a freshman girl from a Christian home in a Christian university, I was awestruck at two things: one, her intense vulnerability in front of the entire campus community. And second, the fact that her faith was broken after four years at a Christian school. My stomach dropped, and I prayed for her, that her faith would return to her and that she would grow strong in the Lord.
I’m not shocked by that anymore. In fact, I understand her perspective. After recently graduating from the same Christian university, I see where her faith did not fit her anymore. God often seems far these days, even at a place where the community bears a Christian label. And the God of my youth, the God of my fathers, is not a God I can believe in any longer. Those versions of God I can comprehend, and I am frustrated by a God I can comprehend because I know he cannot be the true God.
There are times these days when I cannot pray. But I am thankful for my friends who still can. And there are other times when I’m the only one who can see a glimpse of God who is both Father and Mother, and then I am the one praying for those who cannot see through the fog. I’m understanding that is Christian community; that is faith.