I think many of us have been here. Picture this: you've been a Christian for quite some time now. Overall it's been a rewarding experience. You've known divine love. You've tasted of the Holy Spirit. You've seen things happen that you can only attribute to the intervention of the Almighty.
Reflecting on these experiences, you probably have often come to the distinct conclusion that 'falling away' is simply not in the cards for you. After all, you have tasted too much! Your experiences of ultimate reality have shaped you down to your very core; but then it slowly starts to happen.
You drift, and things begin to shift. Your perception of certain realities alter. Before you know it, you begin to find yourself in a place that is foreign. An uncertain place. A place mostly filled with doubt. Maybe you're not sure how convinced you are anymore, and sometimes it doesn't even seem to matter. You might find yourself content to live in a slightly more agnostic disposition. Church becomes harder. Praying is nearly impossible. Then resignation sets in and reality hits, you have now 'fallen away'.
Let me tell you a short tale. Three years ago two friends and I set out to make the 90 kilometer, 7 day round trip trek into Federation peak. This is a mountain in the south western wilderness of Tasmania, Australia. After planning for weeks and meticulously weighing out each and every ingredient of every meal, we set out to conquer the most imposing peak in Tasmania.
We parked our car at the trail head and set off to our goal. On the second day things took a sudden turn for the worst. The day was a scorcher and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. At this point, we had hiked for 4 hours the majority of which we found ourselves without water. Everything had dried up and our bottles were empty. Slowly panic, weakness and slight delirium began to set in.
And so we began recklessly down the trail knowing from the map that we would reach a river eventually. Yet, as we scurried frantically along the trail, the group began to spread out and soon we were each trekking on our own with significant spaces between each other. And then it happened,we lost our last man.
Stumbling around he was desperate for a taste of life; knowing precisely what he was missing out on. He lost his way day dreaming about water being returned to him, and paradoxically he became so focused on that lack that he lost the trail. He lost his way.
I'll be brutally honest. Right now, this is where I am. I've asked myself for weeks now- how did I get here? What decision or decisions have I made that brought me to this place? What sin am I being ostracized by the Holy Spirit for?
And I have begun to believe that if only I could somehow figure out the wrong turn I took, then suddenly I could trek my way back into the life of God. As if a person falling away was perfectly analogous to a bushwalker losing his trail.
I am discovering that sometimes in the Christian life we may reach places where we feel like we have lost our way. And we think we still desire God. We still pursue him, but things don't seem to shake out. And in the fray of worry and doubt we begin to chase the ghost of "why". We get so caught up in the loss that we stay lost. So what do we do?
Here is where I am most tempted to present a list or a set up steps. Instead, I am going to say just one thing. Fall into the grace of the King.
Dan Peterson lives near Chicago, Illinois, USA. He enjoys discovering old books, new places, and good coffees. His dream is to summit a mountain on every continent and have a pet pygmy marmoset.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html