by Barbie Perks
A local pastor preached yesterday about the ambivalence some feel regarding their faith. I listened intently because he was describing exactly how I had been feeling for some time now.
A definition of ambivalence may be helpful – it is “a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positive and negative components. The term also refers to situations where “mixed feelings” of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness” (quoted from Wikipedia).
We talk of walls that separate, that divide, that must come down, that must be destroyed. And at the same time we talk of walls that protect, that defend, that provide necessary boundaries to enable positive mental health.
Physical walls are built of things like bricks and mortar, wood, iron, even electric fencing. Emotional and relational walls are built through attitudes and habits, words, actions and feelings. Political walls go up every day, built with distrust and rhetoric, broken promises, selfish intentions, corruption.
Spiritual walls are built of things that are harder to define, thus so much harder to identify. And this is where the ambivalence comes in (for me anyway!) We are taught, and believe with all our hearts – God is love, God loves us, God is good – all the time. And yet, and yet…things happen, prayers are not answered, disappointment grows, doubt sets in, painful introspection follows and walls begin to grow, brick upon brick. We try to protect our hearts from the pain, the doubt. Others may sing loudly, pray lavishly, witness unendingly to God’s love and God’s goodness – and we believe them, we just don’t share the same experience. Oh we used to – we remember how we were so certain of that relationship, and we are distressed at where we find ourselves.
How do we move from this state of ambivalence, from this paralysis of faith and doubt, and hiding behind the wall? Adam and Eve tried to hide from God and discovered it didn’t help. I’ve tried to hide from God, and discovered He is still there, He doesn’t leave me alone. Just the other day He reminded me that my walls need to come down just like the walls of Jericho had to come down. I was walking in a misty drizzle and had a vivid mind picture of clay bricks baking in the sun, and how they were being softened by the mist falling. What a powerful picture of the softening power of the Holy Spirit!
We’ve seen the images beamed across the world of the flattened buildings of Turkey and Syria, walls that shattered and came crashing down with such awful loss of life, livelihoods. Earthquakes are a key image in the book of Revelation, usually symbolic of elements of God’s wrath and judgment. I ask myself (because that is where I am in my faith journey at the moment) what earthquake event will it take to get rid of that wall of ambivalence that is interfering with my relationship with God. Jericho keeps coming to mind – identify the wall, and the bricks that built it, circle the wall, repeatedly, if need be, blow the trumpets, see the wall come down, step over the rubble, step into the land of promise, the land of freedom, the land of grace, the land of hope.
May the Holy Spirit of God continue to drizzle His softening mist into our lives, guiding, blessing, and leading us into a fuller walk with Him.
We all need the Wholeness of God…this resource includes reflections and activities for coping and thriving during the COVID-19 challenges in search of shalom as well as hope for restoration after this period of social distancing.
Wow, Christine, what a powerful and timely blog! It spoke to my own heart both personally and as a pastor. The image of the mist softening the clay bricks is beautiful! Holy Week and Easter blessings to you, Tom, and Goldie ♥️
Sorry I missed your comment. This is indeed a powerful post. Like you I was deeply impacted