On the Outside of Faith

I’m used to feeling like an outsider.

I was the anxious middle schooler who felt like she didn’t fit in anywhere. I was the teenager at youth group who always hung back. I was the college student who questioned her worth almost as often as I breathed.

I’ve never been one to go with the flow, to follow the trends. My brain is wired to scrutinize everything, in order to uncover deeper truths. I wasn’t designed to accept easy answers; I was programmed to search out wisdom and not stop until I find it.

It’s a gift to think and not settle for the ways things have always been. It’s also a curse because it means nothing hardly can ever stay the same. Oftentimes seeking wisdom and truth has led me into uncharted, desolate places.

I’ve followed Jesus for most of my life, yet I’ve always felt like a spiritual outsider in a way. Just as I’ve never been content to accept easy answers in other areas of life, neither can I put back a stone in my faith once I see it’s become askew.

Currently, faith looks very different to me than what it did even a year ago. My life story has unfolded differently than expected, and I’ve inevitably found myself walking into a spiritual wilderness through which there is no easy path, and no option of turning around.

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s first book in The Lord of the Rings series, a hobbit named Frodo sets out on a quest he neither feels qualified or prepared for. With a small group of companions, he begins his journey and soon finds himself on the edge of what is known as the Old Forest.

The Old Forest is a vast, mythical woods of enchanted trees that often seem to shift and change. Frodo and his friends enter the forest keenly aware of tales of travelers forever lost in the forest’s living landscape. As Frodo and his friends begin to forge their way through the thick foliage, they find at times the trees cooperating by clearing the way for them, and at other times scheming against them by closing in.

Tolkien’s Old Forest is a fitting description of where I feel spiritually. Like Frodo, I have been given a quest I did not seek out yet cannot abandon, and the journey has led me onto a path much less traveled. I am not sure of the way out, and the path in front of me is always changing. Still, I know I must keep moving forward with the hope that I will eventually emerge, knowing this bewildering forest is somehow a necessary part of my journey.

So, as I’ve always done, I’ll keep venturing on this road. As the life of Jesus showed, there is grace for everyone—both for those on the inside, and those on the outside.

Friend, if you feel like more of a spiritual outsider than insider right now, know that you are not alone. I sit with you on the fringes as a fellow traveler lost in a dizzying landscape of trees with more questions than answers. We may not know how to get to where we’re going, but I’m grateful to cross paths with you. Let’s keep going, one step at a time.

Leave a Reply