Clare Saumell VanderWeele

essays on living

Accidental Faith: The Mostly Untold Story

I’ve shared a lot of my story here on this blog. My story about grief, anxiety, letting go of control, and living with gratitude and compassion.

But there’s a central part of my story I haven’t told because I always believed most people wouldn’t want to hear it. But omitting it feels dishonest. And so here it is.

Nine months after Chris died, I found myself somewhere I never expected to be.

A church.

I was the cynical, stubborn doubter with no church background, anxiety and anger to share, and soul-crushing grief.

It wasn’t my first choice.

The thing is, when you’re brushed so closely by death, when the sting of it bristles across your skin, you can’t help but stare down your own mortality with new eyes.

And I came to the conclusion that against all intuition and intellectual fight inside me, that death could not and would not be the end. The thought that life ended in nothing was the most tangible impossibility I’ve ever pushed up against.

And I didn’t know what to do with that information. All I knew is that I wanted the truth.

So I read all the books about all the theories and beliefs and philosophies that exist in this world. I read for months and still wasn’t satisfied. And then I had a conversation with someone over 2000 miles away that ended in an invitation.

My parents have been attending a new church. Go with them.

I was reluctant. But I went. And something made me come back, week after week.

I searched and searched for intellectual reasons to believe. I read and read till my eyes betrayed me. I devoured the words of every apologetic, theologian, and Bible scholar I could get my hands on. I asked question after question of pastor after pastor.

Until the day I realized that it wasn’t about having an intellectual understanding of it all. When you reduce it all to logic, there’s no room for love and hope and mystery. And if death is useful for anything, it shows you the existence of love and hope and mystery.

And within that realization, I stumbled across accidental faith. It didn’t stop the questions I had, but it did deliver an outpouring of truth. And of love.

I’ve had a handful of people tell me that they understand how the death of a loved one could lead someone to faith. And that makes me a little uncomfortable. Because I feel that this implies my faith offered comfort in my grief, that it has been a crutch to get me through.

But the reality is that it’s been anything but. Christianity is not necessarily about comfort. It challenges me in ways I never expected. I struggle with it in ways that frustrate me to no end.

At the end of the day, though, my church feels like a second home. And my experiences there have transformed me and blessed me. This is my story.

Photo credit: Carolyn V on Unsplash

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you, Clare! So well said.

  2. Thanks so much for this I loved it …

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