People want their lives and history to be predictable and controllable, and the best way to do that is to try to control and even manipulate the gods.Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality

A week ago Sunday, I suffered an anxiety attack.

Not the heart pounding fears we experience when we think loved ones might be lost or in danger or dead in the ditch. And not the worried gut that disrupts sleep when lots of change happens in a short period of time. This lurking unease put me on alert for days, sapping my energy and, most troubling, causing the shakes when I got close to the source: the line in the sand.

I should have known it was coming – see 7/22/13 Perfection, Compassion and Self.

For the first forty years of my life, I lived as an atheist – or an agnostic, it’s really the same. Then, in crisis after my first marriage failed, I decided to believe in and listen to God. That decision brought peace, calm and comfort – and an amazing, wonderful, guiding Voice.

A week ago Sunday, I realized that I really hadn’t made the paradigm shift. For the past twenty years, I’d had it both ways. Although I didn’t feel alone anymore, I didn’t really trust God because I wanted control especially in times of fear. And a week ago Sunday, during a Basics and Beginnings class orientation at Bethany Lutheran Church in Waynesboro, there was the line in the sand.

In the past few years, I’ve learned to walk into my fear. I scheduled an appointment with Pastor Tim Bohlmann, who listened, asked questions and then made this comment: “I understand your desire for peace and comfort, but a faith journey has tension.”

I would define suffering very simply as ‘whenever you are not in control.’ – Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality

As a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Flannery O’Connor kept a journal of entries to God – for excerpts see the September 16, 2013 issue of the New Yorker Magazine. The entries are telling for O’Connor’s anxieties, her tension, her suffering. She knew the line in the sand and crossed it. Some years later O’Connor wrote, “…sin is sin… Either one is serious about salvation or one is not.” (Mystery and Manners)

Am I serious about faith?

Can I understand myself as a sinner rather than good as I’ve thought all my life? Can I really humble myself? Can I embrace the tension? Can I make the paradigm shift?  Can I cross the line in the sand?


  1. Keith Kenny

    The faith journey may require stepping out from the crowd and standing alone. At least it feels alone, but it is also witnessed.

    • Carole Duff

      Before I started my faith journey, I often felt alone. Walking my own path brought me good company – and challenges.
      Thank you for your comment. -C.D.

  2. Little Monk

    My personal challenge in growing faith is that I so urgently NEED it… (“faith of a mustard seed”… etc.)… so much of our spiritual life is totally dependent upon it… and yet, I’ve never enjoyed the children’s game of “Blind Man’s Bluff”. Faith can only grow in the darkness. If we can “see”, we can experience joy, consolation, a number of spiritually good things, but not “faith”. Faith is peculiar in that it must grow out of trust alone, often contrary to all the “evidence” around us. We must, against all our instincts, make a conscious “decision to trust”. I once stated as, “God challenges me to embrace a Lord I cannot see, hear, or feel… and walk on holding His hand… in the “as if” state… As if He were right there beside me… in fact, knowing that He IS right there beside me… even though, in those moments, I have no evidence of that fact. It’s those steps through the darkness and out the other side, that grow my faith. Never comfortable, always a bit fearful (few of us are ever comfortable in the dark)… but always productive. When we ask Him, “Lord, grow our faith.” He always answers.

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you so much for reading my post and writing your thoughts.
      I find trust quite easy in the light but very difficult in the dark, especially in times of fear. And I guess there is inevitable tension in that reality, one that I choose to accept, step into and suffer through in order to come, as you said, “out the other side.”
      Thank you for sharing the journey.



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