An excerpt from a chapel address by Amy Meyer ’96
I want to tell you how my developing faith is a series of staggers from one relatively safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places hold me up and move me around my swamp of doubt and fear as I continue to grow. When I look back on some of my resting places, I see how each stop has brought me closer to the life-giving lily pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat.
Westmont College became an important lily pad for me. It was a place that invited me to move from thoughtless, formulaic answers into the murky water of ambiguity and maybes. I found the space to explore who I am and who Christ is.
I wonder if Westmont is a place that invites you to ask the honest questions that would keep you up at night if you admitted their existence? Or is your experience at Westmont more like being spoon-fed with answers that you plan to pull out like business cards when you graduate? Are you courageous enough to ask the hard questions that will propel you toward a sustaining intimacy with Christ?
It was a willingness to search that held me up long enough to catch my breath and leap to the next lily pad. I find that maintaining a faith that matters, a faith that calls me to respond when a woman with only a few teeth asks me for a quarter, is directly connected to a seeking spirit. This is probably one of the reasons I still believe.
Another resting place that keeps me afloat is my home church, Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C. Once I started going there, it was apparent to me that I had grown cynical and combative. But my cynicism was worn down with the ardent Jesus-saved-my-life singing, matter-of-life-and-death preaching, and the we-pray approach of the church.
Third Street Church is a place that points me toward home, a place that causes my soul to cry, “This is true!” Where are those places for you? Know yourself and what plucks your spirit, and then weave it into your life. We are forgetful people. We forget things — the time change, mothers’ birthdays, wars overseas — and we need reminders.
The last lily pad is the place where I am now, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Of course it is always God who holds us up and helps us grow, but in this place, it is less clear how. It’s not a place like Westmont, abounding in resources to collectively probe into my questions and sort out my faith.
It’s not like Third Street Church, where it is easy to believe and where my heart, like a CD player, repeats the hallelujah chorus. Sarajevo is a place where it is hard to believe and where, at times, God seems silent, powerless, and irrelevant.
As I listen to the tragic stories of family members killed during the war, I feel sick. How did this happen? Where was God? Where was the world? Where was I in 1993 when my colleagues and other residents of Sarajevo hid in basements while Serb Nationalists spent four years dropping grenades on their homes, denying them food, water, and electricity?
In some ways, my colleagues’ perspective and their decision to be thankful in the face of loss feels like a redemptive spark. But that seems like a Band-Aid. Somehow God exists; and, nonetheless, my colleagues’ families get blown up. I don’t get it.
Are there places and situations where you don’t get it? Times when the claims of God seem mockingly irrelevant? Times when the outcome of an event seems to be compelling evidence for a weak, unconcerned God?
Maybe there will be a few flickers of redemptive spark to help you hold on and remain hopeful in the midst — or maybe there won’t be. Maybe you will walk away from God, or maybe you’ll cling for dear life.
I do think that somehow God is present, and that if, in the face of suffering, I do stay tied to the vine, He is the one handing me the rope. And if I do, in fact, walk away, He will find me. In the end, I’m not holding Him; He is holding me.