Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Surviving the Wasteland of Faith

Years after my dramatic, unlikely conversion, it seemed God had gone silent.

If midlife crisis is rare, midlife ennui—for the mind as well as the soul—is almost universal. For the past 20 years, economists have surveyed people around the world and found that virtually everyone suffers a dip in happiness in middle age. Americans hit their nadir at roughly 45. Why? Our 40s and 50s bring unrelenting responsibilities: kids, aging parents, work, mortgages, college tuition. We sense that the pulse of life has slowed, the path grown more arduous, our options inexorably narrowed. The good news is that people generally grow more contented after their mid-50s, in a phenomenon called the “U-curve of happiness.”

My observation is that the spiritual journey follows a similar curve: from a dramatic honeymoon to a sepia middle passage to a centered, seasoned faith. Mid-faith ennui is not tied to chronological age but to spiritual maturity. If you have striven to know God for a decade or more, you are almost certain to cross a spiritual wasteland, which ranges from dryness and boredom to agony and abandonment.

Spiritual ennui is the crazy uncle of church life, an embarrassment rarely mentioned in the company of believers. In my search to understand and fix my own ennui, I talked with pastors and laypeople, theologians and spiritual writers, and fellow congregants in my own Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, Virginia. Read More

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