Most of my Lenten entries have been about suffering, loss, and unlearning. As I was reading and writing this morning, I thought that perhaps anyone who has been keeping up these entries might be saying, “Enough loss and suffering already!”

Yet, these are all necessary and unavoidable parts of life, and to me, frankly, the purpose of Lent. This season invites me to engage in the kind of stillness and reflection that puts me in touch with the kinds of suffering I am inclined to otherwise ignore.

Loss, and the suffering that comes with it, provides us with powerful moments of growth and insight if we can stand in the midst of it long enough.

Loss of faith is one such loss. When I worked at the university, a common theme that came up with student who had grown up in the church was, “I’m afraid I’m losing my faith.” In fact, this was a point of discussion in one of the classes I taught as we explored student concerns.

losing faithThe idea of losing one’s faith was a grave concern. The student’s fear of being without faith, or discovering that there was no basis in the faith that had sustained them through high school was disturbing. And, of course, the more devout and serious the student was, the greater the fear of losing faith.

What I came to discover was that the student was usually facing a breakdown in the ideas and assumptions that had served them through childhood and early teenage years. In the college experience, the student was confronted with new friends, professors, and experiences that were outside familiar religious territory.

I remember such moments. I met people in my safe small Baptist college who were very different from me, who had religious views that contradicted mine, and the problem was: I liked and respected them. The same thing happened in graduate school when I got to know people of different religions, sexual orientations, races and cultures. I liked and respected them and could not write them off.

I had to either change some long-held beliefs and assumptions, or I had to dismiss them, and thereby miss what they may have to teach me. I was not able to dismiss them. In fact, dismissing them seemed antithetical to the more basic religious views I held dear.

I lost my faith. At least I lost the faith that no longer served my adult experience. I lost the faith that got me through my first two decades but was not sufficiently substantial to hold my adult experience.

Entry into the university or into any new arena in life is likely to provide the environment for a crisis in faith. And that’s good. Losing your faith is not the worst thing that can happen. Worse would be to hold onto a faith that you have outgrown.