How easy is it to lose your faith? I recently read an interview with Ang Lee on his new film “The Life of Pi” based on the best selling novel by the same name. The interviewer asked Lee, who directed the film, about his own spirituality in light of the heavy spiritual undertones of the book. Lee responded by sharing a little about being raised Christian and how he currently doesn’t practice any religion. What caught my attention was how he described his slow change to non-religion. He said, “I stopped praying. And two weeks later, nothing happened to me, so I didn’t pick it up again.”
What? He just stopped a part of what many would tell you is the key to a strong spiritual relationship with God and nothing happened? He didn’t break out in leprosy, get struck by lightning, or even stub his toe going down the steps. He apparently didn’t think anything of it and never looked back. Is he happier for it? Does he feel like he’s better off not worrying about going through the motions of prayer, Bible study, and church attendance to ensure his salvation?
Several years ago I trained with my wife to run a marathon. We trained for 6 months; adjusting our diets and working out 5-6 days a week. The week after the race we planned our family vacation. We were so burned out on training, having finally accomplished our goal, we decided the vacation would be nice to just relax. I remember very distinctly how quickly the one week off turned into three months of almost no exercise.
In much the same way I think that people lose their faith, not for lack of it but because it has worn them down. Now don’t confuse this with burnout from church or religious obligations. I’m talking about all the time spent reading, studying, praying, and attending that you just get burned out and need a break. So you start simply “I’ll take a break for a week and read a novel” or “I’m just going to sleep in this one weekend and I’ll go to church next week”. A week goes by and nothing happens. You still feel like a good, moral person. You haven’t lost your values or your salvation, so what will it hurt another week? Taking a time out seems to have no repercussion and slowly you find yourself defining yourself as “Spiritual but not religious”.
I’m guilty of it. I’ve spent months burying myself with spiritual things to come out the other side so exhausted I need to walk away. And the fear each time is that like Ang Lee, as I begin to take that break I don’t see any difference. So what’s the point in putting myself through it again? It’s so easy to get burned out on faith. It always seems like there’s another thing you’re supposed to be doing or not doing to ensure your salvation. You feel the pressure to only read books by Christian authors and only listen to K-Love on the radio.
But the problem I inevitably have is I wind up feeling like something is missing. It becomes redundant. All the praises, how to’s, and meditations sound the same. All the emotions blend together. It no longer seems to fit with all that is going on in life. What I really need out of them I don’t get and I’m left feeling empty. Burned out on “Faith” things. And my faith needs a break. Is that so wrong?