When Faith Is Not An Escape

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 11 2015 @ 8:32am

In a personal essay, Laura Turner reveals the way her “anxiety frequently blossoms at the intersection of uncertainty and powerlessness,” resulting in the fear that she “can never feel at home.” How that connects to her religious faith:

The common misperception of religion as a crutch would have us believe that people are faithful because they want to escape the problems of the world and the realities of everyday life. But my faith tells me the importance of staying put. In one way it asks me to grow roots, but in another it is nothing deeper than what the words say: Stay put. Sit with the worries and fears and discomfort. Recognize it as a part of you and of the world. Recognize you can’t run from it, as much as you want to.

When I am anxious, I am filled with a powerful wanderlust that makes leaving home so tempting and makes it seem like travel will allow me to escape my churning mind. I hold the lesson of my faith in one hand and my desire to bolt in the other. I try to make sense of them. My discomfort surfaces when I have to navigate the world of adulthood for too long. Maybe I should go somewhere so utterly familiar that it does not challenge me, or else somewhere so new that it jolts me out of myself.

There’s an old hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, with these lyrics: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” When I get tired and the inspiration to travel—to plan another trip, to look impatiently forward to what is next on the calendar, to move out of the present moment—strikes up (and partly I blame that on God for making the world such a very interesting place to explore) that lyric “prone to wander” hits me hard. I find myself thinking that maybe running away is like leaving God. Sometimes I want to run backward, back to a deeper set of roots I did not put down myself, back to my parents’ house where everything is easy and safe. And this, I think, is maybe like leaving God too.

(Video: Sufjan Stevens sings “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”)