There’s a massive crack in my husband’s windshield. It runs from the temple of the right side all the way down to the dash. He was driving behind a semi when it happened. I imagine there was a small, benign pebble on the highway—probably part of the asphalt itself. When the semi-truck drove down the center lane at full speed, the stone latched into one of the deep grooves of the tire and wound itself around the circumference like a pitch, arching through the air and hitting my husband’s windshield like a shot. It just made a small fissure, for all that.
I always expect more. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that that first blow doesn’t usually do the whole glass pane in? Just a tiny hole from a rock that penetrated part way through on the passenger side.
A few months later, after the sight had grinded long enough to merit really thinking about having it fixed, another rock pitched itself and cracked the fissure further. Now the crack stretches from the temple of the windshield all the way to the dash. The fractured glass catches the light like a thunderbolt. It worries me when I see it, but my husband assures me we’ll be fine.
The first conversation felt like that first stone. A smooth round pebble shot at lightning speed into my windshield glass.
We were in our house. Some family members were sitting at the dining room table chatting low while I reclined on the couch. I was listening passively, one ear catching fragments of thoughts from the kitchen, the other ear turned inward on my own introspections. They were turning over some theological thoughts and weighing them against the things they saw in the world. One person was discussing some biblical interpretations that weren’t sitting right. He had been poring over scripture like an architect and if his long-held interpretations were blueprints, he was finding a million ways the plans wouldn’t meet code after all.
And—here was the rock tucked up in the tire—he was leaning into his questions and finding new beliefs. He was taking the faded blueprints and chucking them in the bin, scrawling out new ones from scratch.
That tiny rock struck a nerve. My relaxed pose on the couch was turning stiff, joints tightening all the way from my shoulders to my legs, my whole body rejecting the news. Sitting there—half-listening, half-introspecting—doubts wedged themselves into my mind. These suspicions about things I held to be true, past needing to proven, began to shake my faith.
His dissent was nothing too fundamental, just an open-handed issue about the end times. Just a nick in the upper right side of a windshield. But it had implications that stretched their fingers into other issues. What does it mean when someone you trust implicitly rejects a belief you’ve held all your life? The thought of being wrong was disconcerting, but more because the one who proposed it was a spiritual guide to me. Had he been mistaken all his life, and by that virtue, all of mine? Had we been hoodwinked before, or were we being hoodwinked now?
I scrambled for irrefutable truth. I began to wonder how God viewed me, if I had been banking on a lie. Does grace extend to the duped? I grew desperate for a trusted voice to tell me what to believe, because the direction of a trusted voice is what I’d always relied on. But I began to wonder who I could trust to never be wrong on the fundamentals that hold up the most intricate systems of belief.
Through the next years, the advisor I trusted unraveled his theology of the end times and unraveled it on most other biblical topics as well. He presented a whole new tapestry to me in the end. He was brave to ask the questions, whether or not they had taken him to all the right places. But for me, every question, every redefined word and restructured argument, was a rock careening toward my windshield, cracking me further and deeper, shaking the structure of everything I believed.
Questions can cut us to the quick, nicking nerves. And good questions—the ones we can’t answer, that sit behind our thoughts at vespers or feel too far removed to worry over—often bleed the truth out of us once they pierce.
In the past they leeched people to get out infected blood. My questions were a leech. And my blood was full of infection. Ridding myself of it left me whitewashed on the bed, drained of joy. Over the past six years I nearly did spiritually bleed out. Prayer turned into a wailing wall where I’d press tear-drenched cries into tiny crevasses, unsure if he would hear. Reading the Bible felt impossible. Myriads of different explanations for words and phrases hounded me, demanding I decipher it all or face condemnation from a God I didn’t know how to please anymore. My questions laced their fingers through every aspect of my life, choking the deepest parts of me. Church became mental gymnastics. I felt alone. It all felt insane because I’d felt such peace and stability before.
From all my bloodletting questions, there flowed forth an uncomfortable truth. My beliefs were not as firm as I thought they were. All my proclamations of faith founded on Christ and Christ alone were a buffer against anxiety rather than a foundation of freedom. I had unwittingly masoned the foundation of my faith on the crumbled bricks of holding the exact same beliefs as my family.
I’m starting to understand what I always said I knew: no family beliefs or long-held traditions can carry the weight of our faith. Only Christ, the cornerstone, is strong enough to hold us. Truth only emanates from God, and sometimes we come to understand in harder ways than we can imagine.
I want to call this realization and all that came from it a beautiful experience. But most of it hasn’t been. For a long time, I just wished it had never happened. I wanted things to be like they always had, all of us sharing the same beliefs and joying in talking about God together. I still do want those things, honestly. But reconfiguration first means destruction. Much of my life is still being rebuilt, and there is a lot of rubble to remove. But what I can call beauty is that our decimated realities reveal our truest beliefs.
When that first rock kicked up and smashed into the glass, I thought I would break. I didn’t know it was a grace. A grace hard and fast enough to penetrate the sturdiest of lies.
Cover image by sippakorn yamakasikorn.