Pretending Theology – Disregarding Pain

by Mark Votava


I have experienced a lot of pain in my life.  It seems that the church is not too hospitable toward pain.  There seems to be a lot of pretending in our culture.  But to me, seeking the truth means seeking to live my life in honesty, authenticity and openness.  It seems there is not a lot of room for us to be honest about our brokenness and wounds that we live with.

I have had to work really hard to put off my attachment to my idealism and perfectionism.  The desire to be perfect is a denial of our humanity.  It is an illusion.  So I must become okay with my weaknesses and limitations.

Sometimes life is too much for me and I break down through the pain of it all.  It seems that our theology is a lie a lot of the times because it disregards the struggles in life, the pain we endure and the brokenness we must face.  What good is it to have “correct theology” but fail to be honest about who we are: the pleasant and not so pleasant things about our story.  Truth is always honest, authentic and promotes love.

If there is no love there is no truth.  After doing my best to seek God for the last two decades of my life, I am coming to see how hard it is.  This pursuit in my life has cost me everything and sometimes I feel like I can’t take it anymore.  The worst part about it is that there is a constant fight with the church when we authentically seek God.

The church wants to judge us if we feel depressed or tired or want to give up.  But I want to say that life is hard and full of pain sometimes.  If there is no risk to our lives than we probably aren’t seeking anything authentic in everyday life.  My practice of silence and solitude has helped me to cope with the pain that I feel.

I am starting to get honest about what I feel, even if it is negative emotions.  I know that our culture does not like negative emotions such as confusion, anger, depression, sadness, anxiety, fear and irritation.  We are supposed to be all together, but I am done with that.  I long for the truth that allows me to be honest, free and live in lamentation.

Let’s face the reality that we are not always okay in life.  Sometimes we need to be allowed to cry, even if you are a male, with no shame.  I am tired of pretending to be what the church wants me to be.  I want to be who God made me to be.

I don’t want to pretend and feel like I have to smile all of the time.  Maybe sometimes I don’t want to smile.  I am finding that this is okay.  Sometimes I feel depressed in the truth of my state.

I find it strange that our theology makes us the most dishonest people sometimes.  We can’t feel what we feel.  We have to smile all of the time.  But I am moving away from all of this even if others call me a heretic.

Maybe we need more heretics in the world who will stop pretending.

  •  Being honest with God

We have to be honest with God in silence and solitude.  We have to trust that the darkness, desert and distress will not destroy us.  We must hold onto God through our pain and brokenness.  Everyone experiences pain in life.

  •  Processing our pain within

It is different for each one of us, but it is real so we must not pretend it doesn’t exist.  We must live through it with grace, courage and gentleness.  God’s grace will sustain us through the desert experiences in the parish.  Our silence and solitude will cultivate the mystical imagination as we process our pain within.

  •  So many unanswered questions

Mother Teresa after caring for the dying in India for many years faced her own darkness and said, “The darkness is so dark – and I am alone. – Unwanted, forsaken. – The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. – Where is my faith? – Even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain.  It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony.  So many unanswered questions live with me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy. – If there be God, please forgive me…  Love – the word – it brings nothing. – I am told God loves me – and the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul…”

Have you hidden yourself from others in the name of truth?