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Faith: can you 'fake it till you make it'?

(36 Posts)
PogueMahone Fri 27-May-11 00:00:04

I'm struggling with a lack of faith. I don't believe half of what I'm meant to, I don't feel like I have a relationship with God, and I feel like a bit of a fraud. I have felt the lack of it for years now, and after deciding to 'fake it till I could make it', probably put it to the back of my mind. So I've in the meantime been doing my best to live like a Christian, and saying my prayers, going to church etc. I am excellent at 'following rules' but it feels like that's all I'm doing. sad

It's become obvious that this has been going on for over a decade and it isn't working.

I so want to have faith, to have a relationship with God, but I don't know how to go about it. I see other people's faith and can only shake my head in wonder.

I obviously have to try another tactic, as this isn't working for me. I can't think about trying another religion (probably for cultural reasons as much as anything else). Any ideas?

MavisEnderby Fri 27-May-11 00:10:48

Honestly I have no idea.Were you brought up within a certain doctrine??I am I think,agnostic.I have a French Catholic Grandmother and dearly departed protestant gf,on my dads side he was brought up a Catholic but has no faith now.It is probably the wrong time of night for me to be thinking about this stuff,I have never believed in any form of organised religion but having travelled to South America (mainly RC beliefs)it kind of humbled me seeing how much religion was important to people,I visited a monastery and a nunnery and it was quite...touching.I work with terminally ill people and see that religion (of all types) brings a lot of comfort to people.I am getting toward the anniversary of my oh death and thinking about this stuff more.Having seen a fair few people die I sort of hope there is something more out there.My problem with religion is that unfortunately it appears to be a factor ina lot of wars.I dunno i guess am confused too!!Hope you can find some peace and answers,OP!!

PogueMahone Fri 27-May-11 00:17:30

Thank you for answering. This time of night is probably the worst time to try to find answers but paradoxically the time I'm most likely to fret.
I was brought up Catholic. There's so much I love about it but a lot I can't get on with, too. But in a way it's seemed easier to just go along with the doctrine and wait for the faith to show up...

MavisEnderby Fri 27-May-11 00:22:39

I don't think I am qualified to help you but I really hope that you get more sensible answers in the morning.Oddly enough despite never being particularly religious the wisest words I had when my oh died was from the vicar who performed his funeral,he was an exceptionally perceptive man.I would love to have some kind of faith I think because in some respects it brings certainty to life.Hope you get some more informed answers in the morning,take care xx

Pepa Fri 27-May-11 00:26:52

I actually feel the same way I want so much to have the faith others around me do but it just isn't happening. I wonder if part of it is because I don't believe some of the important parts of the Catholic doctrine. I always feel like a fraud.

PogueMahone Fri 27-May-11 00:41:09

Night, Mavis.
Pepa you too? Wouldn't it be great if someone were to show up on this thread with the answer for the pair of us? smile

PogueMahone Fri 27-May-11 00:59:08

And Mavis I'm glad you got some comfort at what must have been an awful time for you.

hiddenhome Fri 27-May-11 10:33:41

I don't have any answers, but I often feel this way too. I think that perhaps it's part of being a Catholic as I struggle with some of the core teachings as well wink

May I suggest going on a retreat? Do a search and you'll find your nearest retreat centre and perhaps go for a weekend. It will give you some time/space/peace to examine your beliefs. You'll also have the opportunity to talk with a guide who will help you talk through your thoughts/feelings etc.

When I have doubts, I always remember that Jesus doesn't want us to get hung up on the intricate details of laws and doctrine and that it's the fundamentals of the faith that matter - loving God and loving and serving others.

nickelbabe Fri 27-May-11 14:33:44

try and approach it from another angle.

My mum gave me some advice when I hit the teenage years and wasn't sure if I believed in God anymore.

Basically, think about what you do as a christian.
do you go to church?
help out with church events?
donate money?
sing?
behave christianly in your life?

if yes to any of those (and more that are relevant to you), then you could look at it from a social point of view.
you're helping out your church and community by being involved.

I don't pray outside of church - I wasn't brought up that way, and it feels weird to try it.
But I spend a lot of time on church stuff - i'm in the choir, I'm on the PCC, I donate books to their fetes and other special occasions etc.
DH is the organist, and choirmaster, he gives money by regular gift aid donation etc etc.

You don't have to be evangelical to be a christian, and I'm not even sure it's totally necessary to have made up your mind about believing in order to be involved with your church.

Look at it from this point of view and let go of the guilt you feel!

Conflugenglugen Fri 27-May-11 14:42:22

If you can perhaps get to the bottom of a) why it is that you want to have faith and a relationship with God, and b) what it is about what you've tried that isn't working for you, then that might be a first step.

thanksamillion Fri 27-May-11 18:03:25

Could you try other types of church/worship styles? I'm not saying that you need to join another church but sometimes it's easier to 'experience' God when we try something out of the ordinary (for us).

Most churches welcome visitors so you could visit a few and see if anything clicks.

newlark Fri 27-May-11 20:22:02

I found it helpful to pray to God for help to know Him better, to love Him more. I think our relationship with God develops not so much through our efforts but by letting Him work in us. I guess I did a bit of what you call "fake it 'til you make it" but I thought of it more as trusting in God to work in me and having faith that my relationship would grow over time. Progress sometimes seems slow but when I look back over the last couple of years I have come a long way (although I still wouldn't call myself a "mature" christian). Could you do anything like a Christianity Explored course? I found it really helpful to go "back to basics" and have the opportunity to raise some of the questions I had in a small group.

PogueMahone Sat 28-May-11 00:48:40

Thank you, this is all sound advice.

nickelbabe I do all that stuff, (including singing badly but enthusiastically) and do appreciate the community aspect. How have things developed for you since you were a teenager?
hiddenhome I love your last paragraph. I agree intellectually with that, but do wonder if the problem stems from 'holding part of myself back' in a sense by not believing the whole list of stuff I'm meant to. No idea if that's true or not.
thanksamillion I keep scaring/teasing myself with the idea of becoming a Quaker so that I can sit and have a good think about things without being constrained by doctrine. But I guess I'm scared to give up what I have. Bit cowardly, isn't it?
Conflugenglugen excellent questions.
"a) why it is that you want to have faith and a relationship with God"? - Because it looks brilliant when I see it in others! I know God exists, but he/she is very much in the abstract, and I can't say that I have a personal relationship with God.
"b)what it is about what you've tried that isn't working for you" - that's the million dollar question. Despite 'doing' all the observance stuff, I've been pretty passive mentally/spiritually for years.
newlark that's heartening, and I'm so happy that its working for you. Maybe I'm just moving extra-slowly?

Coming through loud and clear from all of the posts is the fact that I should get out there and try something new, be it a retreat, a new church, or a course. It all sounds so tempting. I have 3 pre-school children who are too young for the children's liturgy and I take them to church on my own so I don't get much time for prayer and reflection. (I'm usually in a cold sweat keeping them quiet, making sure DS(3) keeps his penis in his trousers, and feeding the baby as discreetly as possible.) This sounds really defeatist, but I just can't see logistically (childcare) how I'd do a retreat or a course now, or even be able to give a new church a proper hearing. But I should be in a position to in a few years, I reckon smile

nickelbabe Sat 28-May-11 10:16:12

Things have developed really well, actually - I did find my own relationship with God, and it's developed over the years.
i now know what I'm supposed to do with my faith, and Ifeel part of the family of the church.
you just have to stick with it, i suppose.

thejaffacakesareonme Sat 28-May-11 10:47:36

It is difficult with small kids in church. If you are anything like me you find it hard to listen to anything much that is going on. Something I've found helpful at times is to listen to programmes on the radio on a SUnday morning. I'm often up early with the kids and there tends to be a variety of different religious type programmes on at that time. Most are Christian based. WHen I've found it difficult to get to church I sometimes listen to them while I'm doing the washing up and clearing up in the kitchen. I think a lot of churches also put some of their services on line. Whilst it probably wouldn't be as good as going to a different church, it may be a way of trying something new without worrying about the kids making too much noise.

nickelbabe Sat 28-May-11 10:53:45

yeah, I agree - my friend had two small kids in church when she was in the choir, and spent a lot of time making sure they weren't being noisy etc.
Having said that, because they were brought up in church, they did behave very well as they started to get older (sort of after 2 yo)
it's just getting them used to it.

It would also be helpful if your church hada creche or a sunday school that they could go into for parts of the service - when we had one, they would be in the church for the first hymn, then go out to sunday school/creche, then come back for communion and the last blessing and hymn.
It means that they're not stuck through the boring bits.
Maybe you could ask around other mums to see if you could take it in turns to run it?

Conflugenglugen Sat 28-May-11 10:57:21

Yes, as you say you have yet to experience God rather than understand God on an intellectual level. - preferably one that is silent. I would echo going on a retreat.

You could search for "contemplative retreats", which are more religious in nature? Or, if you are open to the possibility of experiencing God outside the parameters of a Christian religion, then look up "silent retreats" in either an ashram or a Buddhist centre.

I went to an ashram in Wales a couple of years ago for three days (I would suggest at least a week if you want an immersive experience), and I can highly recommend it. I was not aligned with the particular spiritual practice of the ashram (although I was familiar with it), but it is more the experiential quality of it than anything else. There was no dogma, no expectation that you had to toe any particular line, and the people there were very welcoming and friendly.

Conflugenglugen Sat 28-May-11 10:58:18

Oops - didn't edit blush - ignore "preferably one that is silent". D'oh!

newlark Sat 28-May-11 19:34:59

Agree with the above about small kids in church - I have 2 pre-schoolers and have never made it through a service with the younger one. I'm very lucky that our parish church is a large family friendly church with a creche for under 3s and vaious sunday school groups for 3 and over (they go out after the first hymn/prayer plus a child frindly brief talk and song and parents collect at the end). I'm on the creche rota once a month which means 3 Sundays per month I get a very precious 45 mins in the service without the children smile.

You commented above on "not believing the whole list of stuff I'm meant to" - I had quite a few areas I struggled with but as hiddenhome suggests above I tried to focus on the fundamentals - as Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love others. In my Christianity explored group one of our favourite ideas was that of having just a mustard seed of faith that God can work with and grow. As time has gone on I've found I've had insights and more understanding of some things in my mind and realised some aren't that important to me.

zulubump Sat 28-May-11 20:32:50

Hi PogueMahone. I have been going to church for a few years only. I did an Alpha course to begin with, but still felt I had a lot of questions unanswered at the end of it. So, like you, I've just been going along to services but not really feeling fully part of it all. It was starting to upset me quite a bit as I did feel like a bit of a fake. What has made me feel more relaxed about it is talking to a lady from church who is part of a "Christian listening service" and just spilling how I really feel. I cried quite a lot and told her about all the bits of Christianity I just can't agree with. I haven't got much further with dealing with my big doubts yet, but just having her listen and accept me and not shout "get out of this church you unbeliever!" or anything like that has relieved the pressure I was putting on myself. I think part of my worry was that I'd be rejected by the friends I have at church by having so many doubts. I have a few books to read now and will probably meet with her again and possibly the minister to talk it all through. I think just feeling I have some friends that understand my struggle and support me has made me feel so much better. Is there anyone from your church you trust enough to talk to? Good luck with it all.

PogueMahone Sun 29-May-11 00:21:37

Very good news, Nickelbabe, I'm very glad it worked out for you. (Partly for very selfish reasons, you understand, as it bodes well for me wink )
JaffaCakes my 3 have been to church every Sunday since birth and are generally pretty good, but are still hard work as a group. It's so true; I really don't listen to much of what's going on and maybe that's why I've felt this lack so acutely in recent months. Listening to the services/programmes is a great idea, I'll have a look at radio shows or podcasts or something - it never crossed my mind before.
Nickelbabe and Newlark the children's liturgy at my church is only for school-age children so my 3 are too young. But I could suggest adding a group for younger kids if I'm feeling brave. We've just moved so I'm new to this parish and will need to be a bit sensitive, but I suspect that anyone offering to help will get a receptive audience. I'd do almost anything to have 3 weeks out of 4 to have a pray in peace.
Zulubump wow, that sounds like a lovely accepting thing, and really cathartic. I'm happy that you've had such a positive experience. I don't fear rejection from church friends (most Catholics I know don't believe everything either), but as you say, having friends who understand your struggle would be great. I should really ask some friends irl how they handle it but I'm very reticent about speaking about faith in general.
Newlark I love the mustard seed idea. I maybe just need to be patient with myself. But then again, I am so aware that I've just coasted along with this rubbish faith and not really doing anything to change it, that I need to try doing something.
Conflugenglugen a retreat would be wonderful (especially the silence bit!) and it's on my wish-list for when the children are a lot older. I wouldn't limit myself to a Christian one, as I can see the spirituality in so many other traditions.
But at the moment, I can't be going away on retreats. Does anyone have any experience of the "30 mins a day retreats" that the internet is full of? Are they the spiritual equivalent of those daft "Learn Spanish in 10 days" courses?

aig Sun 29-May-11 14:49:24

Have you tried using the examenen? It is a way of thinking about your day with God and is a good way to reflect on your life and faith. This is a link which explains what it is and how to do it.

http://norprov.org/spirituality/ignatianprayer.htm

The huge plus about this is it takes ~10-15 minutes daily and there are no rules! Also it i compatible with life with young children.
An excellent book 'Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life' by Dennis Linn gives another way into this form of prayer.

PogueMahone Sun 29-May-11 17:11:02

Thanks aig, the examenen sounds spot on! I had a look just now and it looks very do-able. Funnily enough I had a look at Ignatian spirituality a few weeks ago, and downloaded the Spiritual Exercises, but quickly realised that I was out of my depth. I'm so pleased you linked to this smile (I'll have a look at the Bread book too.)

aig Sun 29-May-11 18:29:15

I hope it will be helpful - I have been using it for several years and I think it is great!

mariamagdalena Sun 29-May-11 23:13:00

Hiya Pogue
I read a lovely book 'why I am still a catholic'. Gave me some ideas of why / how others clung to their sometimes wobbly beliefs.
Also read somewhere that mother Teresa spent her life in prayer and obedience to God despite mostly being without any inner sensation of faith.
The thing I like about Catholicism is the idea that the Sacraments still work on us even when we're in no condition to work with them.

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