Monday, January 13, 2014

A journey, part 1: Waiting for a sign

Over the next 5 days I will be posting this story in five parts: a journey of doubt, loneliness, and renewal in my college years. I may be more of an over-analyzer than most, but I don't think I'm the only one who has experienced this sort of thing. I hope you enjoy.

When I was seven, driving home from church with my mother, the thought first occurred to me that all my bedtime prayers for Uncle Rob and Grandma might be evaporating into space. I asked God to drop a slip of paper in my front yard confirming his existence.

Twelve years later, halfway through sophomore year at a Minnesota liberal arts college, I found myself running on wooded trails, letting my mind untangle philosophical theories and broken relationships and possible origins of the material world.  I saw a white sheet of paper tacked to a tree and hoped for a split-second it was my note.

I don’t remember exactly how it started, but I know how it felt.

Singing, in a choir of 500 at Christmastime in Minnesota—some of the most beautiful choral music in the world about the birth of Christ—and thinking, “This is a cult. This is absurd. We are singing to a baby and calling him God.”

Waking up in a tourist hotel at 4:30 a.m. in a strange land—Dhaka, Bangladesh. Remembering yesterday’s newspaper reports about extremists bombing tourist hotels, and praying the twenty-third Psalm, only to find no solid ground, no comfort for my fears.

Meeting Muhammad, Darwin, Marx, Descartes, and Virginia Woolf and finding them brilliant. My head spinning with theories, my stomach sinking as I heard scholars explain away morality, miracles, creation.

Waking up one more morning in a panic. I hadn’t slept the questions away.

Sitting in a room of laughing Christians, trying my best to move to the same worship music they did, to smile in the same passionate way they did, realizing I didn’t fit anymore.  


At first, as I felt questions rising within, I didn’t take them seriously. I mean really, I had always been one of the most Christian Christians I knew. My mom worked at the church, and I was born into the arms of church ladies. In first grade I wrote notes to all my friends: Dear Nicole, I hope you know that Jesus died to save you from your sins. Love, Katie. In sixth grade I started cutting out my favorite songs and prayers from church bulletins and pasting them in a journal. Ninth grade gave me my first major dose of failures, and I would fall asleep crying and listening to my Jesus music: “Who is this King of Glory who pursues me with his love?” In eleventh grade, all day I longed for 11 p.m., when I would slide under the covers to read the Bible and fill in the blanks of my Beth Moore devotional book.

I was earnest. But I was not sheltered. Even when I was young, I knew that there was a place for debate and disagreement within the church. Every Friday my parents took me to Amy’s house. Amy, who was two years older than me, turned activist in high school, and Fridays at her house turned into debate night. She introduced a topic, like capital punishment or evolution. I half-heartedly recited the conservative mantra of my Sunday School teacher, and she quoted Jesus. She gave me Dead Man Walking and quickly convinced me we should abolish the death penalty. She made me think about the poor and homeless. She told to master French (she would take care of Spanish) so that one day we could start an organization to help immigrants and refugees.

By the time I started college, I was planning to major in English and Environmental studies so I could work with a nonprofit to combat world hunger. I had read theology, apologetics, and most of the Bible. I had thought through everything, theological, social, and political. I was still in process, but I had a complex working set of beliefs centered on Jesus’ grace. I was ready to change the world.

So how could I be experiencing these kinds of fears and questions?

Want to keep reading? Part 2 is up.


  1. Katie! I am moved hearing this story; you inspire me. Can't wait to read more.

  2. I love this blog ministry! And praise God for you! Yay for great words and ideas, future The Rev. Murcky