About six months ago, I offered to start volunteering with the youth at my church.
I’d been attending services there for a few months, hiding in one of the back pews and not talking to anyone. I was getting to be pretty lonely and figured I had been going to church there long enough, so I asked if I could help out sometimes with the middle and high schoolers.
Over the ensuing months, I somehow fell into teaching Sunday school to middle schoolers and helping out with the youth group.
And to be honest, in a way, it has saved me.
When I first offered to volunteer, I was still finding my way through my most recent existential crisis/faith deconstruction/bout of general angst about everything.
I had watched most of what I thought I knew fall apart; wondered what, if anything I still believed; and switched to a very different kind of church than the ones I had been attending. I felt like something inside me had died, and I wasn’t really sure what would come next.
Sounds like the perfect person to teach Sunday school to middle-schoolers, right?
But I remembered that I like working with kids and have a fair amount of experience working with them in a church setting. So I decided to take the plunge.
It didn’t take long before I was regularly involved. It turns out that when you offer to volunteer in one way at a small-ish, mainline church, you’re basically signing up to volunteer for everything.
And I found that as I gave my time to people outside of myself, my endless questions about existence became a little less pronounced.
I started thinking less about how the universe is big and we really don’t know anything and more about how I could do meaningful work. Maybe I still didn’t really know how I know what I know, but that didn’t seem as important anymore.
I found meaning in the daily acts of caring for others, and that helped me start to find my faith again.
It looked different from what I had been taught to believe faith looked like. It was less about existential certainty and more about serving others. Less about trying to find God with my brain or my emotions and more about encountering Him with the work of my hands.
Eventually, some of the brain and the emotional stuff did come. I have some general ideas of what I think about the universe now, though I still have more questions than answers. And I feel less emotionally volatile about faith and church, though I still have healing to do.
I think I’m OK with those things, though.
Sometimes, you have to believe with your hands until your head and your heart can catch up.