By Rev. Ferdinand Llenado
About 7 years ago, I went through a faith crisis. The paradigm shift from fundamentalism towards inclusive thinking, was a journey I have not navigated well.
This crisis led to depression. The depression led to my decision to take a leave of absence from pastoral work.
During this difficult season, the image and symbolic meaning of the Letter U became my faith map. The Letter U’s downward line that hits a low valley curve, greatly illustrates what Richard Rohr calls a “necessary fall,”—a fall that births a potential upward climb. Carl Jung describes this crisis season as a painful transition that leads to the “second-half of life”—a period of rebirth and inner transformation. In other words, it is a faith-emergency that potentially leads to faith-emergence.
While traversing this journey, I learned valuable insights that were pivotal to my recovery. I have written these learnings into 7 benedictions. So whether U, or someone U know is going through a crisis of faith and meaning, allow me to share some words from 5 of the 7 poetic blessings I have written.
May U Be Willing To Not Know
This is the blessing of Mystery. May this mystery that U long avoided, now be a secret womb where God silently knits U.
May darkness give to U the gift of transformation, as caterpillars are miraculously woven inside a dark enfold.
Your soul is being expanded.
May U Not Journey Alone
This is the blessing of Community.
May U know that U don’t have to continue the rest of this journey alone.
U are a spark that attests to the growing blaze of sacred discontent among many.
Your crisis stands as a witness to the larger unrest that are shifting collective views, and giving rise to an emergent communal faith.
Let me say again—no one should be alone in this journey.
But all can converge into an integral story of pain, death, and yes, shared-resurrection.
And so may U receive the blessing of deep conversations and real connections with fellow travelers who bravely ventures faith’s path unknown.
May U Be Kind To Yourself
This is the blessing of Self-Compassion.
May U be validated by your very crisis that others are critical of.
May your deep honesty be your self-affirming witness that your soul is beautifully expanding.
U are whole, and in spite of these changes, your wholeness is unaltered.
U are essential, and in Christ, your essence is secured.
U are loved, and in spite of, or because of this crisis, U are unconditionally fine.
May U Encounter God In Silence
This is the blessing of Resurrection.
If indeed faith crisis is like a death experience, then may U eventually rise up from the tomb of confusion, fear, and numbness.
When the pain of losing your faith’s old vitality pulls you down, grieve.
Give attention to your inner suffering until it is heard and mended.
When your soul is coming to a state of stillness, be open.
Maybe this time God is not found in exact answers but in pure silence and peaceful unknown.
When U sense a soft rhythm stirring within, be ready.
Perhaps it is an indication that your faith is about to reawaken.
May U Walk The Change Though Imperfect
This is the blessing of humble Intention.
Yes, it is intention, but it not propelled by old religious certitudes anymore.
It is purpose, but it’s not caped any longer by the superhero complex of saving the world.
It is power, but it’s not injected any longer with past spiritual steroids.
It is intentionality baptized in life’s humbling adversity.
As you walk slowly and imperfectly, may U honor the spirit of your own unfolding.
May U harness the inner rising of your renewed intent and energy.
There is a story in the Bible of a man named Jacob who wrestled with a divine being all night until daybreak. When this being saw that he could not overcome Jacob, he threw his hip out of joint. So though Jacob won that wrestling bout with a new name and a spiritual blessing, he was left with a limp. The limp will be Jacob’s humbling reminder of both his strength and frailty. The limp will also be used by many as a metaphor for life’s highest ideals that are confounded by life’s inevitable flaws.
In my own faith crisis, I found great comfort and connection with Jacob’s limping walk at Peniel. It represents my faith’s persistent imperfections as I slowly thread the U-map’s upward course.
So in the end, let me say this—even with a limp, may U and I genuinely journey on.
The benedictions here are taken from Rev. Llenado’s book, “May U Journey On: 7 Blessings in Faith Crisis” released earlier this month.
Rev. Ferdinand Llenado currently serves the Bethany and First United Methodist Churches in Tacoma, Washington. In July, he’ll be appointed to Fairwood Community United Methodist Church in Renton, Washington.