The Week I Lost My Faith

I stopped believing the day I entered a Buddhist temple on a mission’s trip.

I stopped believing when I saw the men taking off their shoes before they entered their holy place. When I witnessed their reverent bows, the intimacy with which they kissed the floor with their foreheads.

I was an 18-year-old girl fresh out of Bible School, on the streets of Vancouver, doing missions, and these men had more awe in their bare feet than I’d ever had of God, or than I’d ever witnessed in any church I’d been to. And I wondered if we weren’t just lying to ourselves.

I was supposed to be telling people about Jesus but I wasn’t even praying anymore.

And I felt like I’d just learned I was adopted, because I’d always believed. But these men believed their idol was the truth, too.

And then at the end of a week of sitting with the forgotten on the inner-city streets and serving soup to the hungry and doing things I felt I could do honestly, because I still believed in humanity, I called home.

Mum picked up and said, “Emily? Are you okay?”

“It’s been a hard week, why?”

“God has been waking me up every night this week to pray for you.

And I’m not sure that I didn’t take my shoes off right then and there.

I don’t have all of the answers. I still don’t understand the holiness I felt in the Buddhist temple that day.

But I do know my God sings over me. He wakes my mother to pray for me. And he’s my savior.

[photo: Duane Scott]

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    I’m always struck by the way that God desires to dwell among his people throughout scripture. Your story suggests that nothing has changed. He still makes ground holy. May we listen for his voice, and if we aren’t, may others help us hear it.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      Ed, you are such an encourager. And yes, may we listen for his voice…

  • faithruluv

    Beautiful words this morning. I’ve had those moments as well, when you have to remind yourself that God’s with you, even though it really looks like He’s resting heavier on them.

    “But I do know my God sings over me. He wakes my mother to pray for me. And he’s my savior.” That will be resting on me today.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      “even though it really looks like He’s resting heavier on them.” perfectly said, friend.

  • Ro elliott

    Emily…I love the simple way you told this powerful story…may we as His children…and especially moms…be attentive to His Spirit because we might just help someone find Holy Ground. love to you my friend…blessings~

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      “because we might just help someone find Holy Ground.” AMEN. love this friend.

  • Janelle

    I long for the holiness and tradition that many other religions have. The passion. I long to see that in the church. So I get that. I really get that.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      thank you janelle. it helps so much to know i’m not alone.

  • Holly

    Thank you for always telling the truth.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      thank you for always loving me, dear holly.

  • Ryan Haack

    “He wakes my mother to pray for me.” Wow…gut shot. Thank you for sharing this, Emily.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      i appreciate your words here, ryan. peace to you. e.

  • Katherine Willis Pershey

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      thank you so much dear katherine.

  • Shelly Miller

    I love the way God speaks to us uniquely when we suffer with doubt. Like your mother being led to pray for you intently and then telling you. Only you would’ve known why.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      that’s exactly right, shelly. how he meets us uniquely. how he loves us individually. love you friend.

  • Elizabeth

    Emily, your beautiful honest heart. This is lovely. This is real. I am going back for a second read. So much grace to soak up into my soul, this day. Thank you, friend. Elizabeth, wynnegraceappears

  • Elizabeth

    “But I do know my God sings over me.” Oh Emily. Sorry to take up space but I just love hearing your heart here. Poetic and beautiful. Thank you again for this. Elizabeth

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      do you know how much it means to me that you went back for a second read? never apologize for taking up space. i appreciate your encouragement so much, friend.

  • Chelle Wilson

    Extraordinary, I love that you write your faith and your humanity. Beautiful. I am a fan.
    God’s peace and good to you.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      thank you so much dear chelle. i appreciate these words, immensely.

  • Katie Axelson

    I love this, Emily! I had a similar experience except it was over Easter weekend. How on earth can I go to church three times in four days and decide Jesus didn’t really die on the cross and wasn’t raised to life again for me? It was the scariest and most shameful weekend of my life but Easter has a whole new meaning of rebirth for me.


    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      wow katie this is powerful! i would love to hear/read more about this experience sometime. and i love how God met you in the midst of it all.

      • Katie Axelson

        Thanks, Emily. It’s not something I talk about much… as in, ever before this comment.

  • Brooke Gale Luby

    Thank you for your honesty, Emily. I love that Jesus is not surprised or shocked by these moments. He understands our humanity more than we do.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      i love this too, dear brooke. bless you.

  • Tanya Marlow

    So much in so few words… In other religions you catch a sense of awe and reverence, but no personal interaction. I love that we have a God who is holy, but also near – He sings over us. so beautiful.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      yes!! that is right. our God loves us enough to die for us. to become undignified. to wash our feet. thank you for this sweet tanya.

  • Lheyd59

    You can have a lot of reverance and passion for something that will lead you nowhere, in times like this it is important to remember that Satan masquerades as an angel of light in order to deceive even the elect if he possible could, but i do agree with you, I am bothered at times by the amount of irreverence I have seen in church at times….but God is always working, I will never forget the day He showed up when I was home alone….I was blindsided by His holliness and I will never forget it. He is working behind the scenes, and sometimes so quietly you don’t even know He is there, but He is. I am so glad you have a praying Mama like me…its kind of what I posted on yesterday! Great post!

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      i love this. i love how God met you in your home. i love how he isn’t limited by our doubts or our failures. thank you for this, friend.

  • Cris Ferreira

    Beautiful story, Emily!Recently I visited missionaries who lived in a very poor city here in Brazil. I saw the love in their eyes for their community, and without speaking they preached more about God’s love than many sermons at church. Sometimes, we need to be out of the church and in the real world to truly see God.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      Ahh, I love this story Cris. So true. Bless your beautiful heart.

  • happygirl

    I love when God lets you know he is with you. I’ve felt lost before, but I know God has a tight hold on me, even when I’m not sure.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      Amen, sister.

  • Diane Bailey

    Tears flowing…I remember and sometimes wonder again…but His ways are unsearchable…right? I don’t understand all there is, but as it is said in Eccleseasties we could spend the rest of our lives trying to figure it all out, but in the end, there is only God. So I have stopped searching and rested in, HE Is God.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      “in the end, there is only God.” amen, dear diane. so much love to you.

  • Southern Gal

    Oh, you have such a gift, Emily. I know I say that over and over, but you do. God is good to sing over us and wake our mothers to pray for us when we need it most.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      you know friend? i never tire of hearing it. because i doubt myself over and over. so thank you. thank you.

  • Mike McArthur

    Emily, we truly have lost something haven’t we. This is an aspect of the great cathedrals which impresses me – a sense of reverence and majesty attributed to God (quite aside from the tourists!). As you point out, God is very real, very intimate – He woke your Mum up to pray. It is hard to be intimate and awestruck, reverent and rejoicing but this is exactly the response appropriate for our God. Thank you for a beautiful post.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      this is it. this poignant tension between awe-struck and intimate, and i am praying for more wisdom, and with that, more fear of God. thank you mike, for your heart.

  • lindalouise

    I do understand Em. I too long for more holy reverence. I don’t know the answer, but I do know He is here – and He is a loving, holy God.

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      you share my heart, linda-friend.

  • Bethany Ann

    there’s not much left to my idea of “living by faith”. because i Know that i need to obey; and i will. the last shred of Holy Spirit moving i continually witness is His leading us to pray. like you mentioned: in the night; in the day, for no known reason. He is moving and living and moving us to live, and He is taking care of the rest. xo

  • thefisherlady

    “But I do know my God sings over me. He wakes my mother to pray for me. And he’s my savior.”

    This blessed me right down to my toes… as I sit here praying for so many… God is the mover of mountains and nothing is too hard for Him.

    I love your gentle heart!

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      i love your praying heart, friend. thank you for this.

  • farmgirl paints

    amen to not having all the answers…you found your faith after all! love you girl!

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      oh becky, i love you too. and how you wrestle with it all, as well. xo

  • suzy – a soulful life

    This was so beautiful Emily. I love how you describe the sacredness in the Buddhist temple.
    I love how God breathes through all. You’ve captured this so perfectly :)

    • Emily Theresa Wierenga

      and i love how God breathes through you, friend. thank you, as always, you’ve brightened my day.

  • Jen

    So real. So honest. Emily, you carry so eloquently, the embodiment of so much this world is missing. Genuine faith. A rare commodity.

    • Emily Wierenga

      you are SUCH an encouragement to me jen. thank you sister.

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  • Keith Dow

    Powerful article, Emily. It reminded me of Kierkegaard on objective vs. subjective truth and a question about praying to an idol:

    • Emily Wierenga

      thank you so much keith. i loved your response to this in your post.

  • Gretchen

    I felt this exact same feeling when I was visiting Hindu temples, Jain temples, and Sikh gudwaras in India. How can they have as much faith in their gods as I have in mine? How can I say that my faith is true and theirs is not? How much does the culture and country where you are raised influence your religion? I struggled with all of these things and still do. I haven’t found any answers other than to know that their devotion helps me to feel the same for my God and my religion.

    • Emily Wierenga

      i love that last line, gretchen. and i love your honest heart. i think God blesses us for being real with him.

  • JoDee Luna

    I also have a mother who awakens in the night to pray for me, and I loved your honest, heart-felt post. I left for the mission field just after I turned 20 and encountered similar life-changing experiences as you described. Now 33 years later, I can attest to the fact that often the holy ground rests under our feet as we walk among people in the common stuff of life. I’m glad I came across your blog.

    • Emily Wierenga

      we are so blessed to have these mothers, friend. i’m so glad to have found you too.

  • Emily Wierenga

    oh bethany. i love how you wrestle with the angels, how you always fight to know what is true. you are such a kindred spirit.

  • Phaerisee

    Great article. This reminds me of the painful yet humorous attempt by Romney to portray himself as a conservative christian. If people knew what he really believed, people would run in the other direction and tell everyone they know. This short cartoon about Mormons gives you an idea:

  • Mel @ Trailing After God

    I love this! Thank you for sharing. I wonder sometimes if we don’t have enough reverence for God and then I see how easy it is to get caught up in legalism. If we trust God to lead us and ask Him for His wisdom, He gives it.

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God