On Why We Stay

The Fall equinox came and went several days ago and I’m still not finished with my novel edit. I was hoping to send it off to my agent a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still a few weeks out. Editing is deep creative work and at this stage in my book’s life, it’s sheer grit that keeps me going. I’d really like to move on and keep writing the first draft of book number two in the series. Instead, I’m doing the work that needs to be done–the work that has less immediate gratification, and is far more emotionally taxing. But it’s the work that really matters if this series is going to become something significant.

This morning, I’m holed up in my room for an hour before I head out for a full day of activities, and instead of editing, I decided I wanted to update my blog.

The kids are with their dad this weekend, and John is at an event for Fuller, so I’m home alone. John and I went out last night with some friends and then at the last minute, decided to see a movie. We watched the new Tom Cruise movie about the famous drug smuggler in the late 70’s and 80’s. Interesting movie. Not sure I recommend it, but if you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.


Some of you know I’m a person of faith. I was introduced to Christianity as a young child in a no-so-put-together family that somehow, because of God’s great mercy, managed to crash into a really loving and smart and thoughtful Christianity with a lot of authenticity. Thirty-eight years later here we are …

Some of you also know my faith has been on a roller-coaster ride for about six years. There came a point several years ago when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a Christian anymore. I was disappointed in God and the faith and humanity and a hundred other things. So much so that I wondered if I’d go on believing, or if instead, I’d throw in the towel and become an agnostic. I talked to God all the time about whether or not I wanted to believed in God anymore, the one to whom I was speaking, which is kind of hilarious and sad. I couldn’t even stop taking to the one I wasn’t sure I believed in. God wasn’t very helpful in those conversations, either. Just silent.

I finally realized that if I stopped believing in God, my life would become a vapor, a mere shadow. I’ve built my life around my belief in a present and relational God who loves me. To remove that belief from the structure of my life would be like removing the foundation from a house. It’s just not that easy to do.

So instead of throwing in the towel of my faith, I learned to sit in the uncomfortable places of it and just be there. I learned how to hold everything tenuously and how to shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know, but I choose to stay anyway.” I learned to acknowledge my confusion and frustration and still be with God and with God’s people. Because I like God and because I have loved God my whole life, and because I see that somehow everything real and good and lasting that has ever happened in my life has the handprint of God in it, and so I found a way to wait it out. And to lower my expectations.

In the end, I became much more comfortable with my own humanity, with my own blundering weakness. And in that long space of making my peace with my own failings, I became radically dependent on God’s grace — the grace that holds us together when we can’t hold ourselves together, no matter how hard we try. The grace that reaches for us when we have no strength left to even lift our hand. The grace that believes there are second and third chances, and the grace that says I matter just because I’m here — that is the grace I’ve ordered my life around.

I hear people say, quite often, “I’m fine with God, but I’m done with religion.” And I get it. Much of the pain and heartache and wounds of my life come from the people of God, from the people who are supposed to love, the people who are supposed to be kind and good and whole and accepting, the people who are supposed to be inclusive and gentle and also strong enough to defend the weak. If I didn’t practice daily forgiveness, I’d be a freaking train wreck. If I wanted to, I could write off the whole lot of it and say, “I love God, but I don’t want anything to do with religion.” And there’d be justification in it. It could be that way for each and every person who has ever set foot inside a religious institution. Sometimes religion gets it so damn wrong that it’s not even funny.

But for some inexplicable, mysterious reason I just can’t walk out and not look back. Because it’s in the service, it’s in the breaking of bread, in the singing and the shaking of hands at the end, it’s in the prayers for the sick and the weary, in the confessions and the honest uplifting of our hearts together that I know and feel and believe that I’m home, and that somehow, miraculously, I am among my people. Even if we’re all different. We come as the people who need a God who loves us and knows our names. The people who need to be forgiven as much as we need to forgive, and who, even when it makes no sense, come to the table to receive this bread and this cup, this body and this blood, as a sacrament of grace, a sacrament that captures everything that matters.

That God takes our brokenness, our shattered lives and heals them.

And that God is with us in it.



Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.


  1. This is beautiful. I know you well enough to know that you speak truly from your heart here. Thank you for living a transparent and authentic faith life.

  2. ” I learned how to hold everything tenuously and how to shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know, but I choose to stay anyway.” oh YES. Love to you, friend. Glad you took a break to write this… (and now back to work! Yours in the trenches of editing etc….)

    1. Thanks so much, Bronwyn! It’s really nice to hear from you.

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