30 September 2009

Meditation: "Doubt"

Jesus said to him, "...all things can be done for the one who believes." Immediately, the father of the child cried out, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23-24)

"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke

"Indeed God is mysterious...In the end, it is not this mystery that keeps us from God. The mystery is in fact part of what draws us to God." --Gregory S. Clapper


Dear Friends,

For me personally, I've discovered an unexpected downside to Facebook. (For those who don't know, Facebook is an internet social-networking site.) I cannot fault Facebook for this one because, honestly, it's my issue. So here it is--visiting the profile pages of "friends" on Facebook stirs up the latent doubts in my heart about my Christian faith.

Why? Because so few people of my generation have anything to do with religion generally, Christianity in particular, and the church even more specifically. I read the Facebook profiles of people from high school and college and very few, if any, appear to have anything to do with a church much less religion. More than a few express negative or even hostile sentiments about religion. I am often impressed with the amazing things people my age have done and are doing--they are educators, doctors, environmentalists. But there's not much there in the realm of religion. Not to over-generalize from my poking around Facebook (although statistics do bear this out), but by and large people in their 20's and 30's don't have much to do with "organized religion" (which is a weird phrase itself--I've never experienced authentic religious experiences as very "organized").

Of course, my life is immersed in the church. As a pastor, not a day goes by when I am not encountering scripture or thinking about God or striving to practice my Christianity. And so I feel a bit like an odd-ball, out-of-step with my generation, kind of a curiosity. That which is central to my life is peripheral, at best, to so many others my age.

And so my latent doubt is stirred up and I wonder: "Am I fooling myself?"

But here's the deal: I just can't let go of this God thing. On a level that my rational brain cannot fully process, I feel in my guts that God is real and that--for me--Jesus Christ is the Way to connect with that God-reality. Yes, I have doubts and questions--more than I care to own up to. Yes, there is unbelief in my believer's heart. There are days when I imagine what it would be like to not go to church, to make decisions in life apart from my Christianity--and it feels exceedingly strange. The sense I have is that my life would be impoverished, less meaningful. And even trying to imagine this is, for me, ultimately a futile exercise. My own being is so inextricably linked with the faith of Jesus Christ that trying to separate them would be like trying to take the red out of red. It wouldn't be red anymore.

The quote above resonates so much for me--the mystery of God, rather than being a barrier, is what draws me to God. In that mystery there is space--for belief and unbelief alike--space for questions and doubt and awe and wonder and passion and fervent prayer. That's a space I can inhabit, where I can make a home. A place where I can be still and know...that God is.

Blessings on you,


Prayer: God of Mystery, when doubt is stirred in my heart, grant me patience and peace. By your Spirit, lead me "out of the question, and into the mystery."*

* A lyric from David Wilcox's song "Into the Mystery"

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