Summer isn’t my best writing time. If I’m looking for a time at which I can present to you articulate and finished, crafted and detailed…the whole month of July is out. Take August, too. But here I am.
It’s the best and worst thing about being a faith writer that I serve a God who isn’t afraid of mess.
This one is for the doubters. This one is for the ones who think sometimes it’s just a fairy tale: that maybe we made up the whole Christ-being-resurrected thing to process our universal fear of death. Maybe we’re just sitting here making up stories.
This one is for those who feel the hypocrisy of the American church so deep it’s hard to believe we are redeemable, and for those who are arranging all these pieces in your heads, and it doesn’t add up. Perhaps most of all, this one is for those who believe but doubt that you believe well enough. Maybe you’d better say that prayer one more time, take the altar call one more time, get baptized one more time.
If you’ve ever felt like this, you’re not alone.
Some others of us might have doubted, too. Maybe doubting would have been the honest thing to do, but it cost too much. We pressed it down for the children, for the partner, for the people we serve. We hid it because you can’t exactly process that sort of thing in front of everybody, now can you? What if it causes someone else to stumble? What if it draws some other teetering soul out of the church?
But I don’t know, though. It’s summertime. I can’t hide my typos.
After a year of quiet, singular worship (and of course my church in the woods,) I’m inching my way back into a congregation. I heard preachers last week in North Carolina (Pastor Traci Blackmon) who could call me to Jesus and I would actually know where I was going. That’s hopeful stuff. And I’ve known that this year, my year of breaking ground, would also be my year of digging in.
I’m showing up.
It would be nice to think that my past failures to be part of church community were always and only my own failures. It would be nice to think that I just had too many walls, or too strong of walls, but that isn’t the whole story. In ways I couldn’t possibly have shared in blog posts or status updates, I have been sinned against as well as sinned.
To put it bluntly, our churches, as entities, can cause harm. And friends, if we fear to doubt, how will we see?
This is the best and worst thing about being a part of Christ’s body on earth. We serve a God who calls light into all the broken places. Fearlessly. Triumphantly. In victory.
To those who doubt, what I really want to say is, thank you. Especially to those in places of power, who doubt, I want to say thank you. Thank you for letting cracks show in walls built by human hands. Thank you for feeling the risk of taking place in human power structure. Thank you for wondering if it’s true, and trying to figure out if you have the story right. Thank you for noticing that, in context, sometimes our faith looks like a fairy tale.
Where faith bears hypocrisy it is a fairy tale. But faith tested by doubt is precious stuff.
To those who doubt I want to say, thank you. And also I want to tell you to take heart. Birth is messy stuff, and rebirth no less messy. This path is long and winds more times than it should, and it goes through barren patches.
Do you close your eyes through the barren patches? I don’t blame you, if you do. But then, when I walk that way, will I have to walk alone?
I think sometimes this problem of making yourself believe is really a question of how to make things grow. You can’t make a plant grow by pulling on it. You can only feed it good things and make room. (sometimes lots and lots of room) And maybe it isn’t that the gospel story of miracle after miracle is ever going to become more plausible, but that your soul will shift in shape to cleave to it.
Maybe this work is slow, and not very dramatic. Though the setbacks always seem to be quite bold. Maybe it’s just that our priorities change: the sacred story becomes more true than the banality of profane life, because the miracle is more important.
And maybe this can’t really happen unless the expression of the faith — embodied faith — is tested and found true. Maybe the doubt is a signal that there’s a fracture in there somewhere, maybe somewhere frighteningly deep. Maybe the doubt is calling you to a transformation that terrifies, and maybe it should. Maybe that’s what believing in miracles is really about.
To the doubters, and the Andrews of the church, thank you. Thank you for making this real. And making room for other souls to grow. Thank you for keeping your eyes open in the barren patches, so that others feel less alone. It’s because of you that I know what I can and cannot stand on.
Sometimes on Sundays I write about faith and link up with Lisha Epperson and “Give Me Grace.” Go see Lisha’s post today. She has some big news!
Post image by Jennifer Upton