Friday, January 15, 2016

Faith and Doubt

I picked up my phone from my beside table to check the time and saw that there was a post from Preston Yancey, a writer, author, and Anglican priest in training who's trying to figure out God. Typically, I don't like to start the day with my phone in my hand because I'm tempted by this very type of thing. But my alarm clock is broken, so I decided to waive my rule and read the post.

Preston wrote today about the struggle of faith in light of being a new father to a son born with significant challenges--born with these challenges after Preston and an entire community of people prayed for his healing in eutero this summer.

Then I read about Jesus in John 14:8-11. Philip asked Him to do something for him and all the disciples. "Show us the Father," he asked. "That will be enough for us." As I read Jesus' response, I had one of those rare experiences where I could actually imagine Jesus' tone as He responded. I believe He sounded tired and a bit surprised, although I'm not sure anything could surprise the One Who knows my thoughts before I speak them (Psalm 139:4). If I'd been Jesus in this situation, I would've wondered, with a high degree of incredulous disbelief, how Philip or any of them could even ask such a question after all He'd shown them.

Still, He provided what they needed with this explanation: "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father." I was so engaged by this exchange that I reread it several times, wondering how Jesus felt and what He meant by His words.

I put down my phone and pulled on some clothes to take Dakota for her early morning constitutional, aka poop walk. As we walked in the dark in the not-yet-falling-hard rain, I began to think about what I'd read in light of my circumstances. I can relate to Philip and the disciples. Even though I have been a follower of Jesus since I was four, I continue to have things I want to know from God. By my own estimation, my belief is great but, still, I want to SEE. I think this is the tension between faith and doubt. I know what I know, but sometimes I want to see what can't be seen. I put too much weight on what is temporary and not enough on what is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).

Lately, I feel like all I'm doing is coming to God with too many requests. I want to see Him move in people's lives, demonstrate His power, reveal His love, defeat the enemy, and and and. I don't know how to listen very well. It gets really quiet when I try and that makes me uncomfortable. Someone I read recently suggested that our prayers might come off to God like demands--move, demonstrate, reveal, defeat, do do do. Like He can be told how to do ANYTHING. Like He's under any obligation to give me what I long to see, see, see.

I don't want to relate to God that way, but is there any other way than from a place of dependence? I think dependence is the expression of faith, praise, hope, belief, thanksgiving, as much as it is an admission of doubt, anger, confusion, and fear. I think God knows that I will accept whatever He chooses to do. I express my dependence through doubt when I admit my own inability to make any of what I'm asking happen. That too is faith.

Preston admitted that he and God have had moments since his son's birth when he has "simultaneously begged Him to heal his son and told Him to go to hell." Does this mean Preston doesn't believe? That he doesn't have enough faith not to doubt God or not question His ways out loud?

No.

I don't have a nice bow to wrap up this post. After I got back from the walk, I avoided sitting down at the blue table for a good hour, not really sure I had something to say. Some days I question whether my words are enough. I set those questions aside for the sake of the process of leaning into the unknowable, and this post is the result.

The relationship between faith and doubt is much like Jesus' relationship with His disciples, with Preston, and with me. He welcomes us to come to Him with what we know and what we don't understand, and says to each one of us what He said to his disciples: "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves." Sometimes I find it easier to believe the first part than to believe the last part. Jesus didn't heal everybody, but He did die for everybody. The tough stuff has to be worked out between you and Him.

Ask Preston.

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