Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The second most important thing I've ever written.

The second most important thing I’ve ever written.

The other day, my friend Kenyan Sam told me that sometimes he doesn’t believe God exists. Most of the time those moments of doubt correspond with something he’s watched on the History Channel about people discovering Jesus’ grave or a documentary on why Moses didn’t really cross the Red Sea. But when that happens, Kenyan Sam feels heavy with guilt, overwhelmed with the sensation that a real Christian shouldn’t ever doubt God.

That, is nonsense.

I’ve always listed the church’s horrendous job at creatively representing God as its greatest sin on mankind. Every time I drive in downtown Atlanta and see a billboard that says, “Got Destiny” or “Got Jesus” I want to throw up a little in my armrest. God created the Cayman Islands and the platypus and about a million other weird and wonderful things. Is ripping off an advertising campaign from the Milk Council really the best we can do to reflect how ridiculously creative he is?

I digress.

But maybe the poor image we’ve created isn’t the biggest way we and I include myself in that, have blown it. Maybe the biggest lie we’ve allowed to be told is that to be a Christian means you don’t ever doubt. That to be a Christian means you’re done with disbelief, that you get some sort of answer key to life and move out permanently from the land of confusion.

I don’t know the origin of this lie, but I think that it grows under the stairwells of our hearts when we try to confess it and are met with resistance. For instance, when you tell someone you’re doubting the very existence of God and their first response is, “You need to pray more and read the Bible more” a line has been drawn. On one side are the good Christians that don’t doubt and are faithful to their quiet times. On the other side is you, full of questions and sin. I confess that I used to think this way. I saw doubt as inherently sinful and reflective of the utmost failure. Until I read Jeremiah.

The book of Jeremiah is basically the words of a prophet warning God’s people that punishment and annihilation is on its way. Jeremiah was intimately connected to God, essentially having personal conversations with him in which God would impart words and actions in a very one to one way. To put it mildly, Jeremiah was a super Christian. What’s interesting though is the picture of extreme doubt Jeremiah offers to us.

Here is what Jeremiah says about God in 20:13
13 Sing to the LORD!Give praise to the LORD!He rescues the life of the needyfrom the hands of the wicked.

Isn’t that nice and sweet? Yay God! He rescues us and is worthy of praise. Hooray.

Here, in the very next verse is what Jeremiah says:
14 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!

Are you kidding me? That is amazing. In the span of a single verse he transforms from singing praises to the Lord to cursing his mother’s womb. I’ve definitely had my moments of doubt but never have I cursed my mother’s womb. He goes on to complain that someone should have killed him in the womb. Good times, good times.

Those verses are awesome for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Jeremiah is honest. I think lots of people feel like Kenyan Sam but just don’t admit it. Second, Jeremiah wasn’t saying those words because he was disconnected from God. He was speaking with God daily, for years. His doubt was not the product of lack of effort. It was heartfelt and soul driven. And third, it makes my doubt feel manageable.

The concept of God is big and mysterious. We worship the unseen, praise the unknown, live for the creator of the universe and the previously mentioned platypus. It’s a bizarre arrangement. I think Rampage Jackson, one of the champions of the Ultimate Fighting Championship league, said it best “Being saved is the weirdest thing that can ever happen to you.”

He’s made a living traveling internationally to break people’s faces with his hands and feet, but that’s not the weirdest thing he’s done. God is and he’s right. It is weird. And when we’re not honest about it we make other people feel weird and worst then that, we make them feel like failures. Like people on the outside looking in.

What’s the second most important thing I’ve written? Doubting God doesn’t invalidate your faith.

1 comment:

bree said...

i think God is speaking to me, right now, through what you've typed.

i continue to feel really weird, maybe this is weirder. one comment is slightly strange, but i think i'm crossing to ridiculously peculiar.

i read this one right after 'the poet with no voice'.

i guess, since i actually don't know you and stuff, i can randomly unload on your blog. here we go:

at d-now i completely alienated and freaked everyone in my house out, by [during our share time] confessing that "i'm practically not a christian. i am having serious doubts about His existence and His silence is beginning not to bother me."

i've talked to my youth pastor, but i guess i've been ashamed to talk to God. i think you said it well that doubt has been painted as the biggest sin a christian can committ, or the biggest failure he can create. anyway. i guess it's time to ask forgiveness and accept it fully without shame.

that's hard.

thanks for having these.