Thursday, March 3, 2011

They Shoot Doubters, Don't They?

Yesterday at work, as my friend Amber walked away to leave, she said in closing, "Pray for me." I turned to her and said, "Sure. My prayers haven't been working out so well for me, maybe they will for you." She wrinkled up her nose at me, as if silently saying, "Alisha, cut it out!" and walked out the door. I laughed and returned to my office. A couple of hours later, one of my coworkers came to my office and sat down. She's a Christian, and over the past three years or so, we've shared numerous faith-filled conversations. She asked me point blank about the tail end of my talk with Amber, which she had overheard.I retold it, and then explained, "Well, it's the truth. My prayers have been coming up short lately."

Genuinely concerned, she said, "Sometimes, God doesn't answer our prayers the way we'd like, at the time we like." I said, "Yes, well, I know that." And honestly, I do. I've sat with many people over the years having this conversation, only I was always in the role of "encourager". I continued, "It's just with my health situation the past two years, the fact no doctor has been able to tell me, definitively, what's wrong has thrown me. I've been to like 13 doctors, and now, I just don't trust doctors. But I believed God would give me some insight, something. But it never happened." Her face grew from concern to worry. "We should be careful, as Christians, what we say to non-Christians. We don't know how much they have contact with us, where they stand with God. Sometimes... we have to put on a front."

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to finish the convo, but it got me thinking: as Christians, do we owe it to non-Christians to keep up a front, even when we're wracked with doubt? What about other Christians, should we keep frontin' for them, too?

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On all of my most heartfelt posts on this blog, I've kept it pretty real. Maybe too real, discussing events in my life from co-workers who knocked my natural hair to my own natural inherent b****iness. My family, last name, weight- I've put it out... er, up here.

But I've kept some things back, of course. And one of those topics I've hinted at but never came right out and discussed, is my rollercoaster-like faith journey. There have been incidents in my life that have plain and simple shook me to the core. My health yes, but other things, too, like my parents' divorce, getting my heart broken, death of co-workers and friends. My loved ones' suicides, heart attacks and rape. Both my mom and dad's declining health, which began to tumble down before either had gotten into their fifties well.

Of course, being well acquainted with the Bible, passages of Scripture come to my mind when I go through trouble. Psalms 91 flows into Paul's writings about having a lot and little, and Jesus' promise to never leave or forsake us. But when I have stumbled into a spiritual abyss, the truth hardens into sentences, phrases and lonely little words. I have immersed myself in those words, and still felt the Word had, indeed, left me long behind.

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I haven't met any Christian who hasn't gone through valleys, but I am often surprised by how often we do not want to discuss those parts of our journeys. We'll sing praises from the mountains, but become near mutes after a tumble, even to each other. Why? Are we scared of judgment? Scared God will be mad at us, even knowing He is all-knowing and is aware of it anyway? Is it pride? Shame? Why does it seem easier to admit to lies, cheating and lusting before saying, like Meryl Streep did, "...I have my doubt!"?

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I suppose if it's so darn hard to admit to struggling with doubt to fellow Believers, the thought of telling someone outside the faith would probably be downright obscene. So I can understand why my co-worker would caution me about my statement to Amber.

 No diggity, No Doubt: We all can't have the confidence of Gwen Stefani and crew.

On the other hand, is it wrong to admit to struggling to non-Christians? I've often been told the fact I was honest about my faith walk made me approachable. Some Christians come off so righteous, they intimidate others. Which is quite true, because I'm intimidated by those seemingly unshakable brothers and sisters. Not that I think they never question, but because they remain so pulled together in their armor of Christ despite the floating question marks.

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The older I've gotten, the more I've realized it's okay to question God. Really. It seems His followers are more upset by interrogative sentences than He is. Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Jonah, David and Solomon all asked away. None ended up blackened toast, even though Jonah did have a verrrry uncomfortable stay in a whale. But his sentence to belly jail was really due to disobedience, not questions.



When St. Thomas, who thanks to countless Sunday school classes was given a new first name of "Doubting", wanted to see for himself his risen Lord, Jesus did not haul off and smack him. No Jesus said, "...Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." I figured I'd go ahead and make Jesus' words appear in red, what with the King James Version English. Anyway, even though Jesus said those who believe without seeing are blessed, that doesn't mean Thomas wasn't. If anything, his response upon seeing Jesus alive- "My Lord and My God"- is extremely powerful. He had been told that Jesus had risen, yet He wanted... no, needed, his own experience. He had to know for himself, during what had to be a HUGE valley of faith, that Jesus was alive and had defeated death. That Jesus taught truth... that Jesus is indeed the Truth.

The story of St. Thomas comforts me. It shows me that even from the start, followers of Jesus wanted to not just be told, not to just hear, but see. They wanted the personal experience. Not just with words, but with the Word.

4 comments:

Alan said...

Yeah I think we as Christians very often dont want to talk about our troubles and doubts, because no one else around us is, so for me to speak up, would mean I'm lower than everyone here. Its only when by chance we happen to find out that someone else feels the same as we do and then there is that magical "me too!" moment and the issues are finally brought to light.

Preachers or leaders dont want to speak or mention it because they feel it would diminish their ability to lead and influence others. And while there is some truth to the idea, it is also flawed. Say as a pastor your having a rough time lately, you express that your having doubts to your congregation in an efforts to be up front and truthful, yet because of this, you cause some individuals to walk away from the church and the faith entirely. What then?

I dont think we should put on a front, but yet I feel discretion is in order. I would even argue that to have doubts is to be Christ like : Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

To have doubts, is to have an urge to better understand a given situation and or feeling. I argue that You cannot fully grasp or believe anything unless you have gone through a period of doubting, which has thus brought you to a period of understanding.

Alisha De Freitas said...

"I argue that You cannot fully grasp or believe anything unless you have gone through a period of doubting, which has thus brought you to a period of understanding."

Wow, that's an awesome statement. I'll be pondering it for awhile.

Veron said...

Wow Alisha...I promise I had no idea you wrote this earlier. haha. :-> And I can VERY much relate to aspects of your faith journey, and the conversations you've had with Christians.

By the nature of what I share on Explore Truth, I have gotten a few cautionary comments on how to be sensitive, or quiet when it comes to critically examining what we believe truth to be. Like having someone question, or really, truly wrestle with questions of God, religion, life, was a cardinal sin!

That's why I appreciate some of what Peter Rollins asserts. Believing in so many ways is easy to do...but doubting...constructively...can be the hardest thing for people...but often the most needed. All in the name of developing a truer, really experience, in wherever truths journey brings you.

Thanks for your post!!

Joseph Flemming said...

This post was just to good to keep to myself.. a must read!
I shared this on facebook & twitter. Thank you for opening up a this for discussion, I have enjoyed the comments & plan to add my own soon. :)

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