On doubt

Processed with VSCOcam with se2 presetI think I more fully understand the cry of the father in Mark 9: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Maybe doubt is a reality of growing older and experiencing more of life. I think, too, that it is just a reality of being human. In an age that demands evidence and reason for everything, believing what we can’t see sometimes feels naive or just kind of silly.

But perhaps doubt in itself is not wrong; only how we doubt and then if it begins to control us. The father of the boy possessed by an unclean spirit makes me think that belief does not suddenly negate all unbelief; unbelief is not always a mark of weak faith.

Doubt can exist parallel to belief: the kind of belief that strives to see God in every corner of the earth. The dailyness of our lives can easily lead to doubt that He is involved in every detail. Maybe we think it would be easier to believe God’s goodness if He showed up more often in fire and in lightning. But the beauty of this world we live in is that every inch calls us to believe.

“We may think that it would be a great deal easier to believe if the world erupted around us, if some savior came down and offered as evidence the bloody scars in his side, but what the Gospels suggest is that this is not only wishful thinking but willful blindness, for in fact the world is erupting around us, Christ is very often offering us the scars in his side.” (My Bright Abyss, Christian Wiman)

It is hard to understand that He is perfect love, or to believe that He does not withhold any good thing. But I think I can believe Him when I see the beauty of a brilliant color or feel the evening breeze because I know that He is drawing all of creation to Himself so that He might renew and make new every inch of our beings.

And so even in our unbelief we can join Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God!” as we see the face of the Savior in the brilliant stars or the face of the stranger on the street, in every sorrow and song, and in the feathers of the bird and the blue of the sky. In the midst of our unbelief, we practice belief and someday we will find that we can more truly say, “I believe.”

Glory in the skies

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 presetThere seems to be something we can’t resist about taking photos of the sky, particularly of the view out of an airplane window. How many of us have a photograph like this and how many more will we have in our lifetime? Probably hundreds, and no two of them the same.

And the most striking part: the sky always holds magnificent views. Some days it stretches across as a huge, empty expanse and other days fills up with layers of clouds that look like waves or soft places to land. To think that this beauty exists simply because God delights in it. This glory that is far above our heads and sings even when no one is there to hear the song.

Magnitude. Immensity. Glory.

So much glory up there in the clouds, yet God says that of all His creation, we are “very good.” To realize that humanity contains more glory than even the sky. To think that He made us, human creatures, and placed glory upon us. And then He sent His son who bore this glory, perfected; who now counts us as co-heirs and gives us His glory.

The sky speaks big stories; yet they are small compared to the story of the Beauty of the universe, the Word Himself who transforms us into His image as we move from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3)

Grief requires beauty

IMG_20131103_130817And when people cease to believe that there is good and evil
Only beauty will call to them and save them
So that they will still know how to say: this is true and that is false.
(Czeslaw Milosz)

My dear grandmother died yesterday.

I grew up learning theologies of suffering and death. As I grew older, I read stories that presented me with answers to the problem of death and pain. I studied theodicy in my English classes and learned the vocabulary of my church’s teachings on death and suffering. I had succinct and neat answers all tied up in a nice little bow in my mind.

And then I was faced with an actual death, the first I have experienced of someone close to me. That pretty little package in my head fell apart. Questions flooded my mind, fears and doubts and deep grief at the way this world is. We weren’t made to die. I ask questions, and my husband doesn’t answer. He sits and listens and wipes my tears away. But there are no answers. We don’t have them. Answers wouldn’t help, anyway.

My husband always tells me that the answer to grief is beauty. Our theology gives us a foundation in the midst of these torrential rains, but it doesn’t satisfy our grief. My mind knows that God is good, but how hard it is for our hearts to believe it and our bodies to taste it.

Instead of talking and looking for answers, we just went on a walk by the lake. The deep blue sky held a few wispy clouds, and the breeze brought one of my favorite sounds: the wind in the trees. The water rippled gently, and we just walked, my hand in his.

Grief doesn’t require answers. Grief needs beauty. My questions don’t have answers. Many of them never will. Death hurts, and grief is good and necessary and human. But in that afternoon walk, the world reminded me that beauty is true and God is good. His ways are unfathomable and his power frightening, but the sky remains blue, and the leaves and the grass display a hundred shades of green. The water ripples again and again: constancy on display. The sun gives warmth in the autumn air, the ducks look content just paddling around the edge, and I look at my husband and love his long eyelashes and the fuzz on his chin.

Tell me that God is love, yes. Tell me that He is sovereign and that all things work together for my good. Tell me that all is in His control for the sake of His glory.

But first take me on a walk and let me taste and feel and see the goodness of God.