In The Wilderness of My Spiritual Doubts
The pull on the soul between belief and disbelief has been the root of much of my spiritual doubt; that I cannot prove my faith, even to myself. This frequent disbelief and self-hatred are two among the many causes for me to hesitate to share my faith story.
Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision.
Add to that my melancholic disposition, a cup half empty view of life and a more than slight bent toward negativity. You might say I’m doomed! I would, no doubt.
Every so often, I fear that I’m in a wilderness of my making.
I have written ad nauseam on my recent, lengthy stretch of epic depression—not the worst, but the longest. One might wonder. If I have only just climbed out of this wilderness then why would I choose, with all my spiritual doubts and with the black dog of depression nipping at my legs, to practice Lent?
Perhaps I’m just desperate enough. Or could it be that I am just hopeful enough to believe that these forty days of surrendering “food and fat” from my over full life, creating lengthy spaces of spiritual and physical hunger, will create a fertile environment for the Holy One
To realize we are not alone among the hurried and haggard human race.
After reading David R. Henson’s Into the Wild: A Lenten Homily I understand myself better than I have in a long time. A good writer will do that; by exposing the raw and ravaged bones of their story, they relieve us of our own heartache.
Suffering people feel alone. Suddenly, reading this I saw it. A tangible provision that came from knowing there is another person in the universe that has felt my pain. It is such a relief! I feel that when I read Heschel or Eugene Peterson or Nouwen or Kierkegaard (Clearly, I need to read more women!!!!) or brilliant poets like Emily Dickenson or Mary Karr, and so many others. And sometimes, I identify with a sermon.
Talking about a wilderness time in his life, Henson says that his wilderness has made him who he is, and has created within him a greater compassion.
“Stories about the wilderness aren’t stories of temptation, either resisting it or triumphing over it. Rather, they are stories of identity. It’s a story of getting a little lost and scared and finding out who you really are.”
As Jesus rises out of the water of his baptism he is proclaimed the Son of God, BELOVED.
That’s what I’ve heard through out my wilderness years. You are beloved. I don’t always accept it. Or believe it. But when we do choose belief over disbelief, we are saying I choose to listen to the voice of God in spite of the voice of the SLANDERER* clanging. Henson says that’s the great temptation—to believe the lie that we are Not Beloved.
I’m learning to recognize how often I listen to the slanderer (whether it is my voice in my head or the real evil one.) With the lengthening of the days (an extra hour of light on Sunday!) how will I fill it? As I experience the spiritual hunger that comes from a physical alertness of this Lenten fast I am eager. Even expectant.
As we become aware of the wilderness in our heart Christ beckons — Let go of self-hatred and grab hold of being named: Beloved.
How is Christ beckoning you?
I hope you’ll forgive these Lent Diaries are a little rough. I don’t want to spend a lot of time perfecting them when I can be doing just the things I wrote about above.
- Henson says the word for devil in the book of Matthew is slanderer.