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Lent Diary: The Wilderness of My Spiritual Doubts (Day 3)

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I.

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.

2.

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 Act.

3.

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.”

4.

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?

Melody

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.

I Found Love {The Challenge of “Eat This Book”}

I’ve never read the Bible from end to end. I grew up in the church but biblical literacy was not encouraged, until Blackhawk. Reading the ancient books I wondered—does God love me? Who am I to question God? And yet, I regularly bring questions and doubt to my reading of scripture.

I cringe reading the Old Testament, at times embarrassed that it is a part of my religion because the God of the ancient stories seemed appalling to me. As I open up the text, doubts loudly dominate as I wonder: Is God full of wrath, as ruthless and destructive of cultures as these stories seem to convey? More vital personally, does God look down on and limit women, or simply ignore women’s existence like so many of the Old Testament stories do, or worse, does God consider me less worthy because I am female? This is a topic I’ve dedicated a lot of time and thought to, with questions I bring to the text because of their application today.

As a result, for months I quit reading the selected texts for Eat This Book. Dejected, I felt heavy-hearted, even bogged down with discouragement, that this ancient, patriarchal, violent religion was connected to my faith and church, thoughts I have dodged for most of my adult spiritual life.

A wise friend suggested I read it differently, and listen for themeta-story of Yahwehwhich is told and retold over many generations. Still questioning and wondering, still doubtful, I tried to understand what the God of the Old Testament has to do with me, or you, the 21st-century followers of Jesus. In time, through God’s gracious gift of connections, I saw that we, followers of Christ are part of this innumerable family! The Story matters because of the character of God whose faithfulness and love is clear throughout the generations. We are a part of a community of faith — the whole line traced through the Old Testament. Believers are connected, continuing forward. This is our inheritance. This story, the promises and covenant and love of God is for us all, the Story a continuum, toward Jesus. And now I see grace, even back in the ancient stories with the care for the poor, the alien, the widowed, the barren, even the environment.

All my life I’ve been yearning to be a part of something, and finally I understand fully that I am! I know; I see in the Story that God’s faithfulness is infinite, and as it touches each of us, God’s love transforms us through atonement of our sins, actively reconciles people to God and one another.  That’s the promise for you and me.

I read the ancient stories with different eyes now, knowing that we are each a treasured part of the Story. I have intimacy with God in a new way, for the first time.

Strangely this came from knowing the Story. This is utterly awe-inspiring. Yes, God is formidable, to be revered and feared. But “fear of the Lord” is a reverence that strengthens and fills us through our dependence on God. I am significant to this God, who is and was and will be, for all time and outside of time.

Frequently in the ancient texts I noticed people fell on their knees before God when in His presence. I believe this is to be our posture too, awe. Revel in His presence, His affection. I have been both wrecked and healed.

The religion that caused me pain as I began to read the text over time has healed me, bringing reconciliation and restoration to my life.   I am part of that story. It is also my Story, which is breathtaking and devastating, from beginning to end.  Soaking in the big story of the Bible faithfully, as I was truly listening, truly pursuing understanding and wisdom, the Holy Spirit revealed a gift, God’s love.  It was there all along, but I was so caught up in and caught off guard by cultural differences and my assumptions, out of ignorance and naiveté. How difficult it is for us to hear the Truth. And this limits God’s work in me. Now, humbled and convicted, I open the word of God differently—on my knees. Sure of his acceptance and love, in faith that there is something in it for us all no matter our background, our brokenness, our gifts or abilities, or our gender.  There it is, hope for us all.

MHH

This article was originally published in Illuminate, a magazine of Blackhawk Church.

Something else on Eat This Book: Imagine my surprise, I read the Bible Wrong