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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.

A Crack in Your Life, That’s How the Light Gets In

I spent most of my life numb and afraid.

I spent the next while trying to fix myself.  Then, I began to let go of control.

Now life is a daily letting go.

“Maybe you have to have a crack in your disbelief, that’s how the light gets in.”

I am fighting, kicking and screaming inside where I am sadly still a (spiritual) child. I pray to be wise, resilient and strong, spiritually mature and faithful. I pray to live completely without doubt.

I pray, but I do not always live that way. And I am not any of those things today.

Today I am stewing in doubt.  I want proof of a benevolent God, I want it so much I could scream.  (And spiritual tantrum ensues.)

I am fighting, full knowing life has no guarantees.

I am who I am. I am a person who questions everything.  A cynic and pessimist who is perpetually asking why. Why? Why? Why? I never grew up out of why.

Why pain? Why suffering?
Why random illness, ill will, ignorance?  Why random kindness?  Why health, or wealth, or poverty?  Why high IQ’s or low?
Why an Old Boys Club?  Why gender differences and exclusion? Why are people born into privilege? Why are people living in garbage dumps?  

Why Anger?

Why joy?
Why is there depression or anxiety, in children?  In anyone?
Why are some parents cruel, angry even controlling.  Why is it easy to be kind when you have everything? Then I reckon that’s not even true, the kindest gentlest people I have heard of have been materially poor — Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Jesus.
Why illness? Why alcoholism? Why cancer?
Why Facebook and Twitter?
Why hunger, why sexism, why homophobia, why racism? Why are they all in the Church? Why is “the Church” the most despicable place sometimes?
Why is the Word of God so mysterious?  So difficult to understand.  Why is it used as a club to hit people over the head?  Why is it used as a “Club” to exclude?

Why is prayer, this prayer, any prayer just a cry of the soul for help?

Hear me.
Meet me.
Answer me.

Life stripped down, naked.  Past all pretenses. Past and beyond to the heart.  Our belief or disbelief, the Truth; does it really come down to choosing?  What is the alternative?

Chaos and Randomness.

But when your child doubts, it throws back in your face all that you have held dear. Now that is a different kind of awakening.

Because I cannot defend intellectually the comfort I have found in knowing God.   I only know that I am a different person, down deep inside where I was once shattered and broken.  I have been rebuilt into a strong and empathetic person that believes in loving others, as the greatest and highest aspiration one can have.

God has helped me to love, to stay sober, to be a good and much less selfish person. I am in myself corrupt — bankrupt, broken, angry, jealous, bitter, self-centered and self-indulgent, an addict, sarcastic, judgmental and so sickenly insecure.

And then I recognize fully who I have become.  I realize with sterling clarity, suddenly that it is not that I doubted God exists but that I don’t understand why doesn’t God  act?

Change more people.  

Heal more sick.

Help more.  Restore us all.

Now.

In her new new book, Help. Thanks. Wow. Anne Lamott says:

“Sometimes pain can be searing, and it is usually what does us in.  It’s most indigestible: death, divorce, old age, drugs; brain-damaged children, violence, senility, unfaithfulness.  Good luck figuring it out.

“It unfolds and you experience it, and it is so horrible and endless that you almost give up…. But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”

And so, the cycle of life unfurls and this time around it is full of heartache and anguish — for parenting is so hard, friends get sick and may die, people become self-destructive and addicted, kids suffer mental illness, people we love and pray for kill themselves.

And even though all these things are true,

we go on.

I prayed and asked God. Just “help.”

God answered my prayer, but not in the way I had in mind.  The answer was complex and forced me to face some hard things.  To take a deeper breath.  To hold on to God, hard and fast. To acknowledge that I’m not drowning tho I feel as if I am.  God is my life and buoys me in yet another storm.

My child coming to church perhaps isn’t the answer to my prayer.

I cried to God to show himself to my child and in doing so also to me.

And now I wait, …

MHH

“Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future.”  ― Margaret AtwoodCat’s Eye