Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Perhaps the most honest words ever uttered.
I want to believe completely. I want to be certain. But certain would mean that I have absolutely no doubt. None at all. Nada. But the truth is, I do have doubt — at least a little doubt — daily.
I mean, what can we really know for sure these days? Even when there’s overwhelming evidence — eye witnesses, testimonials, on-the scene reporting, and confirmation by multiple sources — someone will inject a tidbit of information (is it dis-information?) which calls it all into question. Suddenly, I’m beating back the doubt that creeps in under the door I slammed shut and thought I had securely sealed.
How do I know who to trust or what to believe? I ask myself because, after all, this is really a personal matter. That’s when a voice from long ago rings in my ears. Mom prepared me for moments like these. When I found something hard to believe or when words directed at me felt hurtful, rude or unkind, she’d say, “Consider the source.”
Consider the source. From whom do the words come? What do their actions tell you about what they say? Mom didn’t tell me who to doubt or who to believe. She offered me a gift of much more value: she taught me to how to perform the trust test. Got doubts? Consider, not just what they say, but what they do, which shows you who they really are. Don’t just take them at face value.
Now God I could take at face value, but as I have not seen God face to face, and since God told Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live,” (Exodus 33:20) I’m thinking life is going to have some doubtables. I am expecting there will be plenty of opportunities for my very human self to consider the source and still be left with uncertainty. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!
Can I hold on to belief AND doubt and still live?! I mean, holding two apparently contradictory things together without resolution is exhausting! The more you bring them together, the more they repel one another. Here, take Matter and Anti-Matter and see if you can get them to talk things out.
Some days, belief and doubt feel very much like matter and anti-matter. I can’t even bring them into shouting distance without risking blowing myself up. How can I possibly hold onto two completely competing realities and live?
Yet, sometimes the hardest questions have the simplest answers.
Wayne, a man of deep and abiding faith in God, showed me this as he shared the story of his last moments with Jane, his beloved wife of fifty-one years. * She had nearly reached the end of her brave battle with cancer, and, knowing that time was short, Wayne sat by her bedside reading silently from Acts Chapter 2 . “Just as I looked up, Jane passed from this life.” he said. “In that moment, I felt both the deepest sadness and the greatest joy.”
The deepest sadness and the greatest joy, I thought. What could be more opposite; yet, what could be more true? Two competing emotions in the same place, at the same time. No overlap. No dilution. Full force. Mighty power.
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ~ Acts 2:17-21
What a mighty wind of hope even in the deepest despair. Sadness and Joy, Heaven and Earth… Somehow, belief builds a bridge.
So, as I dive deep into my days where conflicting opinions, different understandings, and sometimes even belief and doubt both compete for my allegiance, I am buoyed by the story of this couple, the faith they shared, and the moment that will linger between them until they meet again.
they meet again. God knows that this tiny little “if “occasionally arises in my very human mind because I don’t understand how two people can be reunited in heaven after both have become the dust of the ground. So, I’m left to consider the source.
Who could have scripted a moment like this? Who could have invoked such words? such thoughts? such emotions? Where has humanity witnessed such a moment? a moment where Great Joy met Deep Sadness and turned tears of despair into shouts of joy?
Could it be that such a source is doing it still?
Every time I admit my doubt to God, He injects a tiny glimmer of consider this that I could never have imagined and thus invites belief to take its proper place again. God doesn’t expect us to be doubtless, just faithful.
*Wayne has kindly and generously offered his permission to share his story here.
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6
I’m sorry, but yes they will.
Some will step off accidentally and stumble right back on.
Some will wander off, oblivious to your calls and whistles.
Some will investigate that very pretty flower over there.
And some will test the boundaries every step of the way.
They most certainly will venture from it. It’s how they find their own way along a path with distinct boundaries but invisible guardrails. Kids are a distractable lot and tweens and teens are a naturally inquisitive bunch. Perhaps this is why we are advised to “start children off on the way they should go.” Children pay attention; they’re sponges for everything they see and hear.
One Sunday past, I sat behind Carly, a young mom, cradling her infant in a front pack. Her 2 year old son, Avery, stood next to her on the fabric seat of the pew. Grandpa had brought him in, but he wasn’t holding Avery’s hand. This boy was perfectly balanced; he was an experienced pew-stander. He demanded I shake his hand when the time for greeting was announced and then he remained standing for the anthem that was to follow.
Little Avery’s face just glowed with anticipation. Before the first chord, his happy voice rang out, “Hi Daddy! Hi Daddy!” Smiles on several faces looked his way, but Dad was focused on the music and its message. Avery’s dad Josh sang,
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus…
Hi Daddy! Hi Daddy!, sang Avery.
The promise we make to the children of our church upon the occasion of their baptism is this: “With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ that these children, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”
Start children off on the way they should go, and …
…. even though they may wander and explore and adventure on their way, …
when they are old they will not turn from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6 (with my additions)
Oh, children… how wonderful it is to teach them. How magnificent it is to learn from them.
See is believing, right? Well, yes and no.
I was talking with an elderly man who has been colorblind since, well, at least the 10th grade. That’s when they discovered it. When they showed his class the disk with the pixels and everyone else saw 9. He saw 27.
“I memorized the order,” he says.
He sees things in shades. The lit one is brighter gray…I guess. How really would I know? I can’t see what he’s seeing any more than he can see what I see.
Curious. He knows that diamonds and hearts are red. How? Because whatever “color” he sees them, he has learned, is red. Green? same. Purple, same. Yellow, same. He has taught himself to distinguish colors in ways I don’t have to. Literally, he sees color in the shades of gray.
So, how do we know what color something REALLY is? He sees it one way. I see it another. In fact, how do we know what shape or shade or orientation something really is? Maybe we just don’t see it. Or we don’t see it clearly? Or we see it differently?
Or, we interpret it differently because of our experiences, our perspective, our “dis”ability.
How do we know what something really is if our senses are all we have to count on? And they’re fallible. Or at least inconsistent, person to person.
“There are some things,” the elderly man says. “I just can’t think of them now.”
“What if there was something we all gathered around, each with our different sensations and perspectives, and it was the same to all of us?” I ask him.
“Yes,” he said, “that would be it.”
Perhaps the heavenly throne will be like this. Something around which we all can agree.
“Is that what you see?”
“Yes, I see it, too. Just that way.”
The only way we’d know it would be to consult the other. Down to the very last one. It wouldn’t be defined by our perspective. Rather, it would be confirmed by our consultation. Non-negotiable. Consensus, without debate.
That would be truth. Wouldn’t you agree?