Monday, September 24, 2007

The DNA Of Doubt

I have this memory from when I was a child. Considering the things I did to my mind during later years that in itself is something of a miracle.

I was at Jones beach in New York with my best buddy at the time, Todd Thomas, and his family. We were probably 10 years old or so, although that's a guess. Todd and I were walking along a fairly isolated area of the beach...which makes me think it had to have been in the fall or winter, because Jones beach was always crowded.

We were doing the typical stuff kids do when they can't swim because the water is too cold, we were throwing things in the water, looking for junk and dead things on the beach and at one point we started writing stuff in the sand.

I vividly remember writing out in BIG letters, presumably so the message could be seen by its intended recipient, "IF GOD IS ALIVE LET HIM SPEAK!"

I'm pretty sure Todd punched me in the arm and said something like, "Why the heck did you write that?"

Honestly, I don't know. I wasn't religious as a kid. I have this vague memory that there was some type of TV commercial or Public Service Announcement or something that was airing around that time which essentially said the same thing, even spelling it out in the sands of a beach. I don't remember the intent of the commercial - presumably it wasn't sponsored by an atheist group - and I've tried searching the Internet to see if I could find a reference to it without any luck. I tend to doubt though that my ten-year old brain was suddenly struck by this notion to write a message to God all on its own so I'm fairly certain I plagiarized the entire scenario from somewhere and since I was parked in front of the TV most days that seems the logical place.

Where I stole the idea from really doesn't matter - I'm not giving open permission to plagiarize, I'm just saying it doesn't matter when it comes to the point I'm eventually hoping to make...although I'm beginning to have doubts about that prospect.

I remembered that boyhood incident recently while mulling over this concept of "doubt" when it comes to matters of "faith."

I know lots of people who have doubted the existence or who still do doubt the existence of God. I meet lots of non-believers, however I meet very few true committed atheists. I meet a lot of people who say they are "spiritual" or "believe in a Higher Power," but I've only met one or two fervent my entire life.

Lots of folks don't believe in "church." Some folks don't believe the Bible is the "literal word of God." Plus I've certainly met, and shared my home with, people who practice faiths other than mine. Personally, all this is above my pay grade. I willingly invite anyone I can to come to church or to conversation and when I see an opportunity to tell "my story" about becoming a Christian I do. The rest, I leave up to God.

This concept of doubt however has been rushing through my mind a lot recently due to the newly published book about Mother Teresa, which is being hawked by highlighting "shocking revelations" that Mother Teresa at times had "doubts" about God's existence. It's a good way to sell a book about Mother Teresa, it's not like people are snatching those up at every opportunity anyway. The author and the publicity folks found a "hook" and latched onto it. I applaud them for not stooping to "nude pictures" of the woman.

Okay, I'll give you a moment to get that image out of your mind.

In any case, their approach worked I suppose, in that it sold more books.

It's also prompted a handful of letters to the editor in newspapers I read from self-professed atheists essentially saying, "Nah, nah I told you so! If Mother Teresa doubted God it PROVES God is a creation of man...blah blah blah.."

I know a lot of Christians...committed Christians...faithful, devoted, church-going Christians. I know a number of very devout folks of the Jewish faith as well. I know very few who never in their "spiritual lives" experienced nights or even seasons of darkness, times of doubt, fears that all they have put their faith in is fantasy.

So what?

That doesn't diminish their faith or God's existence at all to me. Why? Because of one word: human.

That's an important word - especially if you're going to try to continue following my logic...hey, no one dragged you into my head, I at least have the excuse of having no choice.

How about we all take a moment and say that word,"Human" out loud?

Think of it as a way of honoring Marcel Marceau - it does seem kind of silly to honor a mime with a moment of silence after all.

Alright...all together now! "HUMAN."

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

Those are the final words of Jesus Christ said out loud which we translate: "My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?

Stick with me...I really do have a point to this besides somehow squeezing in a reference to Marcel Marceau.

Did Jesus doubt God?

I've actually used that passage of scripture to defend Christian friends who have openly expressed uncertainty about God, their faith, and in some instances, the entirety of their lives.

When the Mother Teresa stuff started flying I suppose I had a sort of "come to Jesus" party in my head (yeah, sometimes it can get crowded in there) about using that example.

My conclusion? It stinks.

At least it stinks without further explanation.

I'm not saying people of faith are somehow diminished in their beliefs because of occasional or even lingering feelings of doubt. I'm saying using Jesus to justify their doubt, at least without driving home a very specific and critical point is poor judgment on my part.

I hope I can state this in a way that makes sense other than inside my crowded head, forgive me if I fail, but I'm going to try.

Travel back with me if you will to that time when Christ was beaten, berated, spat upon and then nailed and hoisted upon a cross. There He was be mocked and scorned...left to die.

And in His final moments He said aloud," My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"

That sure sounds like doubt.

In fact I believe it was doubt.

It's what Jesus was doubting that needs further least I need to explain it further and this is my dang blog so I can do what I want. I mean all you have to do is hit a mouse button and my ramblings can be replaced with the latest news on Britney Spears.

Sorry, I'm not providing a link, that would make it too easy.

I do not believe Jesus was doubting God...doubting God's existence, doubting God's faithfulness, or doubting He was the very Son of God.

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

What are these words then?

These are words that need to be kept in any other words.

We have to remember that Jesus Christ was dying...for our sin. Note that's not "sins" that's "sin." Christ was dying to erase the core of that which separates us from God...the soupy glop which spawns ALL sins. The molecular, atomic particles - however you want to think of it - the root, the very seed of sin.

Was He doubting God? Was He doubting His ability to overcome death?

I don't think so.

At least not if I remember something important.

It's the word we all said aloud a moment ago - you participated right? I mean you may hate mimes but it's not Marcel Marceau's fault there were so many copy-cats, who knew?

So I do believe Jesus was expressing doubt in that moment, it's what He was expressing uncertainty about that I feel compelled to clarify.

That's why that word I wanted to stress is so important.

Remember Christ came to live among us not as a God, but as a person...a baby, then a boy, then a man, and a prophet. He lived the life of a regular person, albeit a sinless life.

So what doubt is Christ expressing?

I believe He was doubting He could die for our a HUMAN.

Can you blame Him?

In that context these words make so much more sense to me...

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

Also all this bunk about Mother Teresa's faith is put in a proper perspective.

Perhaps none of this makes any sense to you...maybe my logic doesn't add up. If so, sorry for wasting your time.

Maybe I didn't express it clearly.

Forgive me.

I am after all only human, thank God.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track
. - Proverbs 3:5-7 (MSG)