Does anyone else ever get that feeling that what we believe as Christians is just a fairy tale? A Benevolent Being, up in the clouds somewhere, invisibly running everything, who loves us and occasionally interrupts the flow of Nature in order to help us out of predicaments? A man who died, came back to life, and somehow translates life to all the rest of us simply by the power of our belief in Him?
I have believed this for almost as long as I can remember. I remember telling my Dad when I was about 7 that I loved God more than I loved him. Which I’m sure was fun for him to hear. Where did I learn that? I have no idea. But it was in there somewhere. My whole life has revolved around God, and ultimately Jesus, since I was a child. So why am I having doubts now about the whole thing? Where do these doubts come from? And what does it mean? Am I a heretic? Have I renounced my faith?
Ironically, the person with whom I have the deepest conversations about this stuff is, in fact, God. And that sort of sets me on edge. How can I, in one breath, doubt God’s existence and, in the next breath ask Him to help me walk through it to find Him on the other side? What does that say about me?
The funny thing is, when I think about it, really dive in and reason it out, it actually makes more sense. The God/Jesus story. It explains reality in the best, most complete way. It works. There is simply no possibility that things just fell into place. That this is all there is.
I have a mentor. Let’s call him Uncle Jack. He used to write a bit before he moved on to better things.
He has a great book on the whole Reason issue. He tells me that the fact that we can reason is proof that there is more than what we see. That Nature couldn’t produce Reasonable Beings by itself. There is no mutation that would produce imagination. It is not necessary for survival, and in fact makes survival more difficult. He says that if Reason was not at the center of all things, we would not have the faculty to reason. To imagine. To create. To employ logic. And logic itself makes no room for an “all natural” Universe with no Someone at it’s center. It just doesn’t work. If you want to know more, check out the book “Miracles,” by CS Lewis. Uncle Jack.
The point is, when I employ true logic, true reasoning, things fall back into place. God sits on His throne, and even Jesus, rising from the dead, showing Himself to people after His resurrection makes sense; which is weird. He sounds more like a superhero than a human being: He can walk through walls, He doesn’t want people to touch Him, He seems to move freely through time and space, He can prevent people from recognizing Him, yet He still eats food, still converses with people, still has a physical body. (Is this a picture of how our new resurrected bodies will behave?) The proof seems to be in the very weirdness of it–who would or could invent such a thing? Someone inventing a religion would have chosen something more predictable. All of it smacks of the strangeness found in Reality.
So why, then, if logic proves out, do I doubt? Where does my faith go?
I’m glad this blog is for artistic people. Because I hope to find sympathetic ears here. Since my doubt doesn’t seem to be intellectual in nature, I have chosen to call it “emotional doubt.” (I’m not there yet, but I might even come to the conclusion that ALL doubt about God is emotional doubt: “This Jesus stuff just sounds crazy!”) I think it comes one of those gifts God gives to creative people. We look at the world through a different lens. I painted my G.I. Joe figures different colors than they came in their packages. Why? I don’t know. It changed everything. Made it fresh, and I needed that. It’s why I loved Legos—new toys every time I sat down to build. I took apart my Star Wars toys to see what made them light up. I am fascinated by light passing through the back of a leaf. I used to walk through my house with a mirror held horizontally below my chin, so that as I looked down into it, I could see the ceiling instead of the floor. Then I would walk through the house like that, and it felt like I was walking on the ceiling.
We take the world and twist it. We try to see it from another angle. We wonder “What would happen if you played that backwards?” “What if the sky was orange?” “What would you get if you combined a horse and a man into one creature?” We constantly ask “What does it mean?” “What is behind this feeling?” “What is the author really trying to say?”
I think it is in our nature to doubt. To work things out. To dig. To squeeze the play-doh through the holes and see what comes out the other side. Why would we expect to do anything different with our beliefs? Even the beliefs we hold most dear?
Does this doubt that haunts me sometimes…that sneaks into my prayers and whispers “No one is listening”…this doubt that produces horror in thinking about an empty nothingness instead of an afterlife…does this doubt offend God? Is He surprised? Of course Our Sunday School answer is “Nothing surprises God.” Yet I treat them like they do surprise Him. Like He might abhor my doubts. Might be offended. I feel that way. I am ashamed of them.
But now I begin to hope that maybe they are personality quirks. Maybe they belong to the same rhythms that decide whether today I can draw like Michaelangelo, or that I have only thumbs and crayons. (I’m asking God about that…why it comes in waves.) These doubts might even come from the very places that God has tweaked to make me an artist. Might God even be happy with us for our doubts? Are they a part of being creative? He engineered these crazy brains to see unicorns in clouds and hear ghosts in wind chimes. Can my doubts, rather than affronting Him, actually be valuable to Him? Actually reflect my artistic side, sinful though I be?
I have a sneaky suspicion that they are; that some of His favorite times with me might be when I come to Him and say “Dad…I need help believing that you are there.”
What Father wouldn’t respond to that?
Incidentally, I have found that He does.