Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Doubt Shows Up

As I sit cross-legged on the couch in the middle of the morning, the songs of birds chiming in the wind and the low roar of a lawnmower several houses away are the tracks that play in my empty house.  The boys are with my mom. The dog is in the yard, and Jeff is on the road headed east to meet a client.  A pile of books stacks high on the coffee table; Eudora Welty, Tim Keller, Anne Lamott and Michael Pollan, all waiting for me to step into their conversations, to hear their stories.  The paring knife of time is dull from multiple attempts to carve out space to receive their words.  But the lawnmower roars and the birds chime as my doubts and questions for God, about God, blink on and off so quickly that I once again drop my knife.  This block of time is too dense with questions and doubts for carving, so the stories of my friends continue to wait to be heard. 

These questions, these doubts have a way of stomping down all lighter thoughts that try to cartwheel across the front page of my mind. Sometimes the “whys” and the “hows” flash in neon, and other times they flicker on and off as subtle as a flutter.  Now with the house to myself and a few hours to sit with solitude, frustration mounts while these questions knock on the door.  The pounding of doubt breaks the roar of the lawnmower and drowns out the song of the birds, and all I hear is the nagging, broken record of unbelief.  “I believe,” I declare as I carefully place the needle back on track.  But just as I sink back into the couch, the track begins to skip again, and the questions and the doubts pick up steam. 

There is no use slamming the front door on Doubt, for he will surely slip in through the back.  And while it is certainly painful to face such an unwelcomed guest, it is another thing all together to be scared by him.  So I sigh as I pass the stack of books longingly, to welcome in the unwelcomed, and to sit a spell with the dark face of Doubt. 

I shift and squirm on the couch while he walks right in and pulls up a chair.  “You shouldn’t be here,” I want to say, but he cuts me off and starts right in with the questions, always the questions.  I respond to his questions with truth and promise, but he speaks so loudly that he slowly drowns out my answers of faith.  Before I know it, I am serving “How could He?” and “Where was He?” on a sterling silver platter with my right hand, while gripping a shrinking mustard seed with my left. 

While the seed rolls through my fingers and over my palm, I hear another, more gentle knocking.  I feel the presence of another One who finds His place right between Doubt and me.  “I’ve been waiting for you to come,” I exhale as I whisper the words.  He assures me that He has been here all along, gently knocking.  I stammer out my reasons for allowing this Doubt to accompany me, and all of these reasons sound like excuses when I say them to the face of this One. 

“Get Doubt out of here!  Answer his questions and see him to the door!” I am pleading with Him now.  Surprisingly, this One allows the Doubt to stay.  He calmly quiets me with the three words I most often need, “Do not fear.”  He stares at my Doubt in the eyes without blinking once, and I realize that He is not afraid of my guest.  He is not shaken or surprised.  I find that though Doubt’s questions still linger in the back of my mind, his stature shrinks in the shadow of the beauty of this One.  And I cannot peel my eyes away from His beauty.  Though I long for answers and I yearn for certainty, sitting here on this couch in the presence of this One, His beauty and His presence are the answers and the certainty that I need.  He quietly ushers Doubt out the door.  I cling to this One, while rolling the mustard seed between my fingers and over my palm, noticing that it no longer seems quite so small.  He places the needle back on track and together we sit and hum the sweet song of belief.