The song I was writing is left undone. I don’t know why I spend my time
writing songs I can’t believe, with words that tear and strain to rhyme.
And so you see I have come to doubt all that I once held as true.
I stand alone without beliefs. The only truth I know is you.
And as I watch the drops of rain weave their weary paths and die,
I know that I am like the rain. There but for the grace of you go I.
- Paul Simon
I’m writing to you from the low desert of Lent. I am Israel. I am Moses. I am Jesus. I am the people of God who have always gone through the water and into the wilderness.
We wander and we are tempted. Sometimes we wander for 40 days. Sometimes we wander for 40 years. This is our way.
We walk with the whispered words of Satan in our ears, “If you are the son of God…prove it.”
When Jesus was tempted to prove it, he refused. He didn’t have to prove anything. He knew who he was. I’m not that fortunate.
I have come to doubt.
I haven’t been sleeping well. It was 1 AM. I was in a hot bath trying to relax when I was overcome with a wave of darkness. I thought, What if all this stuff about a loving God is bullshit? How do I know he’s not pissed at me? (He wouldn’t have to look hard to find an excuse to send me to Hell.) How do I know he’s not an elaborate figment of our collective imagination? It stirs a bizarre mix of dark emotions to doubt in the existence of God and be scared of his punishment at the same time. I was literally naked, exposed…and afraid.
So I did what any potentially insane believer in a cosmic imaginary friend would do under these circumstances, I asked God if he’s really there.
Then I thought about what believing in the unconditional love of a sovereign God has done to my life. It has given me peace and hope in the face of my many flaws and mistakes that tempt me to despair. My belief has kept me faithful to my wife for over 15 years, giving our love room to deepen, grow and give me great pleasure. It has given me a job with a sense of meaning and purpose. My faith is the center of rich and long-lasting friendships. It has helped me to deal with addictions that have threatened my physical and mental health. I have even reached out to those who hate me and I’ve given time and money to alleviate the suffering of others…all in the name of God.
Granted, being a Christian has exposed me to (and identified me with) the whack-jobs in my faith family, but so what? There are atheist whack-jobs too. They’re in whatever group you identify with, and if you can’t find one in your group…you’re him brother. Anyway, other than that, and the strained relationships with loved ones who have a visceral disdain for Christians, it’s been a good deal.
So, given all the above, if God’s not really there, I have a pretty cool imaginary friend. No harm, no foul. I die and pass into nothingness having lived a life full of good things that I’ve enjoyed to the full. However, if he is there, my faith gets me that same great life and eternity to boot.
Laying there in that tub of water in the desert of doubt, I thought, Either way, I win. I can’t prove that I’m a son of God, so screw it. I’ll just believe. This reminded me of something I grew up hearing my dad say, “Son, assume the quality and it’s yours.” He usually told me this to encourage me to get good grades or quit smoking, but it applies to faith too.
But, if you’re not really there, or you’re a God who doesn’t really care, may my religion be of such a quality that my enjoyment of this life is maximized thereby.”
Don’t get me wrong, I know life throws you curve balls. I’ve swung at a few. There may come a time when, like Job, my life falls apart. Will I still trust him if he slays me? I’m banking on the fact that my faith will give me hope and meaning then too. You know, trust in the dark what I’ve learned in the light? We’ll see.
I’m fully aware that people throughout the centuries have suffered and died for this faith that gives me such peace and joy. I know that even today there are people being killed for their belief in Jesus. I’ll do what I can to support those brothers and sisters and hope that if I’m ever asked to put my ass on the line for my faith, I’ll be up to it. How could I fail to defend a faith that has given me so much? I bet I could find a way.
But in the mean time, I’m just going to enjoy being who I have chosen to be.
I am Israel. I am Moses. I am Jesus. I am the people of God who have always gone through the water and into the wilderness.
John 6:66-68 “Many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”