Posted by: nieophyte | February 10, 2008

I am your grashopper

As a youth pastor, a lot of times I see my high-school self in my students. I was the awkward sidekick to the cute girl every guy liked. I was the obnoxious one trying to compensate for my crippling low self-esteem by cracking jokes, telling stories. I vied for attention from our teachers. I cried extra hard during retreats. I fell into depression. I was nervous about prom. I was hungry for God.

This past Sunday, a student came to me crying. “I don’t know who I am anymore. I feel like God isn’t real, like he’s just a figment of our imagination. I don’t know what I’m supposed to believe.” I could see in her eyes, she was very torn.

In my heart, I really wanted to come back at her with some breakdown of why the gospel is true. I probably should have started in with the fall and gone through the entire history of redemption. That would’ve been the right youth pastorly thing to do … but the truth is, I was in no place to do such a thing.

Just that morning, while reading through my sermon notes over a bowl of cereal, I was suddenly gripped with an overwhelming sense of doubt. It all seemed so ridiculous to me, this thing we call faith. God becoming human and dying on the cross to save us from our sins; the afterlife consisting of the rewards of a celestial city or the unending torture of a lake of burning fire—I mean, is this for real? Is this what I have devoted my life to?

In a second, seismic waves trembled within me, my fragile heart threatening to shatter as it flexed under the weight of my thoughts. In my mind echoed the words of Pontius Pilate … what is truth?

This incident left me disturbed all morning. Even through my sermon, it nagged and distracted. While eating lunch with my students, it continued, like an increasing crescendo. Is this real? Is God true? Is Christ the only way? Unable to take it anymore, I rose to leave church early and clear my head, but just as I was out the door … she stopped me, and in our conversation I found myself stripped of my “pastor” title. She and I were the same! I had no answers and all the same questions.

It occurred to me then, that God had probably brought the two of us together to help us go through this faith journey side-by-side. So, I joined her as a fellow seeker, both of us with the same questions, on the same journey and with the same Father looking out for us by bringing us together, reminding us that the doubts will come and go, but the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

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Responses

  1. I sympathize a lot with this…sometimes I think of all the religions in the world, and wonder if I had been born a Mormon, or a Muslim, or something else, would I be a Christian? And how can I be sure that MY religion is true and all the other ones are not?

    But I think that we ultimately can’t resolve these doubts with reason, and we just have to travel on with faith.

  2. well-written and i can completely sympathize with you. and it seems the more i learn the more complicated the answers are, if there are definitive answers at all. i really can relate to the once blind man who says in response to the pharisees, “all i know is that i was once blind, but now I see.”

    there are times when i wish i had no conviction, but the fact that i have such conviction, summarizes the notion of witness. even when we question the validity of our own testimony, at the heart of it, we “saw” something, right? yes, i’m quite sure i saw something. i don’t know if you saw what i saw, but this Jesus guy, he lives. i saw him. i did see him, didn’t i? i’m not crazy am i? did you see him?

  3. just wanted to thank you for your refreshing honesty. i have so many friends who are doubting but are so afraid to tell anyone, especially their pastors.

    “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
    1 Thessalonians 4:24

  4. doubt is part of the Christian battle, i believe. one of the interesting things about the Bible is that it’s not just barely enough to lay out exactly what we need to know about God to survive, and then boom, the pieces are all in place. no, it describes an existence that has maddening gaps which we fill with this amorphous “faith”.

    but i think God knows how difficult it is for us to believe in Him. i don’t think the nature of believing and overcoming doubt gets easier, but at least He tries to drill it into us.

    moreover, faith and doubt is a struggle that reminds us that we’re human, no? it’s like that picture of that sign that says “God doesn’t believe in atheists; therefore, atheists must not exist.” =)

    our humanity restricts us to faith, so we wrestle with it. but in the inaccessible, objective reality… the whole sche-bang is true whether or not we choose to believe it, right?

    but btw, i struggle the same way. and so does jadanzzy, bc we just talked about it the other day.

  5. I love this. I often struggle with feeling like even though i follow Jesus, I am no better off than anyone else. In fact, I seem more dysfunctional. But are we supposed to be better off, or have easier, simpler lives because we have Jesus? Or is that some kind of cruel lie I have always believed? Really, we are no different from other people except that in the middle of all our crap, we keep looking toward something and reaching out to someone. And that someone/something is the only one who can meet our needs. meanwhile, everyone else is reaching out for things that can’t meet their needs. Is that why we are different or better off? I want to know what I have to offer to people like your youth group girl … but what I really want to do is anesthetize her pain, and I guess that is not what spirituality is about at all.

  6. Awesome post nieophyte… got some thoughts on it, but I’ll let a great piece of writing settle… you should submit this somewhere.


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