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One of the first things I did in between catching planes home from IF:Gathering this weekend was write an apology letter to a woman who has become a dear friend over the last year.
This has been a running theme in my life, and in my prayers for the last 2 years.
I don’t know why, but I’ve often been threatened by the doubts of others. My entire life, I’ve believed in God, simply at face value. He exists, the end. I didn’t question Him. I didn’t doubt Him–perhaps because he existed as nothing more than an abstract figure to me. He was untouchable, distant. I had never asked if God is real–I didn’t know what it was like to fight for my faith.
But two years ago, I wrestled with God like never before. From that wrestling, my faith was birthed anew. Not only did I experience God in a palpable way for the first time, but He had touched me deep and left me limping, but blessed.
I don’t know how I professed to be a Christian for 14 years before this experience. I had loved God, surely, but I had not known God, in the sense that I know Him now.
I lived my life content with the smallest version of Him I could fashion. My pocket-sized Jesus, who was quaint and quiet. My simple God who loved me, for the bible tells me so. He was little more than a children’s nursery song to me. I know that now.
But after He touched me, dislocating the only faith I’d ever known, I finally saw Him for who he is–YWHW. Creator. Aplpha, Omega, Jehova-Jireh. Abba.
I’d never experienced repentance like that. My pride had long fooled me into thinking I was right and good, upstanding in my own ability. 1 John 1:8 tells me otherwise:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
And so I came face to face with my sin, with my truest self in all it’s ugly honesty. The wrestling, the punches I hurled into God’s chest were met with a love and grace I still cannot fathom. I wanted Him to punch back. I deserved it didn’t I? Who was I to doubt the King? Who was I to lose faith and misunderstand the Almighty?
I thought doubt was a sin.
He said my doubt made Him that much more real to me. He welcomed my questions. He absorbed my angry rants, and tear-laden prayers–He loved me harder and His love healed holes that had long been filled with cheap substitutes and flimsy hope.
My entire life I’d lived ignoring the dark side of faith out of fear and misguided reverence. After all, a pocket-sized God is not big enough to handle this sort of spiritual wrangling.
In Winn Collier’s ridiculous book, Restless Faith: Holding On to a God Just Out of Reach, (and by ridiculous, I do mean amazing) he writes:
To counteract this addiction for ignoring the dark side of human experience and to fight to preserve both our hearts and our integrity, the scriptures offer us the ancient practice of lament, complaining against God. The Scriptures, particularly many of the wisdom passages are scandalous in how they model the spiritual discipline of wrangling with God. The Hebrews nurtured the discipline of lament to an art form. They understood the God-honoring and humanity-requiring need to recognize the deep brokenness of the soul–and to muster the courage to embrace it before God. To declare it to Him. To shout or mumble it at him. Much of the language used in the complaints flung at God is unsettling, it isn’t how we suppose good, God-fearing should address the Almighty.
So as I followed the details of my friend’s wrestling faith journey, I shrank back in horror. My pride rebuked her for daring to challenge God in such a way. I harbored an ugly nest of judgmental thoughts and accusations. I worried for her salvation. These are ugly contemptuous thoughts I share here. Even as I write them I sway dizzy with nausea for the detestable ways I’ve idolized my own flat faith.
At IF:Gathering, I heard from women who’ve wrestled hard with Jesus. I’ve heard the message of repentance and known my own heart’s ache to be right with God. To be right WITH God–next to Him, me in Him and He in me.
I wrote her and apologized, I then received her swift forgiveness like an anointing oil poured over me. I stood in the warmth of her generous grace and felt that truly God IS with me. He has found His way from my pocket to me heart. I no longer fear the doubts of others. God has been good to let me wrestle. He’s been generous to allow me to practice and learn the art of lament and struggle with the Holy.
Doubt strains our ideals and sifts through all we say we believe. In this painful process, doubt is the sledgehammer that shatters what will not stand up to its ferocious assault. However, if truth is what we want–and God is true as He declares himself to be, then after we emerge from the dark night, what we have is more of God, more of what is real. Such destruction is apparently required. Falsehoods must be ripped away so truth can stand bold and clear. ~Winn Collier
The truth is, I owe many more apologies for the judgments I’ve made out of my small faith over the years. This is just the first of many letters I will need to write.