Day … what? 16? 17

“I have had to accept the fact that my life is almost totally paradoxical. I have also had to learn gradually to get along without apologizing for the fact, even to myself. . . . It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and still is a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security.”

This quote by Thomas Merton sums up what I am coming to discover. I think I am really coming to terms with the fact that doubt need not cut one in two, need not vanquish, is a given, in certain people, and that it an be accepted as a signpost, almost an indication, that faith is at work. What a paradox indeed – certainty in the midst of doubt.

What are we if not confused, or grasping at uncertain certainties to bolster ourselves up, and of what value is certainty anyway, without Love? Reading Richard Rohr’s review on the live’s of mystics and non-dual thinkers has helped me, too. I see that there is a vastness out there, in God, in Christ, that I have not begun to plummet, a vastness where the neat edges blur and whose very vastness and depth fills me with a sense of freedom and confidence. I need not be afraid. In the end Christ is true – and the narrowness and dualism which bother me so much seem, at some point, to end. They are not lies. They are true. Yet there is more, ever more to Christ.

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death on the cross, to present you holy in his sight – without  blemish and free from accusation …”. This is good news for everyone. Of course it continues, “… if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out for you in the gospel of Christ”. (That is from Colossians 2, I think). Continuing in your faith, yes, despite yourself.

Day 7

Better, these last two days.

St Therese of Liseux speaks of CONFIDENCE in God. Confidence flows from trust. It has been mightily encouraging to me to examine doubt as a concept, as an essential component, some writers say, of the Christian faith. It is marvelous to think that. For what, after all, is faith, if it is never tested? What is faith if it does not involve some arduous wrestling? If belief was something one slid effortlessly into, well then, there would be no narrow gate – there would be only the broad, easy road.

That may be a bit of convoluted reasoning (using imagery from Jesus’s words to bolster belief in Christianity itself – after all Jesus’ words are authoritative only IF Christianity is true. Thus the conclusion is being used to establish a premise, or something like that). Still.

Confidence comes naturally to me in the natural world. I am by nature a confident person – only in matters spiritual do I flounder and sink, and flounder some more.  Yet I know that all of the words of the Bible are nothing if they do not inspire confidence in God.

I am experiencing, right along with the dreadful uncertainty, a strange confidence. One reason is a picture that came to me. My misery is caused by the sensation, sometimes, that I am cut off from the joys and truths the Bible offers. I read, I comprehend the meaning, but the words do not ignite me. This morning, I saw it as a picture. It is as if above me there is a shifting sheet of grey cardboard, studded with small holes perhaps two centimentres in diameter. Above that piece of cardboard, is another one, the one on God’s side. It too has small holes in it. The two sheets of cardboard slide over one another, in constant motion. I sit under them both, praying, reading my Bible. Most of the time, no light of Heaven reaches me. But every now and then, a hole in one sheet of cardboard aligns with a hole in the other  – and a glimpse of heaven is felt. Clarity and a tiny taste of certainly and joy enter me. Then perhaps the two cardboards move again, and certainty is gone. But I had the experience, I know it is there. And that makes all the difference. Plus, I realised today, that there is really nothing I can do to make that revelation come. It is not up to me. I am already doing all I can – placing myself in the position where hearing, sensing, knowing, might be possible – just by praying, reading my Bible, and endeavouring to practise a life of love. So what more can I do? It really is God’s decision whether or not to reveal Himself further to me.

I even had the thought today – so what if I never feel joy again? Just knowing that the truth is out there – that it is not up to me to grasp it, but for it to be revealed to me – relieves me!

Thomas Merton wrote of saints who lived most of their lives in a sort of joyless way – never really experiencing the fire of God. Yet they were surely loved, surely entered the gates of heaven, for they lived lives that bore fruit, and they remained faithful to Jesus… Knowing that I cannot produce or demand joy, (and joy, to me, is another word for certainty) – that gives me a strange hope and confidence. It is not up to me. It is up to God!

Day 5

There was no day 4 – I can’t be doing with writing all the time.

Now, the great thing about reflecting on one’s doubts is that for once, one is not reflecting on one’s faith. Reflecting on one’s faith is a dangerous occupation for one such as me. I don’t know that much about formal psychology, but I do know that we are said to possess something called the Super Ego – the part that looks upon ourselves from a distance and critically assesses, remarks, judges, compares. I seem to have it in abundance.

There is a part of me that reflects analytically not only on my own true nature and motivations, but on my worldview. It can be helpful to reflect critically at one’s nature and motivations, as it prevents the holding of too high a view of oneself. One knows one’s true motives. One recognises the falsity and self-deception that come right along with one into every attempt to live a holy life. But to look critically at one’s worldview – well, its destructive in the long run. Faith is to be lived . I think of St Therese of Liseux, who died hardly educated at 24 and knew little of theology, but lived a beautiful faith with passion and conviction. As do all great Christians.

I feel that a life of passion for the Lord is not far from me – if only I could accept the words of the Bible as is, and not compare them incessantly to other worldviews … or not even worldviews, just … reality out there. The reality is that there are millions of people who profess no faith in Jesus but who live lives filled with greater love, peace and joy than many Christians. The reality is that people are honestly wrestling with spiritual questions, not living lives of debauchery and dissolution…. and  – the usual plaintive cry; “How can God condemn them just because they don’t confess the name of Christ?”

The key for me is to ask God to help me to see that Christ IS over all, in all, for all. I balk at saying he is a part of every religion – that would be bending Christianity to suit me. But he must, in some way as yet unknown in my depths, be the Saviour of all.

A man I once met said that Christ has already saved the whole world. We are “saved”, all of us. I wonder about this. Is it just a matter of recognising the Saviour then? Unfortunately the man did not live in what seemed to me at the time a Christian way. He did not count himself among the believers in the sense that I then understood the term. But I wonder if he was right.

Lord, only you know the state of my soul. This dissecting of matters theological brings me no peace. Yet you gave me a brain with a particularly philosophical bent, and I do not have the personality of St Therese. Could I however learn from her? Her childlike purity seems a far, far remove from this cluttered life and mind of mine. Yet still. All things are possible.

Day 3

I go through periods of fear and uncertainty. Fear seems to grip my heart, when this gaping hole of uncertainty in my beliefs presses upon me. It’s a physical sensation of dread.

How is it that other people can read the Bible and speak of being comforted, uplifted? Yes, there are those passages, but read the New Testament closely and all the comfort and upliftment, all the joy and the encouragement, are reserved for those who accept the whole shebang. The whole of Romans 9 – 11 is about the IN crowd and the OUT crowd. Why does the existence of a predestined OUT crows not bother so many Christians??? Paul says plainly (and then again, seems to contradict himself at the end of the monologue, somewhere in Rom 11) that some are predestined for wrath and destruction… for some appalling reason as ” to show God’s mercy” to those who don’t get the wrath and destruction. My God.

Yet this is not a blog to further entrench or justify my apprehensions. What would be the point of that? The whole struggle is to hold onto faith, to find God in the midst of suffering, to straddle the great paradoxes of faith. Somewhere I read that the spiritually mature person is the one who can absorb Paradox – whose faith is rooted in the paradoxes. That seems to be the only way for me. I am not, therefore bothered a whole lot by apparent contradictions in the Bible; I take them always as two aspects of the same truth, which must be grasped at a level deeper than that of mere logic and reasoning.

(Yet sometimes this seems like a cop out).

Walking along through town today in a state of what really was unceasing prayer,  I felt comfort in the thought of Love. The many times we are exhorted to love, told that the most important thing is faith expressing itself through Love, that God IS Love, that the entire law and the prophets can be summed up in the one commandment, “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

I cannot live with a wishy-washy faith. I can almost accept that I may never find a a satisfactory solution to the problems of orthodox Christian theology (problems to me). But in proportion, or hopefully far exceeding these doubts, I could come to a place of dwelling in God, of knowing Jesus without a shadow of a doubt, of being consumed by a need to express Him. These moments come upon me – especially the needs to express Him. In the midst of all this sturm und drang I do find this love surging through me occasionally, and I have to say something encouraging and cheerful to someone, or give someone a hug.

Oh, Lord, my lover, my friend, my protector, please carry me through this to the other side.

And sin is always with me. I found anger surging through me too, today, and indignant, troubled thoughts, about what I perceived as an injustice by my neighbour – a carelessness, an assumption. I smssed her calmly, and without, I hope, rancour, but in the my sms, there was a lie. I told her I was out and couldn’t take care of a certain matter, when I was not. Felt, as might be expected, BAD.