This past summer at Seesalt--the church youth conference at which I used to work--we sang a song titled "The Whylderness." I actually like the song quite a bit. It has some good lyrics and the folksy instrumentation went well with the hiking/camping theme that we did.
But here's a secret. I would sometimes substitute the wrong word in one line. The lyric was in the bridge: "Hate and fear and pride and doubt / Are weights that I can do without." I wouldn't do this all the time, but I would often sing "Hate and fear and pride and Doug."
There isn't a Doug in my life so I felt comfortable making the switch.
Of course, I changed that lyric because doubt is something that I do carry with me at times. It's a part of this journey for me. Though it can be a tough load to carry on occasion, it is not the crushing burden on the same level as hate, fear, and pride. This is not a knock on the awesome person that wrote the song, it was just a personal conviction and I felt it was unnecessary to derail things for everyone else.
I was fortunate to be raised in a home that prepared me to have a healthy relationship with doubt. I was taught that it was okay to ask questions. More than that, I heard my Dad say time and time again that if he had God completely figured out, then that God was not big enough to be God. There are always going to be questions and there are always going to be mysteries. When you realize that gaps are part of your faith, it doesn't rock you quite as much when questions arise.
I do sometimes have doubts about God. I sometimes wonder if we made all of this God stuff up. I have a lot of questions about the presence of suffering and evil in this world. In fact, I wrote a good many of those questions into the Bible study and the dramas this past summer.
Yet I do not find myself doubting God all that much. I have questions about God and how all of this is working out/is going to work out. Some will warn you that asking questions is a slippery slope towards falling away from belief. That has not been the case for me. Wrestling with those doubts has often strengthened my faith.
Now what I do often have doubts about is my place in all of this. Some of that doubt may be the residual effect from growing up with a pastor who frequently asked, "Do you know that you know that you know that you know that you are saved?" And frankly, there are a lot of days that I don't know. I believe. I hope. I trust. I don't know.
There are many people who say that they do know and when you're not sure if you know, it can mess with your head. God knows it messes with mine.
It leads to these moments in which there is this creeping dread that I am wrong about all of this. I'll see something on Facebook or come across a John Piper quote with which I disagree and I wonder, "What if these guys are right? What if I am completely off the rails?" Or a seminary classmate finds out what I think about a specific issue and they react as if I said Jesus commanded us to go club baby seals. What if the offense they take is representative of the offense God takes at me?
Those are the doubts that eat at me more often. Because try as I might to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I hear those other voices and the echo bounces around in my soul. In those moments, a part of me wonders if God wants to have anything do with me.
So I cling to this: it is my hope that God's grace is far bigger than we realize. That grace goes beyond the bits and pieces of theology that we may knock askew. That grace covers the myriad of ways in which we never even come close to living out the kind of life that Jesus demonstrates in the gospels. That grace will ultimately shock and surprise us as it lifts up friends and strangers, loved ones and enemies, and even ourselves.
That is what I have to believe. I do not just cling to the cross, but I cling to Jesus and every thing that he did. Though doctrine and practice are vitally important and we must always pursue God with all that we have, none of us are close to having our ducks in a row in either of those columns.
To move forward in following Jesus, I have to hold on to grace until my knuckles turn white. I have to cling to the belief and hope that we are saved by grace through faith.
It makes an enormous difference. When I am reminded of God's bigger-than-we-could-ever-imagine grace, I trust that Jesus is there with me and helps me to shoulder the doubt that I sometimes have to carry. I bet he could even help me deal with Doug.