"Don't you ever doubt it?" Davy asked?
And in fact I have. And perhaps will again. But here is what happens. I look out the window at the red farm-- for here we live, Sara and I, in a new house across the meadow, a house built by capable arms and open lungs and joyous sweat. Maybe I see our daughter, home from school, picking plums or apples for Roxanna; maybe one of our sons, reading on the grass or painting an upended canoe. Or maybe Sara comes into the room-- my darling Sara-- with Mr. Cassidy's beloved rolls on a steaming plate. Then I breathe deeply, and certainty enters into me like light, like a piece of science, and curious music seems to hum inside my fingers.
Is there a single person on whom I can press belief?
All I can do is say, Here's how it went. Here's what I saw...
Make of it what you will.
-- From Leif Enger's Peace Like a River
A few years ago a customer asked me for a book that had true ghost stories in them. I took her to the section where such books were and asked if she had any more questions. She pressed her point. "So these are TRUE ghost stories? You know, that REALLY happened?" I took the opportunity to try and educate her, telling her that some would say they are true, while others would express doubt. I walked away feeling quite smug and satisfied with myself.
Today a lady asked me for books on UFO's. I took her to the section and helped her look. I told her about a popular book on the subject. As I found it and began to grab it, she asked the million dollar question. "So are these things that really happened?" By the time she finished her sentence I had the book in my hand. Looking at the subtitle that read True Stories, I replied "Apparently so," and was shocked at the lack of cynicism in my voice.
This is where I am with God. There are times when I know. These times generally occur in the presence of others and include laughter, unspoken sentiment, shared stories. Toddlers joyfully thrown in the air, drinks consumed, the worlds problems solved over good food. This is when I know. It is during such times that if you ask me about God's work in the world, about Jesus and his death and resurrection, about the Spirit that breathes life into all living things, and if you end your question with "Is all this real?," then I will tell you of course it is real.
But there are other times like today. Cynicism, exhaustion, and a (perhaps unreasonable) feeling of alienation all serve to cast sufficient doubt on what I claim to believe. But even in these, there is the seed of belief. Last night I watched Jesus Camp for the first time. The portrayal of children involved in a pentecostal/evangelical ministry with militant overtones served its purpose of weirding me out. The absolute certainty instilled in such young minds is frankly quite scary. But there were also moments that made me hopeful for these children, and they were moments of doubt. Every now and then, in the middle of the screaming and the induced tears and the sharing of the gospel, a look of doubt would be cast over the faces of these children. Doubt that I know all too well. There was even a moment when one of the children expressed how hard it is to believe sometimes. It was during these moments of doubt that I saw possibility, for doubt clears the fields and provides ample space for God to dance, "proving," if you will, that he is still in the neighborhood.
Do you remember the question the preachers used to ask us? "Do you know that you know that you know that you know?" Of course I don't. I have had doubts and, like Enger's character in Peace Like a River, I will probably have doubts again. But I'm comforted in the fact that I'm not called to certainty, I'm called to proclaim that which I have found to be true.
Make of that what you will.