This article is part of a larger series on The Peace Prayer of St. Francis. You can read other entries here:
Despite the pandemic and all of its restrictions, this summer was delightful. I loved the extra time with my boys — the mid-morning walks, the weekday pancakes with lots of blueberry sauce, the relaxing afternoons in our shaded backyard. We spent almost every weekend in Chester, on our family’s sailboat and playing on island beaches, standing around eating hotdogs piled high with sauerkraut. It was a good time, a time where I was challenged to practice the presence of my people, to see God in their faces, their aliveness and beauty.
And yet as the summer crept on I was finding it harder and harder to pray, to find stillness…to believe. I was busy with the kids and so I didn’t dwell in these feelings of doubt, but that nagging sense of Is all this really true? was always with me.
Finally I opened up to a good friend. As we sat on the beach while our kids played I blurted out my doubts, “It all just sounds a little crazy to me right now!” I could feel the wetness building in my eyes, what I had been trying to push down and ignore had finally bubbled over. I realized that I was terrified, scared to death of my doubts. What if I didn’t find my way through? What then? Who was I, and what was this life that I was living?
As my friend and I chatted together she encouraged me with a prayer that I had forgotten, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! – (Mark 9:24)
We can give God control of our faith, she reminded me, we don’t have to do it on our own. She had many wise things to say. Well thought out reasons for her own faith. But what really stuck with me was the idea of inviting God into my faith, into all the doubts and fears, into the mess of it all. Can I let him lead me, as my Shepherd?
I like what theologian Peter Enns writes in his book The Sin of Certainty – “The deeper problem here is the unspoken need for our thinking about God to be right in order to have a joyful, freeing, healing, and meaningful faith. The problem is trusting our beliefs rather than trusting God.”
Jesus asks for my trust, not my certainty or perfect answers. Do I want to be the kind of person that stays inside the safety of the boat, or the one brave enough to step out on the water, towards him, even when my mind is shouting ‘You’re crazy!’? When my eyes are on Christ rather than down on the tumultuous waters of uncertainty, I see someone who is faithful, someone — not something — I can be certain of.
The beloved children’s author Madeleine L’Engle wrote that “Believing takes practice,” and these three words have brought so much peace to me. Because I understand practice. I understand that it means trying and failing and trying again. It means practicing even when you don’t feel like it, even when you have your own reasons not to. I want my faith to be made up of that kind of grit and stubborn persistence.
Like the popular hymn sings, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.