“Doubt is often the pulse of our faith”- Pastor R….. For me this has proven to be true, in fact I could not have described it better.
Doubts! We were asked “what keeps us from being real about it?” It was pointed out that pride gets in the way of showing struggles and that when we struggle with doubt we don’t need to walk away from God, we can doubt.” Typical responses to these doubts are “pray, it will get better.” To get to the root of things though, we need to be introspective and reflect on what is causing those doubts, those feelings; then we can understand them, learn from them and either affirm them or counter them. I can say I don’t recall a time in my life that I have had doubts that God exists, I have not doubted my faith in him, I have not doubted things that have happened in my life or wondered why he would allow bad things to happen. One thing that stuck with me from my childhood during a sermon was “the devil does things too.” This is what I think of when bad things happen; that and I know I have a healthy mind set in that I wouldn’t know what happiness is without bad times. So what doubts can I relate to my relationship with God?
How and what is real!! My late 20’s were a time for me to really discover who I am, not who I thought I was, who I was raised to be or was because that is what the culture I was raised in was. My outlook on life changed, on who people were, what was healthy or unhealthy about relationships, what “normal” was and what I felt was moral and ethical or not. Over those years I developed my own sense of what was moral; of what I feel God would consider moral based on what I was taught about him from my childhood and what I feel in my heart. I recall it being constantly reiderated that “God loves everybody no matter what,” we were to spread God’s love. That the one way to heaven is through believing in the triune God. As I came into young adulthood I began to feel more contradiction to this. There was such a strong emphasis placed on changing or making laws to prohibit people from doing things that were not “Christian,” the way God wanted it. This was such a struggle for me because to me it contradicts that God loves and accepts us no matter what.
I realized over these years, my late 20’s that I will not live my life judging other people, when in fact, I definitely have traits that others would or could judge. I could no longer blindly follow, following because that is what I was taught was not enough. I feel my ability to look at multiple perspectives and understand different perspectives is a gift. I ask questions, I question what is, I make sure I understand what I believe in or I don’t allow myself to verbalize an opinion. I question and ponder what I am taught; I reflect on if what I am taught follows and lines up with core values I know about God. This left me with doubt of what church taught; not doubt of God or my faith in him. But, doubt that we worship and praise God how we should. I mean the reality is that is is not possible for one church to know with certainty that they are doing everything right when it has been roughly 1,983 years since Jesus has taught us what and how God wants us to live. Now, I will be honest that history and timelines are not my thing, if this number is not perfect please don’t judge. But this doubt, it is a doubt I struggled with hard. Pastor R, to keep him somewhat anonymous, stated “wrestling with our doubts can strengthen our faith.” I for one have found this to be true. The last two years wrestling with my doubts on the purpose of “organized religion” had left me conflicted. While I felt my relationship with God was stronger than ever; I knew that by not going to church I was not getting my kids what they needed to learn about God. I knew I could not teach them near as well as others who know more than I do. And I knew that I wanted my kids to have a church to grow up in, other youth to interact with who come from families with similar values and core beliefs and a place they can spend their time that I can trust will give them healthy activities to do and keep my kids safe.
This is where I got to the point that I spent a few Sunday’s and Saturday evenings in another church, not my home town, childhood church, but the same denomination. There was one problem, I did not feel welcome. My kids would speak and I felt judged, that my kids should be quiet and sit perfectly still for an hour while let’s be honest, they are bored out of their minds. This is not what I wanted. So I spread my horizons and began researching new churches. After months of making excuses I finally went to church at Radiant Life which was Sturgis Wesleyn Church at the time. It did not take long before this church became my home. It has filled in a piece of my life that was much needed; my kids love it and each Sunday I feel ready to tackle what obstacles life may bring. Community worship, congregational support, the power of prayer, these things have made my devotion to attending church much stronger. I have now realized how much worship and praise with other people, a congregation, has fueled my relationship with God, my ability to radiate his love to others and to myself. My relationship with God that I felt was stronger than ever a year ago, has reached a new level.
Something that stuck with me from the sermon on doubt was that doubt is ok. It is ok to doubt what we are doing, the path God may have us on, what we have been taught and well, even God. Because, we are human, we do sin and we are not perfect, we can’t be. But what really stuck with me is that if we doubt, to “process it in a place to foster our faith-Pastor R.” The two years I struggled with my doubts, I somewhat did it alone; I had an amazing friend I bounced my doubts off of. A few actually and that did help. But even after starting to attend my new church, I still felt those doubts; however, Pastor R was right, wrestling with my doubts with a church family helped me to foster my faith, move past the doubts and feel more passionately about attending church than ever before.
I know I will have doubts in my life, I know I have many doubts about what I am doing in my career, am I on the right path, should I go back for a masters degree, should I be content, I doubt the reasons for my goals and what my goals are, for my kids, am I protecting them enough or too much from life, am I doing the best I can, am I teaching them everything I need to? There will always be things to doubt, but when we are surrounded by people we love, people who believe what we do, and who will provide us support, I believe we can grow from our doubt.
This may be a bit of a tangent, but it is another thought that was sparked for me the last few weeks regarding doubts. I have recently been supporting somebody who is struggling with who they are, doubting… I cannot say that I know all of the reasons they are struggling because I never assume I really know what somebody else is going through. But I do know that part of the struggle is feeling that they are one person and being told by others that it is not right; it is not what God wants. One of the things I have doubted about church is the strong stands some churches take on one or two specific topics, sexuality included. Why I struggle with this so much does not have to do with what God may think is right or wrong, but rather the shame that people feel from church for their sexuality. What bothers me is that this shame does not come from God, the shame comes from judgement that people impose on others in the name of God. Which I feel is misplaced; I am not arguing what God wants, I am acknowledging that we all sin and I know God forgives me as much as anybody else and I would never want my judgement to shame another person. My heart aches because I can understand how it feels to have so much guilt over actions that others disapprove of because they are not what God wants.
I can say I am much more of a person that I know God would be proud of when I let go of judging others and for feeling content with who I am. I don’t hold onto guilt for not being perfect or for sinning. I learn each Sunday ways to be a better Christian, but I spend more of my energy radiating God’s love to others through my actions rather than trying to tell or teach others how to act. I want to lead by example, not by authority. I want to not doubt what I am doing and rather, focus on doing what I know for sure is right. For me, what I don’t doubt is God, that he made us all, and that he loves us all.