During the Lenten season, I’m going to try to post a series on Mondays reflecting on different aspects of the season. This post will be just a little different, because it’s not just about Lent, but about all of us who face our doubts, face our darkness, whatever the season.
You don’t know I’m watching you across the sanctuary.
The room has mostly cleared, most of the people have hurried off this first warm(ish) afternoon for afternoon activities outside, but there you are, deep in conversation and there are tears filling your eyes. I noticed them throughout the teaching time as well as I talked about unanswered prayer. Somehow your blue eyes shine even more brightly when they are filled with tears.
I know this journey is difficult. I know it’s hard to pray when you’re not even sure what – or even if – you still believe. I know that even to show up at church on a Sunday morning is difficult, surrounded by people who by all appearances seem to have it all together. (btw: they don’t!) And I know that you don’t even always have the words to express exactly what you feel. Sometimes there are only tears.
And still you come nearly every Sunday. And still you keep fighting, arguing, naming your rage, identifying your doubts, rebuking the angry, vengeful God that was pounded from the pulpit into your young mind. And still you keep talking about what you think and what you feel, saying the truest things you know how to the people who are safest to you.
And in this season of Lent, you still lean in. You still create spaces of quiet and reflection, even though the quiet only seems to lead to fogginess of the soul and not the enlightenment promised by so many. And still you come.
As your pastor, let me say this to you; behind your tears, I see beautiful things developing in you. I know naming your doubts feels vulnerable and scary and I’m so privileged that you’ve chosen to include me in the journey. So many people would cut their pastor/priest out of dark conversations like the ones we’ve had. And even though it feels scary to you and you feel alone and more than a little lost, I can tell you from where I sit in my office and in coffee shops and in bars and restaurants talking to so many people, there are many of us that wrestle with the same doubts, the same fears, the same “not-knowing” that you feel. And we are in it with you.
So, please, keep moving forward. Keep stumbling in the dark, because even though it doesn’t feel like it to you, even though you feel broken and fragile and vulnerable, what we see is an incredibly strong person who is willing to face the darkness and keep wrestling with God. You may never arrive at the assuredness of the faith of your childhood, but – as we’ve already discussed – that was a lie anyway, God isn’t that simple. And in exchange you’re figuring it out for yourself, and in the end, I’m confident that where you arrive will be beautiful and strong.
[And just to be all “pastoral,” let me remind you, you’re in good company. Moses argued with God, Jacob wrestled with God (perhaps literally) and David specialized in bitching at God about nearly everything. And these were God’s “favorites.”]
So – especially in this season of Lent – keep at it. We’re in it with you because we believe in you and behind your tears we see beautiful things at work.