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Doubt“I don’t know what God wants me to do.”  A friend has been doing a lot of praying lately as he seeks God’s path for his life.  A new job?  School?  A new city?  The choices are endless and so is the doubt. Why is God silent when we ask, plead, and demand answers?

When this happens in my life, I suspect that the silence can mean one of three things.  The first is that I’m not really listening.  I know what I want and what I want God to say.  With my goal in sight, I just want God to tell me that I’m right and tell me right now.  Frankly, what I need to do is sit down and shush.  Only then can I hear that quiet voice which, unfortunately, may very well tell me something that I don’t want to know.

There is also the possibility that I don’t like the answer that I’m getting.  Certainly THAT can’t be the plan.  Thanks but no thanks, I’ll wait for the real answer, God.  Yeah.  I can be a little slow.  Like the time I clearly heard God telling me to join the choir.  Clearly.  But I didn’t listen because I hadn’t sung in over 20 years.  And I have stage fright.  And I’m not as good as . . . my excuses were endless.  But that’s okay.  God is persistent.  I’m slow but I eventually got the message.

Last but not least, there are the times that God really is quiet.  Maybe now isn’t the time for the solution that we need.  Or we really shouldn’t make the change we are demanding.  Have faith.  The answer will come but it will come in God’s time.

The key is keeping calm, keeping quiet, and keeping open to hear.

–SueBE

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Prayer is a choice. For us to pray to give thanks, or to voice our questions and doubts shows that we are choosing to leave an opening in our spirits. Without this opening, there is no vessel, no place into which God can breathe.
Joanna Laufer

I’ve often wondered if expressing doubt to God in prayer is an oxymoron.  Or even sacrilege.  The whole premise behind praying is that God exists and that He is sovereign. Who am I to throw pebbles at Him and question his ways?

A month ago, I had an exacerbation of MS and came home from the hospital ready to heal. Then last week, I fell down in the hallway and had a setback. I was frustrated, distraught, even hopeless.

As I look back over my life, this is, unfortunately, the way I’ve lived my faith-walk at times as well.

It’s as if I see each challenge as the end of the road.  That’s it!  I’ve had it.  As we say in Jersey, I’m too through. I mean, how can I possibly contribute anything to the world lying here in bed, feet wrapped in Ace bandages, barely able to hobble on crutches?  Even writing a blog post takes forever for me now due to dexterity and visual issues.

The reality is that these are speed bumps.  I’m not able to drive right now, but I’ll drive again at some point.  When I was driving, I wouldn’t throw up my hands in disgust if I had to stop for a red light.  I’d know the light would turn green again. It’s just a matter of time.

Some of the most important discoveries in history came from people who questioned the status quo. The world is flat?  Somebody said, “Doubtful.”  The earth is the center of the universe?  Somebody said, “Are you sure about that?”

Lori is active in the Catholic church, and she’s written about voicing dissent within her faith community. In the news today, Catholic nuns are speaking up, even if the hierarchy doesn’t always listen.

During an intense time a few years ago, I wrote about coming to terms with doubt. I decided that it doesn’t negate my faith in God if I express confusion or doubt.  In the end, it strengthens it, reminding me exactly what I believe and why. Once I’ve worked it out in prayer and in my mind, I can move forward with a measure of peace that I didn’t have when my doubts were unexpressed.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

It also helps to know that we’re part of a faith community, and that we hold each other up in prayer, as SueBE said in her moving post last week.  “Simply knowing that people are praying for us is a weight off my shoulders.  I’m not going it alone.”

And that – no doubt –  is the gospel truth.

Years ago, when my son was an infant, I’d put him on the couch in the living room, secure behind bundled up blankets and pillows. Humming, I’d go into the kitchen to do the dishes and start dinner, and, every so often, I’d turn around to look at him as I worked. He was always sleeping soundly.

Once, I looked over and I didn’t see my son – my dog had put herself right in front of him and stared at me balefully as if to say, “Hey Ma, I’m here too, y’know!” I’d go over and pat her head as I checked on my boy.

So even if I’m not always in the same room, and I may not be actively attending to my loved ones at any given moment, they are always on my mind and in my heart.  If I don’t seem to be “there” for them, at least they know, I’m “thereabouts.” I’m always thinking of them and am constantly concerned for their well-being.

Sometimes when things are not going as we’d expected, we question God.  I’ve been known to ask quite frankly in my New Jersey way, “Lord, I’m not asking, ‘Are you there?’ Oh, I know You’re there.  I’m asking, ‘Are you there for me?'”

If I look at my own little world, my son might well occasionally say the same thing of me.  After he comes home from school, he usually finds me in the sunroom working on my weekly copywriting gigs. “Grab a snack, honey, I’m busy,” I’ll say. It might seem like I’m not there for him.  But does he realize that a chill rolled in last night and I got up at 2 AM to put an extra blanket on him as he slept?

Does God work the same way?  Hmm.

Last week my neighbor cleared my driveway of a heavy snowfall before I even woke up. I offered to pay him, but he waved away my money, hoisted the snow blower and went across the street to clear another neighbor’s driveway.

A month or so ago, I left my wallet at a restaurant.  When I went back in a panic, the server was standing by the door waiting for me, both hands clutching my wallet protectively.  He looked as worried as I did!

I think the slow drip of doubt that I let corrode my relationship with God tends to rust over the things that He does for me through other people, and the things He does through me for other people. I’ve focused so specifically on what God hasn’t done for me lately that I almost need an interpreter to remind me that He works in mysterious ways, but make no mistake:  He works.

Faith works.

Just because we want everything to be perfect – and it isn’t – that doesn’t negate the good things that are always happening.  Somewhere.  And if something good isn’t happening to you at that moment, it doesn’t stop you from doing good for somebody else.

This dovetails with what Lori asked us to do this week:  forgive someone. When you forgive, you extend healing and hospitality where there was once only pain.  It also takes a weight off of your own soul and leaves that space open for genuine joy.

Doing a favor for someone else is a nice deposit in the bank of goodwill. Maybe we’re designed to do what we can do and leave the rest up to Him.  But if we wait for Him to do it all, He’s not the one who isn’t “there” – we are.  Maybe after all our praying and waiting, God shows up when we do.

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.  I do not judge the universe.  Dalai Lama

They rolled in early in the morning, well before 9 AM, and you heard the “beep-beep-beep” of massive trucks backing up and turning around.  There was a scraper attachment on the front of the first one, and it lifted up the worn-down top layer of black-top on the road.  The scraped-up black-top was then funneled into a dump truck following behind via a long metal tube.  Behind these two trucks was a crew laying down the new, gloppy black-top.  After they poured down the black goo, they all got off the trucks and pulled out shovels.  They dug around driveways that had potholes (like mine) and smoothed the driveways’ ends into the newly-paved road.  Then came the steamrollers, back and forth, for hours on end.

There was a lot of noise, a lot of equipment and a lot of manpower out there on my road today.  The fact is, it takes a lot of work to un-do a road, especially if you plan to re-do it.

Imagine how much effort and energy it must take to un-do bad attitudes, dark thoughts and crushed spirits.  And what kind of power it must take to re-do a soul that’s a fixer-upper.  It takes a tear-down to pave the way for a build-up.

Lately, because of the things happening in my life, in particular, to my family, I’ve been having bouts of doubt.  Maybe it should be capitalized, like a chronic condition.  Bouts of Doubt.  Could even be classified in the ICD-9 DM soul diagnostic manual.

When I saw the quote, above, by the Dalai Lama, I realized that this is what’s going on in my faith life.  I’m judging God.  I’ve actually prefaced a prayer with, “Now, I’m sure You have your reasons….” and “I don’t doubt You; I just question Your methods.”

Seeing these words written on the page, it really is ridiculous.  Me, calling God on the carpet.  Heck, He invented carpet!  Even remnants.

So I’m working on getting past one of my Pet Proclivities:  judging others.  Only in this case, I’m judging the way God is working in my life.  He’s been patient as I’ve let my Jersey out from time to time.  “Not for nuttin, Lord, but what gives?”

I’ll work on re-vamping my own road, and keep believing that, with all the detours I’ve taken and the potholes that abound, I can find my way back home to hope.  Until then, I’ll just keep on truckin.

I am:

Proud of my confusion.
It makes me a better person.
It forces me to think things through
before I run them by God.

Blessed by my doubts.
They make me widen my world
and not just circle the wagons
immersed in my own little dogma.

Grateful for fits of rage.
It reminds me there are things to stand against
and things worth fighting for.

Pleased to be saddled with the burden of choices.
It means I’m creating my own life,
eyes open, head up, hands clasped, soul first.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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