Friday, February 6, 2015

In a mirror dimly

Thinking about faith and doubt, if they are religious, people tend to praise the first and blame the second. I mean, they think faith is good and doubt bad. They assume that they have faith, maybe not wonder-working faith like some of the saints had, but at least enough faith to get by, to qualify them as believers, and they outwardly pity and inwardly scorn those whom they imagine imprisoned in doubt, such as agnostics, atheists, and other unbelievers. Sometimes they combat with them, not so much to ‘save’ them as to conquer them, to prove that they’re wrong.

But this is not the way it is. Faith and doubt co-exist in every soul, and neither understands the other very much, but they are not enemies as much as they are spiritual midwives appointed by God to help deliver us, yes, to deliver us who have been born of the flesh once, but must also experience a second birth, of the spirit. One cannot believe without first doubting. Faith emerges from doubt. It is a seed planted in the dark soil that sprouts in the blind warmth of the sun, and breaks out to send up a shoot that greens and branches, leafs, flowers and bears fruit.

What some people call doubt, being misguided by ‘popular’ religion, is actually not doubt but ‘unknowing.’ One can have faith and still not know that God exists in a specific form. One may conceive of God as a force instead of a person, for example, and still have faith, even miraculous faith, because God’s mercy is not limited by either our knowledge or our understanding. Even the greatest saints, those who know Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior of the world, those of the greatest faith, still have doubt—unknowing—because the human mind has limits.

Some people say, ‘I know God,’ or ‘I know the Lord,’ without qualification, or with it. They think this is a very great thing, and they contrast themselves with others ‘who don’t know the Lord’ and hence are not saved. This is a way of talking that easily passes for faith, but is only a cosmetic applied to prevent ourselves and others from seeing how ignorant we really are. The important thing is not that we know God, but that He knows us. On our side we can know Him very little, but what we can do is acknowledge Him before men and to ourselves, by obeying His commandments.

Christ knows what He is dealing with when it comes to us. He knows we are a barren wasteland full of noxious weeds, arid, wind-swept, and forbidding. There we are, a desert of doubt, yet that does not dissuade Him from coming to us, planting His divine seed in hope that it will take root and choke the weeds in us. He comes and waters us, nurturing us not only with what is natural but with what is supernatural, His own blood. The winds that blew us cold and dry, those ‘lords of the air’ He silences with a word, and He raises us from dark doubt into the light of faith.

Brethren, if you doubt, do not be afraid, but accept all from God’s hand. That acceptance, even of doubt, is reliance on the unseen, unknown and unknowable God, which He will, when it pleases Him, without our help, reward with all that He wills for us, even faith, that contract between Creator and creature that we were created for. The Bride is for the Bridegroom, and in each one of us, He is willing to come, though it be in the darkest night, ‘for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully, even as we have been fully known’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

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