Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 19, 2004

evening

A thin mist still veils the land, dark starless sky high above, cool breezes bringing chill. Breath clouds out, drifts away. Quiet reigns, no noises except a gentle breeze stirring the strips of the wind sock, a soothing rustle. In the distance forms and shapes take on a mystical quality, half hidden in the settled cloud.

In dwelling for a while on not just the crucifixion but also on the resurrection I realize that the fault of believers throughout history has been impatience and worry. From Christ’s first moment of ministry, well even before that, going back to the beginning, humanity has doubted and swayed, always sure that this time God will not come through as promised. Always he does, but for those who let their doubts sway too far, this activity may not help. It was foretold to the prophets what would happen, but the disciples did not believe. Even when they walked and talked with him, they did not believe, not really. For forty days he walked and talked with them, touched them, ate and drank with them. And at the end, at the ascension they still did not understand what was happening. But, they trusted enough to pray, to wait, to let their insecurity be settled through patience rather than through action.

That was to their benefit. Waiting on God in the silence is an act of faith. He speaks when there is something to say, whether or not we are willing to wait for the voice.

Tomorrow is ascension day, the day forty days after Easter. This marks the last evening the risen Christ walked among sinful humanity, the last night when faith was not needed to believe in the resurrection. All who saw are dead now, long dead. All who touched him, heard his voice, saw the scars are buried millenia ago. They did their part, they wrote what they saw, four witnesses, and a late blooming Apostle. The choice to embrace their testimony is ours.

What we do with it is also our choice to make. Do we accede to the words, but not let the reality change our being? That is the question always before me. What do I do with this? If it is true, how do I act like it is? What in my life reflects the resurrection? What reflects a denial of the resurrection?

How differently, I wonder, would I live if I touched the wounds in his side, in his hands, on his feet? I imagine I would pray more, worry less, understand a broader reality than the one I presently see. So, that is still the task, to learn to be that person without having to touch the wounds, hear his voice come from a physical mouth.

That is the part of the goal. Within that, by doing that, is the secret of contentment.

For now I wait on the Spirit to continue to move in my midst, empowering me, and helping me to wait as desired. I take the next steps as they come, delighting in the opportunity.

Or not delighting, and just doing. For obedience is the highest call, whether to glory or to shame. That is the lesson I still am learning.

morning

The squeaking continues. For an hour now, “squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak… squeak, squeak” and so on, loud and bold. It might be a bird, it sounds like a bird. My suspicions tell me it is not a bird. I always see a chipmunk near when I hear the squeak. I walk out to see what is squeaking and it stops, and a chipmunk dashes away.

I see a lot of birds, they are not embarrased to let their voices ring near my window. None have made this squeaking noise. The only problem is I’m not sure chipmunks make a squeaking noise. Squirrels sure do chatter, and not always with words appropriate for children to hear. The squeaking continues from the woodpile, or thereabouts. This day is again beautiful, perfect, a light mist, a clear sky, reminding me of Northern California with a southern california sun. Fresh breezes delight the branches, green waving flags all around.

Doubt has been on my mind. Not the specifics of my own, more the topic itself. Faith is the opposite of doubt, so we think. Yet persons of faith have doubt. Some go as far to say this is a noble aspect, a view of reality, honest and true. In part I agree, to admit doubt is a virtue, as honesty usually is. Only doubt cripples the mind, cripples the soul. We’re not called to doubt, we are called to believe, to have confidence in what we believe.

The one who doubts is like a tree which cannot bear fruit, and is withered away. “Do not doubt,” Jesus says to Thomas, fingers in his side, “but believe.” Those who have not seen and believe are blessed. We have not seen, not really, not like Thomas, but the excuse to doubt is not given to us. “Why do you doubt,” Jesus asks in the midst of the storm, Peter in the sea. Peter committed himself in faith, then doubted once committed. It would have been better to stay in the boat, if not for Jesus’ welcoming hands.

That is the core of doubt in the life of the Christian. There are questions to be sure, unanswered mysteries, difficulties which bother and annoy. But once committed we must commit, carry on without the burden of doubts weighing us down.

Doubts come and we can choose what to do with them. We can embrace them, treasuring them in our soul, a fruitless effort to hold on to two worlds. Or we can dismiss them, choosing to believe that which we are told, relying on authority when our hearts are dismayed. Once we are committed to the sea we cannot doubt any longer. We can remain on the boat if we doubt, choosing not to exercise faith, choosing to trust in time taught ways of managing wind and wave.

For the Christian, for the one pursuing the depths, trying to be a Christian in truth not just in name, committing to the sea, the void, is a part of the Way. So, at a certain point one has to lay aside that which troubles, even if it is not answered and leap out. If we are wrong, we will learn it in eternity. If we are right, though, doubt does not carry any honor.

There is no virtue in doubt once committed to the void, walking on the sea. And yet, if we do doubt in the midst of no salvation, Jesus is there to lift us up. Never, though, does he commend the doubt. It is something to move beyond. Assurance in things we cannot see does not include doubt about what we do not.

This is not a call to dishonesty, for me to say that which I don’t hold as reality. It is a call to maturity, to grow to become the Christian who does not doubt, because my faith is full. While I have doubt, I am immature in the faith. I’m happy to admit this, but I will not revel in it. I will seek to grow.

So, doubts creep in and I do what I must to move past them, to embrace the fullness of the Three-in-One, in order that one day I will not doubt, and I will see the wonderful fruit a doubtless life brings.

It is said that one without doubt can move a mountain into the sea. There are indeed many immovable mountains about these days. But the one who leaps into the sea, walks without doubt, and moves a mountain to fill it, aids those who walk behind on the same way.

That is a mark of maturity. Doubt without dishonesty. Maybe someday I’ll get there.

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