I know it's coming—the call for volunteers to tell their faith story at the next elders' meeting. Many have already told theirs, and those of us who haven't are conspicuously looking down at the table. By now we've heard amazing stories of grace and redemption, tales of miraculous healings and forgiveness in the most unlikely circumstances.
But my faith story simply isn’t very interesting.
Oh, I could talk about my struggles with discontentment and desire and impatience. About pride and vanity. And my need to be right all the time. About fearing—okay, knowing—that I'm not always the husband or father I should be. About my need to please everyone at all cost.
A chapter in my faith story I do feel comfortable talking about is the one about doubt. The part where I envy those who believe the first time. Those people who, once on the wagon, never fall off—or in my case, don't deliberately jump off. At best, I am wary; at worst, suspicious and cynical.
I'm going to blame my mom and dad.
Research supports me in this: faith is formed under the influence of our parents—or parent substitutes like grandpas or grandmas. Not peers or environment or education. Or even church. We're looking at you, mom and pop.
I'll start by blaming my dad. He was the one who was more awed by a God who could create something that could recreate itself in new and mind-boggling ways than a God who, in a single work week, created everything just as it would be forever. He was the one to say "I don't know why, but isn't it great . . . or beautiful . . . or amazing?" He left me—figuratively and literally by dying a few years back—with few absolutes about God. Dad’s life was an example of letting God be who God is, not one who fit his view of who God should be. I loved that about him.
Mom saddled us with a strong sense of justice. With a gavel-like slap of her hand on the kitchen table, she would declare, "Well, that's just not right!" This judgment was applied to all kinds of situations: after she’d read a story in the newspaper, or come back from the grocery store where she’d talked to someone, and sometimes after hearing my dad's report of a congregational meeting she didn’t attend. None of us got away with a conversation-stopper like, "Isn't it great that we're all different?" or "To each his own." And even when you thought the debate was over, it was never over. I love that about her.
Is it any wonder I doubt? That I have a problem taking sides of arguments that seem to be based on too little information—especially when it comes to the ways of God? To call God my friend seems a hair pretentious. And why God—if he is as just as they say—hasn't wiped the global slate clean is a mystery to me.
Fellow wonderer Dennis Covington once said, "Mystery is not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend." I think he might be onto something. Maybe my questions are, in their own twisted way, a gift I was given to honor God.