Conversation #4: Doubt and the Cross

Every now and again we all need to be reminded. Usually we write little notes to remind ourselves of things we have to do, people we have to see, appointments we have to keep. But how often do we remind ourselves not of things, we have to do, but of who the person doing them actually is.

How is that person? Are they well? Are they stressed? Are they angry?

The fact is, we usually don’t know. We hide how we feel about ourselves and how we are living our lives under an avalanche of activity. Maybe this is why most of us prefer to be busy. It keeps us from having to face up to the person underneath all the day to day things.

This past Wednesday the GCSC participated in a sort of group experiment. We began by talking about DOUBT. We asked the question if whether or not the church is a place where one can doubt things (especially God) safely.

Then, we asked for it to get personal. We handed out cards and asked students to write as many of the doubts that they had on a 3×5 card. This was all in the flow of the class, and there was no emotional appeal. Just a call to be honest.

Then, we asked the students to do something out of the ordinary. We asked them to give their card to another student and have them nail it to a cross we had set up in the back.

Here is the result:

It was an emotional experience. An eye-opening experience. And maybe a small gesture that hints at what it would be like to be part of a community that “carries each others burdens” (Gal. 6:2).

The cross now sits in the prayer room, where students can pray over each others doubts in the shadow of the great love of the cross.

Here are a few reflections on the experience as a whole:

1. People are really good at hiding.

We learned well from Adam and Eve. Most of us have things going on right beneath the surface that need to come out. But we’ve learned well how to hide those behind a mask that says everything is okay. The fact is this: SOMETIMES THINGS ARE NOT OKAY AND THAT’S OKAY. A step to healing, like it was for Adam and Eve, is to come out of hiding. To let light be shone on things. When that happens, you find out something very good:

2. You are not alone.

It was amazing to me how many of us are struggling with the same things. We ALL wonder why things have happened. We ALL want to be better, but seem to have trouble finding a way to do it. We ALL, for the most part, have trouble thinking very highly of ourselves. If you feel this way, you need to know that you are not alone. This is the role of “church.” A church is not a place, not a building. A church is a group of people who are honest enough with each other to share what’s really going on in their lives and to take that knowledge and use it to love and help one another. But, that’s not what we usually think of church is it?

3. Most of us are frightened to trust others (and maybe with good reason).

Despite all the talk of “community” in the modern church, I’m not sure we have very many of us that are willing to sacrifice for it. People that are willing to be vulnerable, to be exposed. Most of us have been hurt or taken advantage of in the past and we swore (maybe literally) NEVER to let that happen again. Being vulnerable is scary. But the alternative is worse:

4. Not being vulnerable leads to a fake life.

One author said that most men (women too) live lives of “quiet desperation.” What was meant by that is that below the surface, most of us are hurting, and most of us will never tell anyone. “Church” is nothing if it does not become this place.

5. We are all fighting a battle.

Remember that. And see people that way. It will change the way you treat other people. Perhaps this simple thing is one way in which we can “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

6. Doubt plays an important part in faith

Statistics show that the younger generations are leaving churches in droves. One of the reasons often cited in a lack of willingness to question things or allow questions. Christians shouldn’t be afraid of expressing their doubts. Jesus did. On the cross of all places. Without doubt, faith becomes something empty that wasn’t struggled for. After all, “Israel” means “one who struggles with God and overcomes.” The key is not to dismiss doubt, but to allow it to lead you to the right questions. Doubt is the catalyst for stronger faith, not a sign of disbelief. If we allow ourselves to be honest, who knows what God will open up to us? That’s the lifeblood of books in the Bible like the Psalms. In the end, the cross itself was the place of great inner turmoil for Jesus. He quotes a psalm that ends with the praises of God (Psalm 22), but that’s not where it starts. It starts in the pit. The darkness. It’s a primal scream acknowledging the truth we all know, that God seems distant sometimes, and we often don’t understand Him. The good news is that its from there, that darkness, that God has always enjoyed making things new again. But that never happens until we acknowledge it. If we don’t, we continue to life quietly and desperately, saying the same old cliches, but never really saying the truth, but knowing it all to well to be just below the surface, screaming with Jesus, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” But if we come out of hiding, what we find is that God is ready to work with us and shows us people who are willing to do the same. Those people are called “church.”

 

Trauma from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.


Grace and Peace,

 

Adam Daniels

Campus Minister

Georgia Christian Student Center

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