The Doubting Pastor Who Didn’t Get Thrown Under the Bus


After my last post wrestling with my doubt over how Jesus Christ truly does reign over this seemingly chaotic mess of a planet, the time came on Sunday morning to share my message explaining the reign of Christ. Yes, I got through the sermon, both times. I have to tell you, though, some of that was easy, but most of it was very difficult.

On the one hand, I love the ancient biblical promises that point to the reign of God and the great “day of the Lord.” I’m firmly convinced that these promises are realized in Jesus of Nazareth. I can whoop and holler with the best of them about these things. (No, I don’t whoop or holler, but you know what I mean. The passion is there, at least!)

But on the other hand, it was very difficult when it came time for me to talk about how the reign of Christ affects us now. I had no solid answer to give because I’m not so sure myself. I wasn’t about to put on a show and say things I wasn’t convinced were true.

So… I took a great risk. I went off script and publicly confessed my doubt. I shared with my church family that while I want to believe that the reign of Christ is in our midst and then show convincing evidences of it, I couldn’t. It got very quiet.

And then I looked around, and in most peoples’  faces I saw sighs of relief, not astonishment. I heard a few people quietly say, “I struggle with that, too.” The moment illustrated to all of us that doubt is not a plague to be avoided, that it’s okay to struggle with how our dearly held beliefs intersect the world around us. We can learn that seasons of doubt and wrestling solidify a deeper, more authentic faith, not detract from it.

Then something beautiful happened which I did not anticipate. As I was sharing my doubt, suddenly Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed came to mind. (Thank you, Holy Spirit!) This simple, pithy little parable tells about the mustard seed and how even though it is the smallest of garden seeds, it grows to become the greatest in the garden, so great in fact, that the birds of the air come to perch on its branches. Jesus was talking bout the kingdom of God, but might this also encompass and describe his reign, too?

I think this parable is somehow wrapped up in my quest, although I’m still not quite there yet. Those nagging “how” and “what” questions still abound and deserve further wrestling. But then again, this parable is an excellent starting point. If Jesus and his early followers were convinced that this is the method in which God’s kingdom takes root and form, then there must be something to it I still have yet to discern and see in my context and in our world.

Yet overall, as the title suggests, this is one pastor who didn’t get thrown under the bus for expressing my doubt. Not that I’ll be doing this every Sunday, but once in a while, honesty like this gives some much needed breathing room for questions, wrestling, and genuine growth. Spiritual maturity is never possible within the carefully fabricated, highly controlled world of shallow propositional certainty about everything.

P.S. Then again, even if I was temporarily thrown under the bus for my doubt, I shouldn’t really complain. The Apostle Thomas has had to perpetually live with “doubting” in front of his name for 2,000 years now! Poor Thomas… (Poor us, really!)

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “The Doubting Pastor Who Didn’t Get Thrown Under the Bus

  1. Willidine Mellas

    Just goes to prove that even though we may think we are or feel alone sometimes. We are never alone. To great surprise often times there are many people that are in the same boat or have the same feelings as we do. It’s a wonderful thing when you can stand in front of a group of peers and be honest and open and they still love ya just the same at the end of the day. Lifes true blessings.

    • Very true, Willie… We’re never as alone as we think we are, although I have to say that the pulpit can feel like a lonely place sometimes. So I was relieved all the more to realize exactly what you’ve said here. Thanks again!

  2. Henry Rowe

    Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith!

  3. Tom Ellis

    I enjoyd your honesty. Your not alone. Even Jesus questioned his father’s plan for him.

  4. Carol

    Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times

    by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

    (Published with permission.Visit http://www.mavenproductions.com/estes.html)

    My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered.

    They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

    You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times.

    Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

    In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

    Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

    One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall:

    When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for. This comes with much love and a prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.

    PRAYER OF ST. EPHREM
    THE SYRIAN

    O Lord and Master of my life!
    Take from me the spirit of sloth,
    Faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.
    But give rather the spirit of chastity,
    Humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
    Yea, O Lord and King!
    Grant me to see my own errors
    And not to judge my brother;
    For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

    From the cowardice that shrinks from new truths,
    from the laziness that is content with half truths,
    and from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
    O God of truth, deliver us.
    ~ Rabbi Mordechai M. Kaplan

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