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!)