For the past decade or so, my brain has chipped away at my faith. I believe a credible intellectual defense of the basic tenets of Christianity exists. But I also think a credible intellectual defense of the basic tenets of atheism exists. And when I start to think about these stories–of a baby born of a virgin, of a God who became a human being, of a man who was God who took away the separation of sin and guilt through his death, of a man who was God who died and then arose from the grave, of a promise that the entire world will one day taste that resurrection, will one day become the kingdom of heaven–well, I have my own set of questions for each one of those claims. But I sometimes wonder if my questions are really just a way to avoid the God in whom I say I believe.
I think of the way my kids ask questions. Sometimes they arise out of sincere curiosity: Penny asking what “tearfully” means when we read together, Marilee asking, “Where my daddy?” when she wakes up in the morning, William wondering how a musician is able to repeat the same rhythm on the drums throughout a song. But sometimes they ask questions in an attempt to divert or distract me. The whiny, “Can you do it for me?” The, “But Mommy-y-y! Why can’t we have a cookie for breakfast!?!” The repetitive “When are we going to get there?”
In my questions for God, I’m like my kids. Sometimes sincere in my doubts. Sometimes whiny, repetitive, insistent. Often not even asking God directly but allowing my doubts to protect me from talking to God, or listening to God, at all.
And yet, God keeps showing up. Keeps walking through my door. Keeps surprising me by faithful love. By giving me not just some ideology that competes intellectually with all the other ideologies. But by giving me experiences of love and grace and truth and answered prayer. Sometimes the answers are simple ones that could just be happenstance–the fact that Penny is happy at school and has friends, that William and his dad built teepees in the yard yesterday, that our new babysitter believes in Jesus. But sometimes there’s enough happenstance for me to believe God has been at work. Again.
In Advent, we are preparing for the arrival of the word made flesh, the God who showed up and interrupted human history with good news for all people.
Mary asked the angel, upon hearing news that she would bear God’s son, “How will this be?”
Perhaps there was some doubt contained in the question, and perhaps some sincere curiosity, but I suspect there was also a degree of humility. How could it be that God chose to show up within me?
And, as prayers are answered all around me, as I find myself the recipient of grace, as I recognize God’s invitation for me to get involved in this new community, and as I respond with a fragile but not yet shattered faith, I ask, “How will this be?”
And yet, with Mary, “Let it be to me as you have said.”
May God come into the world, and into my life, once more.