What’s Wrong With Doubt, Anyway?

I have doubts.

There, I said it.

My husband and I spank our kids. Not often, but on occasion, and I often find myself wondering if it’s a good discipline tool or if I’m damaging them in some way.

I work—a lot. I have a job that requires time during the day and well into the evening. Not every evening, but enough of them. I work on weekends. I’m not away from my children completely, but then again I’m not present either.

My husband and I have recently relocated away from our family and the only home our three children have ever known, and I doubt, at times, that we made the right decision.

We find ourselves struggling financially and emotionally…and spiritually.

That’s right—big doubts spiritually. Was it God that brought us here—or simple circumstance?

How much control do we have over our own destiny and how much are God, the fates, karma, whatever—responsible for?

Last night I took my three little girlies trick-or-treating, and I have constant doubt about whether or not we should celebrate Halloween.

At times, I doubt the significance of all sorts of religious matters. And other times, I doubt the existence of God himself. What if this is all not real? What if I’m wrong about it all?

The problem with doubt isn’t doubt itself—it’s the refusal of so many to acknowledge it—to own it.

So here I am, owning my doubt. Some days it seems to be drowning me, others I barely notice it. But it is mine, and it never goes away.

Maybe if a few more of us would give voice to our doubts we would find strength in one another, or at least find discourse. A place we could bring our doubts and ponder them, maybe even put a few to rest.

What do you doubt? Really…I want to know.

Neither Rich Nor a Ruler

In this life we tend to avoid extremes.  Own 1 or 2 guns and you’re a typical American, start stockpiling storehouses full and people get uneasy.  We cling to old adages, “everything in moderation” and “too much of a good thing can kill ya!”

Yes, we really do prefer all things in moderation, but does God?

Does the God of the universe share our desire to blend in and enjoy everything with a hefty dose of moderation? For an answer, I turn to the story of a young man who comes to the Lord with a question.

It’s one of the most provocative stories in the New Testament—a young, wealthy, Jewish ruler comes to the Lord of Heaven and asks, “What must I do to attain eternal life?”

The question seems simple enough; many have asked it through the years. That’s not what makes this story significant—the significance comes in the reply of the savior.

“Sell all that you own and distribute it to the poor,” was his answer. Everything.  All.

There is a sense of completeness, of wholeness that comes with the word all. It is the “whole quantity or extent.” Jesus doesn’t ask the rich man to give all of his savings to the poor, or even all of his money to the poor. No. The King of Kings commands this man to sell all that he has in his possession and distribute the money to the poor.

To me, that is profound.

Too often too many of us sit on our couches and watch our television while God waits for us to give all.  We go to the movies & travel the world and he waits for our everything. We throw parties & plan weddings while he waits for our “whole quantity” to be given to him.

We read the story of this rich young ruler who loved himself and this world too much to give all that he had for the cause of Christ, and yet, how many of us deny Jesus the same daily?

I believe that we serve a God of extremes.  He loved when he should’ve hated. That’s extreme.  He restores health where he should’ve walked away. He served others when he was the one that deserved service.  He was an extremist, and I believe that he expects nothing more from his people today.

We like going to church each week, sitting in our pew, maybe volunteering a few times a year.  We give our tithe and many of us even add a little offering.  Perhaps we give a little to a shelter around the holidays. But we hold back. Just like the rich young ruler, we hold back.

We keep enough to buy the latest iPhone. We save enough for a hefty retirement. We make sure we can afford cable television and name brand clothing and that nice television and…

We are the rich young ruler, living in 2013, we are guilty just as he was.

The pen of inspiration writes, “He (Jesus) gave him a test that would make manifest the selfishness of his heart. He showed him the plague spot in his character” (COL 392). The plague spot.

We have a plague spot on our character. When the books are closed and this world has passed away, will any of us wish that we had purchased a more expensive phone? Will we worry about not having worn nice enough clothing? Fret over the lack of television that we watched?

Doubtful. It’s far more likely that we’ll weep over those we didn’t help. Lament over those that suffered longer than they needed to because of our inaction.

Can we be extreme in a world of mediocrity?

The Problem With Christians and the Zaccheus Effect

I remember the moment I first heard the words Seventh-day Adventist. I was 12 years old, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. My mother–calm. Me–panicked. “You will be going to Mid-Rivers SDA church school next year.”

I’ll be what? What’s an SDA and why would I want to go to their school? The more I listened to her speak, the more grim the news became.  Thoughts raced through my head even as I felt my arms crossing in defiance across my chest. 14 students? One room school? What, did I get transported back to 1876? Is this even legal in America?

This was a changing point in my life.

I don’t have any amazing transformational story. No angel appeared; no donkey spoke.  I am one of those conversion stories that aren’t often retold. I decided to follow God a million different times for a million different reasons—most of them involving Adventist Education, all of them involving Christian love.

As I grew as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian I experienced all the “stages of Adventism” as I now call them.

1. I was introduced to a loving God that I fell in love with over time. Jesus loves me, yay! Now what?

2. Stage two began shortly after stage one. I began to study and learn about prophecy and the end of time; thus began my descent into fear & end-of-the-world driven faith. God is coming soon, I need to go read my Bible so I can withstand the trials!

3. After several years of that, I graduated into a focus on obedience & the law. God requires obedience, and our Laodecian church is just too relaxed these days! Every time I heard a sermon that focused on the love & grace of Christ I would be actively afraid that if too many people believed in this idea of a God that just ran around forgiving everyone, the entire church would drift into lawlessness. That somehow we would all use that grace to excuse our disobedience.  Instead of focusing on the character of the savior that I loved, I paid close attention to my dress, my music, my language, my entertainment, my gossip, my actions, and my use of jewelry.   It wasn’t for several years that I realized there was one common denominator–me.

4. Finally, after many years of getting to know my savior better, I graduated to a faith based on Jesus, grace, and love.

So, what’s the point? We have a problem, Christians have a problem, and Zaccheus is the answer.

Zaccheus was a tax collector and people didn’t like him. He wasn’t misunderstood. He was an awful person. He spent his entire life cheating people out of money, stealing from them in the name of the law.  People didn’t like him, and they were justified in their distaste.

So, they did what anyone would in their situation. In order to evoke a change in Zaccheus they ostracized him.  They ignored him. They said mean things to him. They talked poorly about him behind his back. In short, they tried “behavior modification” by judging and disowning him.

I kept reading.  I saw this amazing, revolutionary religious man walk onto the scene and call that awful, lying, cheating man down out of a tree.  I saw my savior go to his house and eat with him.  Talk to him. Love him. And then, for the first time in Zaccheus’ life, I saw change.  After one day,  one afternoon with Jesus,  Zaccheus was forever altered.

So, my question is this: what are we afraid of? Loving too much? Do we really believe that if we are cruel enough, if we judge enough, if we point out sin enough, people will change? No. Love & grace are not to be feared; they’re to be embraced.

We should follow the example of the only perfect man to walk the Earth, and love.  Because at the end of the day, love was all that changed Zaccheus, it was all that changed me, and it was probably the only thing that changed you.