I have been a Christian, a follower of Jesus, since as long as I can remember. You could say, I was brought up as a Christian, which was certainly true, but the faith which I saw in my parents had to be true for me too, I could not survive on borrowed faith no matter how strong. At various points, and continually, in my life I have committed myself to Jesus Christ, signed up, and effectively said, “you have saved me, I belong to you and you are boss” But there have always been doubts: sometimes small ripples, at other times gigantic waves that look almost certain to sink this fragile dingy. But doubts do a funny thing. They make you realise that you do actually believe. If you didn’t believe, doubts will never bother you. It is a bit like pain which is a sign that you are still alive. On the mountains when the artic wind is cutting through your clothes and skin to your bone the time to worry is when you stop feeling the pain in your fingers. That’s when frostbite strikes and they can almost literally fall off. The time to worry is when you feel warm and comfortable and just want to lie down in the snow and sleep. It is, of course, a sleep of death. Feeling pain is a sign of life and having doubts is a sign of faith.
Doubts have many angles: over suffering, over exclusiveness, with science, over the bible, over the whole idea of the supernatural, but for me it comes with an unannounced sense that the whole things is bizarre, ridiculous and absurd. To believe seems utterly insane and so much nonsense, but the strange thing is that it hits a rock and one that doesn’t seem to want to move. It is the conviction that there is nothing else: that I have nothing but God and that there is no other way but Jesus. It is what Jesus’ disciples said when people were turning away from him and his teaching. (John:6:68). He said “Do you want to leave too”. Peter responded “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”
It all struck home with a new force, when I read Kayla Mueller’s letter, which her parents released after her death, this week. It was not clear when the letter was written or what actually was her fate, but it was hard to read without becoming totally choked up, not so much by the tragedy for her and her family, or the blind wickedness of her captors, but by the sheer beauty of her expressed faith in God and her first concern, not for herself, but for the ones she loved.
“I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else … + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another … I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation.”