when your faith waivers ( a lesson from John the Baptist)

Have you ever had this experience? The faith you confidently held and expressed throughout your life suddenly seems thin and wobbly. What you previously believed without a doubt you now find yourself questioning. If so, you are in good company.

So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another? Luke 7:18,19

John, the one who while still in his mother’s womb recognized Jesus as the Messiah; the one who didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he felt unworthy to even untie his sandals; the one who pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world;” this John, the one who was convinced Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, now has doubts. John, in prison and anticipating death because of his faith, now needs reassurance that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

What did John do when he was experiencing a crises of faith?

He asked his friends to go to Jesus on his behalf. He had a trusted community with whom he could share his doubts, ones who would approach Jesus when he could not. Do you have such relationships? Your doubts might cause you to withdraw or isolate yourself. Do the opposite. Confide in your friends, admit your doubts, ask them to pray, borrow their faith until yours returns.

. .demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.  – Henri Nouwen The Road to Daybreak

How did Jesus respond to John’s dilemma?

He says, “look at the fruit of my ministry.” It’s so like Jesus to not answer a direct question with a direct answer. He’s committed to building our faith, not coddling our doubts. His answers cause us to examine our lives, pointing us to the ways we are no longer blind, lame, sick, deaf, dead or poor. His answers to our questions drive us to trust his character. Our faith, even as we doubt, is solid and true. Doubts will pass, our faith abides; and remember, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

Do you live in the house of love?

You are God's loved garden

Depending on emotional/relational fig leaves to keep ourselves safe is not a very good strategy. First off, they don’t provide much protection and when they die, they dry up and crumble apart, leaving us vulnerable to the pain, shame and hurt they were intended to guard against. What then can be done? Does God have a plan to protect and keep us?

Yes, thank God, there is a means of getting back to the garden. “God clothed Adam and Eve in garments of flesh.” Genesis 3:21 God replaced their fig leaves with the soft, supple, warm skin of an animal. God did not leave them naked and vulnerable to cold and hurt. (Sadly, though, an animal had to die to provide this covering, a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.)

Returning to the Garden, being restored to community, leaving the house of fear and entering the house of love requires us to give up our paltry attempts at self-protection and to trust God to be our covering. We can choose nakedness; we can be ourselves without pretense or fear (see here for a discussion of trust vs fear).

Such vulnerability does need wisdom, though. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that you should “not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Don’t give what is precious and valuable (your very self) to someone who is not going to honor and respect you. This is not to say you should be “hiding” your self in such situations, just use discretion in what truth you offer to the other. Jesus would not want you to be abused and trampled upon.

Living in the house of love, we choose dependent obedience; we obey God’s command to love and serve one another while depending upon the covering of Christ’s victory to be our protection. Remember the others we are in community with will (like us) tend to “clothe themselves in fig leaves.” It is not ours to force their “nakedness,” one must choose “nakedness.” It is ours to do unto them as Christ has done unto us. Such love-born actions alone can lead to trust and vulnerability.

We began these posts with a thought from St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s end them by making her thought our own.

As I pray, I am making a garden in which my Lord delights. But the soil of my garden is unfruitful and full of weeds. So Jesus uproots the weeds and plants good herbs…so that he may come often for his pleasure and to delight himself in the virtues growing in me.

This concludes the series of posts on God’s tending of us, a garden in whom our Lord delights. You can read them from the beginning by going to “How does your Garden Grow.” The thoughts were taken from the retreat Shaped at the Garden. You can contact me for more information about this retreat.