In one of his poems, John Blasé writes, “I want to live in a world . . . that is actually here / tart as wintergreen and rough as granite.” He continues: “I can’t breathe in a world of red bows / the one where truth is thin and castrated, where / God’s mercies are always sweet and swift.” His words explain why I love Fathom and why I’m glad to be here, even if right now I feel less like an editor and more like that Michael Jackson meme where he’s in a movie theater, eating popcorn, and watching everyone else.
Thinking about granite vs. red bows reminds me of the moment when my husband looked at me and stopped my heart by saying he wasn’t sure anymore. About God. About me. About our marriage. There was no soft, bright ribbon to wrap around the truth of God’s sovereignty. God was God then as he is now, but no trite Christianese would have spoken to my heart, surprised by pain.
I’ve seen people break over their doubt, not the doubt itself, but the fact that they are having doubts at all. This is what breaks them, the questions behind their tongues, as though there is no place for humanness or wonder in the Christian life. As though John the Baptist didn’t ask of Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
A few years back, I was walking down the hall at work when I saw one of my students huddled in a corner near the lockers. She was sobbing. Everyone else was in class. I sat down next to her without saying a word. Finally, I asked her what was on her heart. She burst into fresh tears, admitting that she was struggling with doubts about the Christian faith and that, at a Christian school, this felt unacceptable. She whispered: “I’m worried that if I ask my questions out loud, people will think that I’m not saved.”
Sometimes the hardest place to be a Christian is around other Christians.
There is a place for articles about the Six Reasons You Should Attend Small Group, but Fathom creates room for the thoughts, experiences, and verses that are better wrestled with than numbered. A girl I know paints her sadness. She was abused for years, and now she has a family in the church and a hope in Jesus. Lately, I’ve seen gold streaks emerge at the edges of her canvas, and with her art she speaks a louder gospel than so many of the how-to-Christian articles that flood my Twitter feed, some of which I’ve written.
A friend of mine asks more questions in Sunday school than she answers, and it’s beautiful. I’m learning from her wisdom and bravery.
My husband got down on his knees in a restaurant last week when he spotted a recent widow. I watched him crouch beside her chair, hold her hand, and acknowledge, “It’s tough. It isn’t easy.”
My counselor surprised me during our first meeting by asking a question I hadn’t anticipated. “How has your divorce impacted your faith?” “I’m fine,” I heard myself respond, before I had time to think about the question. “I mean . . . I know God still loves me. I know He wasn’t punishing me. He didn’t abandon me. I know he allows suffering this side of heaven,” I said, without taking a breath. She nodded but didn’t move on.
To sit still with these questions. It’s something I’m not very good at. But if God is as mighty to save as I believe he is, as his word says he is, then he is mighty enough to handle our questions, tears, boisterous laughter, and canvases that drip with black and gold.
I’m glad to be here, to think and wrestle alongside you, to cheer you on and read your poetry.
P. S. Send me your poetry.
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