Today I’m honored to host the lovely Michelle DeRusha whose book “Spiritual Misfit: a memoir of uneasy faith” releases today. We are publisher-sisters. Her book and mine are both published by Convergent Books. Michelle is offering three copies of her book to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment. Much love, EE.
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He drops the bomb at dinner, over meatloaf and baked potato. “I think I might be in a not-believing-in-God stage,” he announces.
My heart sinks. “Really?” I ask, peering at Rowan, my nine-year-old, across the table. “What makes you think that?”
I try hard to sound nonplussed, but inside, I’m panicky. I’ve wrestled with doubt and unbelief for most of my life; I know the hopelessness and loneliness of that road. The last thing I want is for my child to travel the same path.
“I just can’t get over the idea of being dead,” Rowan explains. “It seems so weird to think that once you’re dead, you’re just gone, like, not existing at all.” Now he’s trying to sound casual. But his eyes are wide, unblinking. He stares at me hard across the dining room table. I know he is afraid.
“It’s okay,” I tell him, spooning sour cream onto my potato. “Everyone doubts from time to time, everyone wonders about God and death and how it’s all going to work out in the end. It’s going to be okay, honey. God is still there, even when you can’t see him or feel him. ”
The truth is, the reassurance I offered to Rowan that day I still offer to myself, more often than I’d like to admit. While I’m not stranded in the no-man’s land of unbelief like I once was, I still wrestle with my faith; I still question. Skepticism is woven into my fabric.
Not long ago I read the story in Luke 24 about Jesus and the two travelers on the road to Emmaus. As I read the text, I kept stumbling over verse 16: “But God kept them from recognizing him.”
Why, I wondered, did God intentionally keep the two travelers from recognizing Jesus? What was the point of that? Why would God do such a thing? I searched Bible Gateway for other translations, hoping for a different interpretation. But nearly all the versions I read translated the verse the same way or similarly. God kept them from recognizing him.
I admit, I didn’t like verse 16 much. I wrestled with it for days, re-reading the passage, mulling it over, until finally I reached a conclusion that made some sense. Sometimes, I realized, God uses our doubt as a means to bring us closer to him.
Doubt is difficult, no question. But wrestling with doubt also often motivates us to dig more deeply into our faith, to yearn for and to seek Jesus in a fresh, new way. In fact, that’s exactly what happened to the travelers on the road to Emmaus. God used their doubt as an opening, a window, to lead them back through Scripture, to remind them of his promises. God knew exactly what they needed to hear.
As “the stranger” led his traveling companions through the Old Testament, they were reminded of the promises God had made to his people, from the time of Moses and the prophets to the present day. In the midst of their devastation and loss, the travelers needed to be reminded of these promises. They were hungry for hope, hungry for answers, and their doubt, ironically, opened the way back to faith.
My son’s declaration of doubt took my breath away that night at the dinner table, and part of me still worries that it signals the beginning of a lifelong struggle with faith for him. But I also know that God can work within any circumstances, even the empty, cavernous spaces of doubt and unbelief, to bring us into a deeper relationship with him. That’s his promise, and I’m holding onto it as tightly as I can.
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A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published April 15, 2014.