Painting by Gari Melchers (1860 – 1932)
I struggled with my faith recently. I do that. Cyclically. Some proxigean tide will send a wave of doubt crashing over me, producing the impression of drowning. I’ll flail and gasp, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Because my faith, or more accurately my response to my Creator’s love, is not just important to me–it’s everything. Then some quiet miracle of timing will remind me that this crisis, like all of the others, was caused by a darkened moon, not the calm light of reality.
The new moon that set me off this time was a romanticized nativity scene: a manly Joseph and ravishing Mary adoring a clean-as-a-whistle baby Jesus in a cozy designer creche, surrounded by adorable, scent-free animals and supermodel angels with chimerical wings. “That’s a myth!” I blurted, and suddenly began to panic: “What if everything I live for, the very purpose of my life, is a myth!”
Then I realized that of course the pretty Christmas scene was a myth (all pretty religious scenes are myths). But something transcendent really did happen. Something that probably looked more like this: Barely understanding the gritty real-time miracle playing out around them, a working class couple named Yosef and Maryam made their way to a temporary hovel in a tiny, disheveled village. Running on rough-hewn faith, they settled in as the frightened teenage Maryam, writhing in pain, gave birth to a real human baby. Not a preternaturally glowing cherub, but a skinny, screaming newborn.
And yet a miracle had occurred, nevertheless.
That insignificant baby grew up to be the most significant person in history, transforming the lives of billions. I know because I’m one of them. His words and actions have changed me as no other person—certainly no invented character or deluded Galilean demagogue—ever could. I’ve lived two lives: the temporal one that began like his as a bawling baby and ended when the second began, in response to his immutable love.
Sometimes I take disbelief for a walk. It’s the loneliest walk there is. It’s like visiting places I used to stroll with my wife, and now traversing them alone. Every step reminds me of lost love. At that point I’m reminded that if divorcing my wife would scar me, divorcing my Creator would shatter me.
He didn’t just fill my heart, he created it. Every part of me is his. And so, like the real, unglamorous Joseph and Mary, I push past my moments of doubt and uncertainty,
And embrace the miracle.