Doubt and Faith: Christmas Edition

untitled.pngPainting 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.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to Doubt and Faith: Christmas Edition

  1. Barton Jahn says:

    Good post…insightful, honest, and from the heart. Something good to think about today. Thanks.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. You never let your reader down. Thanks for making life okay to be real for us all.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. grAnnie Roo says:

    As ever, Mitch, your candor is refreshing – literally.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. WOW, Mitch, you nailed it. I stroll down ‘doubter’s lane’ much too often. But, I come back stronger than ever in my faith walk. Good stuff, my friend.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. HAT says:

    Thanks for the honesty, Mitch. I know you’re not alone, and I’m pretty sure that most of us take these walks from time to time. Anyone with a working imagination can think “what if …” but … I doubt you’d want to be without your creative imagination, either. Even with its downside, it’s a gift of God, and we, your fans, would all be poorer for your not having it. Glad to know you’re back from the walkabout safe and sound.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. revruss1220 says:

    Thank you for this superb Advent gift. Deeply considered and artfully spoken. I might just have to steal the line, “He didn’t just fill my heart, he created it.” It is SO good and accurate.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Glenn Riffey says:

    Well said, Mitch, very well said…

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Tony says:

    You sharing the hard reality of your struggles makes your lighter, humorous work all the more meaningful. It is good to share our whole, real, broken selves. Thank you for doing so. Christmas is both darkness and light for so many people.

    I especially appreciate the lines,
    “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.” Amen!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Oh yes, very well said! I still find myself praying, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” from time to time. Amen, amen , amen.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I think a lot of us can relate.We have such glamorized ideas of how things are “supposed to be.”
    I wrote about a similar personal journey this week. (“Room at the Inn”)

    Liked by 4 people

  11. pastorpete51 says:

    We all pass that way some of us more regularly than others. Thanks for putting it so well into words.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Appreciate you sharing your doubts.

    From that perspective doubt and faith seem to be both sides of the same coin.

    Can’t really have one without the other.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. smzang says:

    “He didn’t just fill my heart, he created it.”

    That is powerful and true. Impossible to read it without feeling its force.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Mischenko says:

    I can totally relate to this. Thank you for sharing. ❤💚❤

    Liked by 4 people

  15. *tears* so relatable and beautifully expressed.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Jeff Rab says:

    Excellent, Mitch!

    Liked by 4 people

  17. karanoel says:

    Beautifully said!

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Averyl says:

    This is lovely!

    Liked by 4 people

  19. Bruce says:

    Hi Mitch, that was a beautiful real post, where the rubber hits the road kind of post and I think we all need to see that in ourselves and in others. I had the opportunity a number of years ago to spend a couple of weeks in old Jerusalem. Strip away the tourism hype and it becomes a humbling experience. The Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives especially. Kind of like getting your hands dirty, which is a good thing because what Jesus endured was real and what He taught is real. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m looking forward to more of your posts. Grace and blessings.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Dan says:

    Mother Theresa described her own doubt, yet she devoted her whole life to serving God and his most vulnerable people. She described an intense encounter with God that set her course, but the sense of loss, abandonment and doubt, that the personal encounter did not repeat itself. Yet she persisted in her faith and service. She had a remarkable response to her faith, despite her own doubt. I think this is what faith is about. Keep the faith!

    Liked by 4 people

  21. Mitch, Is it not our Faith that allows us to have Doubt? You have presented this very well. And, it may be the question that makes the difference in many lives. I do not see my faith without some doubt. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. Sandi Staton says:

    I think we all go through those dark moments of uncertainty. I sure do.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. It’s not faith if it cannot withstand being shaken. I’m reminded of how plants need wind to grow strong. Without that shaking the stem becomes spindly and weak. Nurseries will even employ fans in greenhouses to shake the seedlings for that reason

    Liked by 4 people

  24. clillquist says:

    You have such great content!!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Sandra says:

    Beautiful. Timely and so,so relevant.

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Nancy Ruegg says:

    As ALWAYS, a thoughtfully written post, Mitch. “Divorcing my Creator would shatter me” too. I can’t imagine this life without him, much less separation from him for eternity. I’m so glad I embraced the miracle long ago–NO regrets!!

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Paula says:

    Even when I doubt and then trouble myself over that doubt, it’s comforting to know God handles my doubt better than I do. He certainly doesn’t need me to believe in or believe Him. That’s not to say God doesn’t want me to believe in or believe Him, but any doubts I have, however temporary, don’t diminish who He is.

    On a side note, this painting depicts a scene I have often thought of when I think of the birth of Jesus. Having had a couple of babies, I relate to Mary’s posture, which looks as though she’s resting and recuperating from just having given birth. Joseph and Mary together with their expressions remind me of parents–like my husband and I–who just wanted to look at their beautiful children.

    Now THAT is not mythical or unreality. And since we don’t know much about exactly what happened immediately following Jesus’ birth, this works for me. The artist read between the lines. I do that all the time. I prefer not to speculate too much and put “words in God’s mouth,” but if someone had taken a photo of me after having babies, I would probably have looked like Mary looks in this painting. Thanks for including it in your story.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. CJ Hartwell says:

    And here I’m working on a post about nativity sets — no worries, I cover the myth part. My only hope is I manage to finish it by Christmas. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Faith is a struggle but infinitely worth the work. Isn’t the saying – “Anything worth having is worth working for?” Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  30. abeaustin says:

    I’ve never seen that painting before but I love it. I don’t know why we try to sanitize Jesus Christ, as accepting the raw humanity of his reality only makes him all the more approachable.

    Liked by 5 people

  31. diman5 says:

    Sometimes the problem is not faith but what I call counterfeit doubt. It assails the mind causing you to wonder if you have stepped out of faith, but you haven’t, because faith is of the spirit and doubt is of the mind.You can have faith in your sprit and mouth and doubt in your mind.

    Liked by 5 people

  32. Idara-abasi says:

    So true. sometimes I can’t believe I walked a long time without noticing that immense love, Great post

    Liked by 4 people

  33. Idara-abasi says:

    Also I love ur definition of faith


  34. The pretty Christmas scene is not only a terrible myth it has to do with a lot of paganism. First of all why celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 when he is born on October 17?

    It is also all about a young woman who was chosen by the Most High Invisible God to carry a sent one from God and not God Himself. That sent one or prophet from God has put his own will aside to do the Will of God and should be an example for us all to follow and to come to his heavenly Father, the Only One true God.

    You should come to believe the words of this master teacher and his heavenly Father, Who declared him to be His only begotten son. We do hope you shall be able to find the Biblical faith and shall be able to put all those false teachings aside, coming to believe Jesus is the way to God.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thanks for tuning in, friend. I’m curious which false teachings you believe I need to put aside. Btw, re December 25: I don’t know anyone who believes Jesus was born on that date, it’s just the traditional date his birth is celebrated (the Bible does not pinpoint a date). As far as believing the words of “this master teacher” (Jesus), I do with all my heart, but not, apparently, as interpreted by Brother John Thomas or other Christadelphians leaders.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. krcc says:

    Mary and joseph’s stay had been described often. Enjoyed reading your version very much.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. angeltop says:

    Wow all the feels.

    Liked by 3 people

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  38. Joni says:

    Beautiful & real

    Liked by 2 people

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  40. jay alan smith says:

    Very nice. Great perspective. I can relate to the struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

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