Tonight I walked my little dog Molly to the beach under the light of the Blue Moon. It was a beautiful night, the first without rain or clouds that we have had in the past month. As I walked with her, in the quiet with the noise of the surf in the background I was taken aback by the peace. It was nice to be able to take the time to walk with her and take in all that there was to see, hear and then feel as I felt the cool sand on my feet as we walked to the surf. I needed it.
The past couple of days I have been battling what I think is a combination summer cold and allergic reaction to the vast amount of mold spores in the air due to the very warm and wet weather the past month. I went to bed and woke up with sinus headaches the past three days and this morning had a bit of vertigo. So when I went to work I got in with one of our doctors. Thankfully I don’t have any ear infection yet and don’t need any antibiotics. However he prescribed a couple of meds to help me with the congestion and told me to use my nasal wash solution. I have also had my fill of politics this week, it seems that as hard as I try to avoid it the whole political game gets thrown in my face. So tonight I have only had the MLB baseball channel on and tried to avoid news and political commentary of any kind.
While I was waiting for my prescription this afternoon a young Marine Sergeant came in the waiting area and sat down across from me. There were a few others in the area but it was not crowded. At the time I was reading a book from my Kindle on my I-phone and as I glanced up he greeted me. I returned the greeting and out of the blue he asked:
“Do you ever have problems with God?”
I love being around Marines and Sailors because unlike a lot of others young Marines and Sailors, especially those that have been to war are likely to ask hard questions to clergy. There is little pretense among them, something that cannot be said for many clergymen or
I was wearing my service khakis with ribbons and of course being a Christian chaplain I have a gold cross on my left collar and my rank on my right. There is no question in this Marine’s mind that I am a clergyman. I also know that he expects me to be honest with him. I also know that he will know if I am attempting to bullshit him. Marines and Sailors who have been to war have a keen eye for bullshit.
I immediately put down the I-phone and looked at him. I paused acknowledged the question and said:
“To be honest yes, a lot of them.”
He said “I do too” paused for and asked “how do you deal with them?”
I smiled and told him that it was a long story, but gave him the nutshell of how after Iraq I had experienced a crisis in faith and was for all practical purposes an agnostic struggling to believe.
He then asked how I came to believe again. I briefly recounted the story that I refer to as my “Christmas miracle” (See Padre Steve’s Christmas Miracle http://padresteve.com/2009/12/24/padre-steve’s-christmas-miracle/ ) and said that I still sometimes have lots of doubts and questions.
He replied “So do I. I guess that’s why they call it faith.”
About that time his number was called and I gave him my card. He thanked me for listening and went to get his prescription.
I know that some believers are troubled when I express the real fact that I have doubts. But I have found that there are a lot of people like this young Marine Sergeant who just want Priests, pastors, chaplains or Rabbis to simple be honest when it comes to doubt and faith. The Marine Sergeant understood more about faith than a lot of ministers that I know.
It is not about how certain we are but instead about how certain God is in his great love for us that he allows us to doubt.
Admittedly I still struggle. But I still believe, sometimes against all rationality. The great Russian playwright Fyodor Dostoyevsky said something that I can only echo in its depth. “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.”
I guess that is big part of why I am here.