We are a few weeks into Ordinary time, a season of the church that stretches from Pentecost to Advent. The term ordinary is misleading, there is nothing common place about this season. The term comes from the latin word ordanalis which refers to numbers in a series. Since Ordinary Time is quite lengthy, the Sunday’s are numbered to aid us in our forward movement in the church calendar year. This season is one of remembering and celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s Church. This is the time when we recognize the power of our risen Lord at work in our lives and in the world.
There’s Nothing Ordinary About Grace
by Colette Eaton
I can’t tell you how many times I have thought that all this Jesus stuff is just made-up. That heaven is a human construct to make us feel better about death and we will end up heading into eternal darkness after taking our last breath. Sorry to start on a heavy note but these thoughts come, and at the strangest of times too. It’s not when I am sitting in church or reading my Bible. Instead, they come when I am making the bed or grabbing something out of the fridge. One of my favorite memories of Bible College was sitting across the table from two brilliant theology professors in our school cafeteria for lunch and asking them if they ever thought all this Christian stuff was bogus. To my surprise, they responded without hesitation, “Oh sure, of course!” and went on to share about their own doubts as well as reasons they have remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus. The funny thing now is that I don’t remember a single reason they gave as to why they have remained faithful. I only remember the confirmation of their doubt. This moment, though small and casual as it was, added another cement block to the foundation of my faith. Knowing that these spiritual giants admitted without hesitation their doubt allowed room for mine. I know, I know we have all been taught not to doubt through church and through the scriptures. And let’s not forget, Doubting Thomas as doubts greatest mascot and yet, we still doubt.
Should we be ashamed of this? Do we need to repent and ask for forgiveness?
You are probably wondering why I am starting a faith resiliency series around the area of doubt but this is where I feel the Spirit leading me as we begin. I believe strongly that when our doubts are not welcome at the table, our faith isn’t either. They didn’t kick Thomas out of the club for doubting and Peter was still rescued when his doubts caused him to sink. Believe it or not, our questions concerning life and God are not all answered at the moment of our conversion. Instead, our faith enables us to live with questions, some get answered and some don’t. It is within those unanswered questions that doubt lingers. As Thomas simply stated, “Unless I see his pierced hands and side, I will not believe.” Do we not relate to this statement today? Unless I see God do this…then… or If only God would change this…then… Then I could believe in his power, his sovereignty, his love. The sneaky thing about doubt is that it grows out of tension which we are never able to truly escape. Tensions of knowing God one way but experiencing him another way. The tension of the Kingdom of God being here now and still has yet to fully come (Matthew 4:17; 6:10).
My husband and I have struggled with infertility for over seven years and there have been times when I began to feel like God was powerless or ambivalent. Nothing was working for us (not even prayer, mind you) and His silence was almost deafening:
God are you even there? Do you even care?
I know we can all relate to this, yet none of us are taught how or encouraged to share our doubts. So what do we do with them? Read some scripture and pray?! Sorry to burst your bubble but our doubts don’t get eliminated by strengthening our faith muscles through rigorous spiritual tasks or through doing all the right things. Our God is not asking us to be spiritual giants that crush all the sin and doubt in the world, that is his job. Instead, God desires faithful followers that cry out as Peter did when our doubts arise, “Lord, save me!”. Our doubting does not disqualify us instead it is embraced by the radical love of Jesus.
The reason why I didn’t remember the reasons for my professors faithfulness is because that was the majority of our conversation! Their faith propelled them forward not because they eliminated doubt but because faith, by theological precepts, is a gift! A total and completely free gift given to us by God himself. This gift of faith came like fire at the beginning of The Church and has continued to spread for thousands of years. To doubt is to be human but to have faith in Jesus, that is divine. This gift comes to us as the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It is He alone that enables us to brave forward in our faith not despite our doubts but with them! As Jesus walked this earth, he never asked his followers to set-aside their human condition. Instead, he embraced them fully, as he embraces us fully today. He wants our whole selves: our doubts, our faithfulness, all the ugly and beautiful parts of us. He welcomes it all to the table and it is by his love alone that can vanquish our doubts. What radical, extraordinary grace is this?! There is nothing ordinary about that!
Faith Resiliency & Story
Ordinary Time Guest Blog Series
When I doubted God’s power and kindness towards me in the midst of infertility, do you know what transformed my doubting into even greater faith? Stories. When I heard the stories of others concerning their pain and their own theological tension around infertility, I felt connected once again to God and his love for me. Over the next few months, I will be welcoming voices from all backgrounds and from around the globe to share how they are seeing and witnessing God’s work in the world and in their lives. Our Bibles are chalked full of narrative literature because God isn’t about rules, he is about relationships and showing up in our stories. The relational God we serve pours out his grace on us everyday. May we have the eyes to see it and the hands to receive it so that we might be filled and spilling over grace to a world that needs it. This season of Ordinary Time gives us a chance to lean into God’s power, grow resiliency in our faith and participate in the movement of the Gospel. I hope you will join us here every Sunday to be encouraged by the stories of others who cry out in their life: