Cynicism is destroying our ability to delight in the world around us and fully engage with others. God has an abundance of joy and delight for us, and we’re missing it with arms crossed.-Jennie Allen, Get Out of Your Head
I told my spiritual director that it feels like I am standing with my arms crossed, stiff and tense, in the presence of a God who is reaching out to hold me, to lead me. Like I am Peter drowning. It feels a lot like resistance. It’s been present for many years in my life, this distrusting posture.
It’s like I can feel God inviting me and my family into something bigger than we could have ever imagined on our own, but there is a wall up between me and God.
And it also created a wall between me and myself, between me and others, too.
Jennie Allen calls this wall cynicism.
I read the chapter in her book called “A Beautiful Interruption” the night after I had the conversation with my spiritual director. I had been telling Gail that I longed to be obedient to God, that I could sense him trying to put his arm around my shoulder to lead me through a dark place. And that I could sense how I resisted. I was telling her how I feel like there is something between us, between me and God, that is keeping me from going to new places with Him, to deeper places with him. I could not verbalize what it was. Until I read that chapter.
I had lost my faith.
Not completely, of course. I still believed in God and still firmly believed he was who he said he was.
But I had let doubt and cynicism creep in long ago and take root. And I could not name it until now.
When I realized it, I could not stop crying. I immediately thought of every ounce of doubt I’ve had over the years. Doubt that I was not completely honest about, and so it became much too influential in my life.
Every time I heard a client tell me that someone had sexually abused her, doubt crept in.
God, seriously, this does not tell me that you are a God who protects us.
Every time I have walked through financial hardship, which has been a lot in my marriage, and even in my life before that, doubt crept in.
God, I thought you were the God who provides.
Every time I lost a baby, doubt crept in.
God, I thought you were good.
Every time I got a phone that my dad had a heart attack, doubt crept in.
God, are you punishing us?
Every time I have felt lonely in New Orleans, which has been endless, doubt has crept in.
God, do you even see me?
Every time I battled deep depression or saw a client experience debilitating mental illness, doubt crept in.
God, I thought you were the God of miracles. I don’t see those miracles now.
Every time I heard of someone else’s miracle, doubt crept in.
God, why them and not me?
Every time I heard of another pastor or priest getting caught up in a sexual scandal, doubt crept in.
God, how I can trust you if the leaders of your church are so corrupt?
Every time I heard a charismatic pastor teach on faith and believing the impossible, doubt crept in.
God, they are living in lala land. They don’t see reality.
Every time there is more bad news in 2020, doubt creeps in.
God, are you even kind?
I had stopped believing in the miracles of God.
No matter how many times he has proven himself to me, no matter how many times he has come through.
And it was keeping me away from him. From fully knowing him. From joining him.
I had forgotten the out-of-the blue financial provision he had brought over the years— checks from friends and family, car accident settlements, free vacations, major discounts on buying homes, unexpected raises and bonuses.
I had forgotten that though I have three babies in heaven, he gave me three rainbow girls on this earth.
I had forgotten that he is not the author of pain.
I had forgotten that he did bring me out of dark seasons of depression.
I had stopped believing he was still doing miracles today.
I had lost hope.
I had lost my faith.
And I knew that my cynicism was the wall. It was the resistance. It was the crossed arms.
Jennie Allen then talks about how to overcome this, how to tear this wall down. I believe our doubt is safe in the presence of God, and I believe that he wants us to be honest when we think the things that I have thought. But here is the thing: we have to do the opposite of how we feel sometimes in order to feel better. Being honest about our lack of belief is good. But it must go further than this.
“Delight in God and His goodness tears down our wall and allows hope, trust, and worship to flood in.” Jennie says that the antidote is delight. The antidote is faith.
In the podcast episode this week, I talk about the simple practice of telling God one thing every day that we love about him. This mustardseed practice has begun to take one brick down at a time in my life.
But I am deciding to even go one step further than this. I am choosing to believe that my God is still a God who can do more than I can ever think or imagine. That he can provide miracles for our family. That he can lead us through the dark and show us what to do and where to go. That he can use us in bigger ways than we could ever dream. That he can release me from the prison of depression and he can do the same for my clients. That he can save a world that is so far gone. That he can birth the impossible things. That he can heal. That he WILL.
I am choosing to believe in God.
I hate it when people come up behind me. Seriously. Don’t ever come up behind me. I’m startled easily, and it makes me feel unsafe. But God is coming up behind me, trying to put his arms around me, tell me it’s ok. Tell me he’s here. Tell me it’s safe. Tell me he loves me. And I am fighting it. Because my trust has borders around it.
He is asking me to lay back against him and breathe. To feel his heartbeat, the old song says. Like a trust fall. To let him hold me in the most vulnerable way.
He is doing what I’ve asked. He is leading where my trust is finally without borders. Where I can believe in big things again. Believe He is still the God of miracles.
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