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Embracing Faith in the Midst of Doubt

Published:
December 25, 2023
December 25, 2023
Read this reflective narrative about questioning faith and reconnecting with God in unxpected ways.

Like most of us, David went through ups and downs in his faith life. For a time, he struggled with seeing God and religious figures as anything other than oppressive. While wrestling with these doubts, he encountered an example of profound faith — here’s how that experience changed his perspective.

I was swimming among sharks when a tap on my shoulder woke me up. My little sister was holding two teddies stuffed against her chest, squashed so tightly that their snouts twisted sideways and their beady eyes bulged. She tugged at my arm. “Come on, it’s time for Mass,” she said. Too dazed to respond, I stared at her and took a deep breath as the dream I’d just awoken from trickled back into my mind.

It was a strange dream because I didn’t know how to swim and had only ever seen a shark on the telly and in pictures. Later, when I Googled what it meant out of curiosity, there were several interpretations but one caught my attention — seeing a shark in a dream could symbolize fear of the unknown.

This happened to be a period in my life of much questioning and suspicion about religion. Every unsatisfying answer I found only led to more questions. I was feeling threatened by the concept of an overpowering person or authority figure. That idea of a personality looming large over me, forcing me to conform and placing limitations on my actions and thoughts was no longer appealing to me, thanks to negative experiences with some clergy. The closed, judgmental, and hypocritical attitude of many religious people was the root of my doubt. They spoke a great deal about love but demonstrated very little of it.

Despite my questioning, I continued to join my family for Mass out of obligation. It wasn’t long after we had gotten into the cathedral and taken our seats in one of the pews that I heard the clicking sound of crutches striking the ground behind me. I turned around to see a familiar face walking through the vestibule — a devoted parishioner whom we called Auntie Irene had had her left leg amputated. I would later learn that she had suffered complications from a vascular condition and could not afford a wheelchair. As the hymn commenced, I noticed snail trails of mascara running down her cheeks. She closed her eyes but the tears still seeped out under her lids. Someone sitting beside her put his arms around her. Suddenly, I was holding back my own tears.

“It is mysterious how God uses ordinary events or people to convey his message of love and hope.”

As the rising sun peeked through the stained glass windows, hues of color reflecting on her face and dress gave off a golden shimmer. My eyes traced the rays of light to the images on those windows. Although I had seen them several times before, they seemed to carry a new message for me that day — the unconditional love for God and of God. Auntie Irene may not have known that by merely showing up for Mass, despite the considerable psychological impact that comes with the loss of a limb, she had preached to me a great sermon. From where I sat, I could tell that she felt tangibly the consolation that comes from God, a very real experience of God’s love.

In his encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI stated that being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, or a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. It is mysterious how God uses ordinary events or people to convey his message of love and hope. 

Auntie Irene, with her unwavering dedication to her faith and her willingness to endure the physical and emotional pain of her condition, embodied the concept of love in its purest form. Her presence in the cathedral that day was a testament to her love for God and her belief in the power of faith. In her tears, I saw not weakness, but a profound connection to the divine. Her presence spoke volumes about the essence of spirituality: it is about finding strength and solace in one’s faith, even in the face of adversity.

As we left the cathedral, I felt a renewed sense of hope and a deeper understanding of the meaning of faith. I no longer saw religion as a constraint but as a source of inspiration and a pathway to a more profound connection with the divine. Auntie Irene’s strength and devotion that day opened my eyes to a different perspective — one where God wasn’t an oppressive authority figure, but a father who offered boundless love.

The truth is, I still have questions, but I’ve learned that doubts are totally normal in our faith journey. It's like God's way of saying, "I respect your free will, buddy." After all, if we’re forced into love, is it really love? Embracing doubt means I'm consciously picking faith — even in the midst of uncertainty.

Creators:
David Liambee Gbe
Published:
December 25, 2023
December 25, 2023
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