Please welcome today’s guest writer, Chris Curia. Chris, a graduate from the film and media department, is a youth director in a suburb of Grand Rapids, MI whose other writings have been featured in Sojourners and RELEVANT magazines. You can keep up-to-date with his work by following his personal forum, Through the Darkness.
These days, I am pretty open with people about my ever-growing spiritual belief and practice. But it wasn’t always that way.
Rewind to two years ago, upon first entering the professional role of youth ministry, my first full-time job out of college: I operated with a mentality that to perform well meant to have answers to all of life’s deepest questions.
But working with students who inhabit their doubts so naturally and authentically has taught me to do otherwise.
This past year, I had our high schoolers participate in what I called a Doubt Night—an idea not coined by me but adapted to fit my particular context. As we joined together in worship, one of our leaders talked about a God who does not demand answers but instead asks us to simply be honest. This leader brought students to the Psalms, which contain just as many shouts of praise as cries of lament.
(Funny, though: You won’t find many of the lamenting verses to be the basis for a popular sermon series or on catchy car bumper stickers.)
But the leader argued that to follow this Christ means to sit with the unknown, doubtful, and even hopeless; to stand in solidarity together, amidst brokenness, and embody Christ in the comfort we bring to those around us.
Afterward, we had students take a few moments to anonymously submit questions they had in their faith or of life itself. Now, with these kinds of prompts, you never know what kind of responses you’ll get—if kids will take the request for their participation seriously.
But I was amazed by the openness of our students in some of their responses:
o Why does God allow us to hurt?
o How can God love me if I never feel happy?
o Why doesn’t God just end all evil now?
o Why does God put people in our lives to hurt us?
o How do I know that I’m hearing God’s voice and not just my own?
o Why does God allow people to lose jobs right when they get them?
o How can God love us?
As we read these and other doubts aloud, we simply sat together without feeling the squirming need to resolve what is best left irresolvable. Students hugged one another and nodded their heads in empathetic agreement to the questions their peers had raised. And we closed by praying not for these questions to be answered or for God to “work all things for good.” but rather for the spirit of Christ, the Wounded Healer, to be among us.
I sat with students for nearly an hour afterwards, continuing to listen to their doubts. One student came up to me as everybody was leaving and exclaimed with a sigh of relief, “I have never been taught that my doubts were okay to express. Thanks for this.”
I am increasingly convinced that the survival of the Christian religion will depend on the ability of its present and future leaders to use it as a key to open doors to the depths of our existence, not as a security blanket to inoculate us to the world around and within us for the purposes of cultural or self-preservation.
In his book Insurrection, theologian Peter Rollins puts it this way: “To believe is human; to doubt, divine.”
I am thankful for students who continue to embody Christ in their natural, honest doubts and therefore teach me that standing alongside each other in solidarity may be the most divine gift human beings have to offer.
May we learn to love one another with the same humble embrace of community and Mystery.