“Soon it became clear to us: you can’t teach disbelief
to a child,
only wonderful stories, and we hadn’t a story
nearly as good.”
—Stephen Dunn, “At the Smithville Methodist Church”
When I was little we were taught the story of Jesus through a “wordless book” that consisted of no words, just pages of solid colors meant to represent different things. For me the struggle to find words is still part of my faith walk. There are things I have come to believe, to know on some deep level they are true. And yet when I try to find words to explain or describe those experiences, they are always so inadequate.
Sarah Groves has a song (“This Peace”) in which she describes that feeling of belief as a “whisper in my ear, a shiver up my spine, the gratitude I feel for all that’s right, a mystery appeal that’s been granted me tonight.” Her words are true and also seem to get at the difficulty in describing the way God’s Spirit works in and through us. It is a whisper in my ear, it is that deep well of gratitude that sometimes overwhelms me, it is also a kind of giving up or letting go… like someone who keeps a stiff upper lip for a long time and then welcomes the relief and hope of knowing it is no longer necessary.
When I am most convinced God is real are the times I witness the depths of our human frailty and together with that the almost embarrassing persistence of hope. It is the strength of a story that 2,000 years and lots of quiet later that makes us keep going, makes us believe or at least want to believe. The strength of a story that continues despite all the embarrassing things people have done since in the name of religion. The truth of a story that has the power to change me every time I hear it again. Yes, I believe. And I ask God every time words fail me or my heart wavers to help, help, my unbelief. Because I haven’t another story nearly as good.