When I was growing up we had children's church in the basement of our church. We'd hear the organ groan over top of Mrs. Sealey's rendition of "Onward Christian Soldiers" banged out on the piano by Uncle Harvey. If you were under 6, it was a cool place to be . . . we celebrated birthdays every week by having the person whose birthday it was come up and count out pennies into something that looked like a plastic cake piggy-bank. I don't think I got why we were paying for our birthday, but it was cool to have them light a candle on the plastic cake and Uncle Harvey play "happy birthday to you" on the piano.
Ah, the days of flannel graphs and felt banners (for some reason it was all the rage at my church to cut outlines of Bible characters and glue them onto burlap and call it a banner). We were Episcopalian so being in children's church was a short step away from being an acolyte or altar boy (I can't wait to tell you how bad I was at that).
Well anyhow, it is a wonder how any of us took the Bible stories seriously when none of our questions got answered. I remember having serious questions like, "what about all those people who don't read God's book?" and "how do we know the Gospel writers didn't all just get together and map out this 'story' as a creative hoax?" I am pretty sure I didn't use a word like "hoax" at 6 years old, but I remember frustratingly trying to get my question across to my Sunday school teacher and her completely missing the point. Now to be fair, I am sure at 6 years old I wasn't the most clear communicator and maybe Mrs. Sealey was just ready to go home and watch football.
The problem with so many of us is that these experiences are all we have of asking honest questions about faith. We have memories of being given pat answers or frustrating attempts to just get our questions out. Over time, these memories serve as barriers to faith and we think that maybe faith is for the kind of people who don't have questions. This is completely untrue.
Do you realize the name "Israel" means one who wrestles with God? Read the Psalms - any one of them - sometime. Tell me that the ancient Jews weren't like, "hey - answer me on this one, God! I want answers!"
The truth is that there are answers to our doubts . . . if and only if they are really questions that we have. So many people I know use their questions as tools of disengagement. Because they have a question it becomes the way to slam the door in God's face. What a weird thing to do - a question becomes the beginning to an open-minded exploration of what may or may not be true. In short . . . let the question become a way to understanding rather than an obstacle.
In the next few weeks we are going to look at 10 of these hurdles. On Tuesday the 1st question will be "Isn't the Bible just a collection of myths?" Check out the video to the right and meet me back here on Tuesday to explore this question together. Have a great weekend!