18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. -Luke 1:18,19
So God shows up.
Zechariah is just supposed to believe it? Suddenly his elderly wife is pregnant? After years and years of praying, mourning, private and communal grief and shame, this guy who's supposed to be offering a sacrifice is just supposed to drop everything — drop all tradition and the proper order of things (in the Holy of Holies no less!) — and welcome the Light that's being handed him?
I don't think so.
Sometimes we give Zechariah a bad rap. He doesn't believe immediately so he deserves what's coming to him. Ahh, Henri… how we love to be harsh and unforgiving towards oursleves! For all we know, Zechariah, while believing that the angelic being before him is real, could have been scared stupid that if he stepped one toe out of line in his high priestly duties, he could have been zapped.
When people tell me that God makes no place for doubt, I tend to hide away. Hide from those people, hide from God. You had your own dark night of the soul — doubts so great you feared for your own life. I, too, become plagued by doubts, even of my beloved Jesus' existence and presence. Especially after this morning, when the world seemed to explode into a million tiny pieces that could very well see the ruin of some close friends, I must ask:
Where are you, God? Why this? Why now? Why them? Why us?
"Maybe we do not talk enough about how taxing it can be to sustain belief even while actively engaged in the rituals of our faith. What happens to hope after season and season of unanswered prayer? Like Zechariah, we too desire to believe that our prayers make a difference and that God hears us and will eventually respond in some way or another. But desiring belief is not always enough to secure belief when hope is wearing thin." (Okoro, p.31)
So hope has arrived, but we discover hope to be simply unbelievable. Beautiful? Mystifying? Terrifying? Yes. Believable? No.
Not after the long dark night of the soul. Not after the desert. Not after seasons of an absent God.
Like a person in chronic pain who starts receiving a first deep tissue massage from a trusted massage therapist, we almost don't feel the pressure as practiced hands knead our muscles. And when we do, it's excrutiating. It takes some rounds of massaging in this new hope, this new truth into our worlds for the life if it to be pleasurable, desirable, believable.
And when our worlds are suddenly thrown in crisis, our muscles cramp up again. We shut down and exist only to survive. Okoro goes on to explain that we can become comfortable with our doubts, often a little too much. I'd suggest that while times of comfort grow from our doubts, our world is a painful place and unexpected and painful things happen.
Sometimes we can begin to doubt within a second — a nano-season, but a season nonetheless.
Henri, when we see hope right in front of our faces, no matter our doubts, may we begin to allow it to enter. It may not seem like hope does anything at first; it may even be painful. But to endure the dissolving of our doubts will bring about new Life and new Light.
I can't see the Light just yet. I'm still gaping at Gabriel.
Can this be possible?
Until tomorrow, Henri,