9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comeswith all his holy ones.
-1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Doubt likes us to be alone. Sometimes we perceive we're alone, but we in fact are dwelling with a community who understands our doubts far more than we give it credit for. Other times we truly are alone. For whatever reason, the gift of community is held far away at a distance and it will be a long journey home.
Hope radiates inwardly and outwardly when we're in communion with others. In fact, it increases with the shared doubts, the shouldering of one another's burdens, the collective laughter over victories and praises. Oh sure for an introvert such as myself, that communion might mean one or two people (maybe three if I'm daring!); for others it could be thousands.
But the scary thing about hope is that it doesn't rely on our shifting feelings and emotions to live. It is life itself, and does not require our unwavering trust for it to be present.
"The gift beneath all this is that God is indeed near whether we feel it or not. What a relief that God's reality and trustworthiness does not depend on our feelings. And God can be trusted with all our emotions and all our hungers, pains, fears, and doubts. The reason we are called to wait on God during Advent is because God always shows up. While we wait on God, we can lean into the believing community that trusts with us and for us. Hope and belief can be shared with the Body of Christ." (Okoro, p. 34).
I'll be the first to admit that far too often I use my feelings to determine whether or not God has shown up. Most often these days, She hasn't. Not one scrap of intuitive evidence for me to "believe" that God's anywhere around or within.
Do you think Zechariah felt that way? Devout as he was touted to be, did he actually believe that an angel would suddenly materialize before him while he was simply going about his own business? My thought says "probably not", but then again… I'm not a first century childless priest of Judea.
I don't know what to say about the ongoing discourses surrounding racism in North America, Henri. To be honest, I'm scared to. People are taking pounds of flesh from one another, Christians included, and the least of these are once again getting the short end of a very nasty stick. How do we share doubts in the middle of all this? How do we share doubts when our fear screams that it isn't safe?
Perhaps in the courageous act of showing up, we have already spoken against our fear.
Zechariah had a community of worshippers outside the Holy of Holies praying for him, praying to God, praying for one another. His community already knew that he and Elizabeth were far past the hope of ever having children. While some would scream "Shame!" or "Scandal!", others likely would have held them up in prayer, in love and in hope.
In that continual act of being re-membered into God's family, of being re-joined into God's community, Zechariah, for all his doubt and fear, was being made ready for the one who would make ready the way.
And my guess is, Henri, that Zechariah and Elizabeth weren't being re-membered and re-joined simply to be vessels of John the Baptist. My hunch is that they were being called back to community because God longed for them, loved them, and desired them. Crazy locust-eating son notwithstanding, God wanted these two old fogeys who didn't quite have the capacity to believe an old woman could bear a child.
Have I held up others who are doubting? Sometimes. Have I been brave enough to share my doubts and fears so others could hold me up? Sometimes.
Maybe something more than a "sometimes" is needed. Maybe not.
I'm still digesting the reality that hope isn't based on my feelings about it.
Until tomorrow, Henri,