There are a few things you should know about me. First, at the age of 7, I was introduced to a spiritual exercise repeated often in Christian culture. I had my first manic episode of backsliding.
Little did I know that swearing at Jerry Tong because he hit me in the eye with a snowball would be the first of many tipping points in a walk of faith that has lasted over 40 years now.
My hellish descent into linguistic debauchery was followed quickly by an earnest prayer of contrition, tears and a raisin cookie. Spiritual recalibration paired with dessert is the best way.
This is one of my earliest recollections of repentance, a “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” moment that many of us can relate to.
The second thing to know about me is that I am a musician. I have written love songs, searching songs, worship songs and silly songs. If, like me, you emote, you have also experienced dozens of “Love the Lord your God with all your soul” sessions. In fact, you don’t even have to be a musician to soak in the joy of a worship concert, convinced you will never take another step and not feel God walking right next to you.
The third thing you should know about me: I sin. This tarnished state of being leads invariably to trouble. Like one of those “Love the Lord your God with all your strength” episodes where you white knuckle the chairs at summer camp and promise God you will never look at a girl again.
You’ll try harder. You’ll be stronger.
Or maybe it’s a quiet moment at a prayer night after you’ve been convicted of holding onto unforgiveness, slothy devotional habits or a pirated download of Tropic Thunder.
Many of us are seasoned pros at loving God with all our hearts, all our souls and all our strength. But what about the often ignored fourth way to love God that Jesus commanded in Mark 12:30? What about Loving God with all our mind?
Loving God With All Our Minds
My mind? Really? Sounds so earthy. You do know that faith is the point, right? And we all know that faith and reason don’t play well together, right?
With our spiritual playlists crammed full of CCM sonnets that ooze blessings and bleed happy, is it any surprise that we have almost no bandwidth in our lives to process uncertainty? We have unwittingly made doubt the enemy of our faith experience.
We have elevated loving God with our heart (conversion or recommitment), with our soul (worshipful moments), and with strength (just try harder) to an art form.
However, I have learned firsthand that loving God with a critical mind can be every bit as faith-building as the aforementioned touchy-feely trio. I would argue that until we have soiled our boots in the trenches of questioning and even doubt, we’re missing out on one of the most powerful ways we can discover more of God.
Moses, David and Jacob are only a few examples from a Biblical record piled high with people who failed at faith.
Recently, I was assaulted by the unnerving sensation of doubt. While writing a book that details my flying leap at the creation/evolution skirmish, I ran headlong into an undiscovered sacred space called “not knowing.”
I don’t intend to argue that not knowing is a virtue. It won’t be added to anybody’s list of spiritual gifts. But I can attest to the sense of freedom that follows when you exhale slowly and let eight simple words—“I don’t think I can believe that anymore”—spill from your parched, faithless lips.
Doubt As An Act of Worship
What I didn’t realize then was that these ragged displays of sincerity can be acts of worship if we allow the discontent to drive us toward God. But the problem runs deep; we have convinced ourselves that God is offended by our outbursts. Somewhere along our faith/time continuum we forgot that Jesus wasn’t kidding when he questioned whether God’s perfect plan for his life might be a little lacking.
Jesus wasn’t sweating blood in the garden because it was Oscar season. Not only did he submit to the constricting cords of human experience in the incarnation, but in the moments before his death on a Roman cross, his brain depleted of oxygen and his faith almost flatlining, Jesus flailed helplessly (and not silently) against the existential absurdity of a silent, absent God.
God, in Jesus, has experienced doubt. He gets it.
Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Fear is the opposite of faith. And if God isn’t afraid of our questions why should we be afraid of our questions?
Which bring us to the fourth thing you should know about me. As well as being a recovering creationist—my book plotline didn’t go as planned—I am an enthusiastic doubter, a rambunctious believer with a penchant for plunging jumbo-sized stir sticks into this wonderful bucket we call faith. I used to know everything but I got over it.
Now, I run joyfully, recklessly into the weeds looking for questions I have yet to articulate.
I have experienced the glorious upside of doubt. These eyes, once too timid to stare into unknown, have been opened wide to the reality of a God who waits for us in the questions.
Take the time to doubt. Doubt what you believe. Not because you don’t want to believe anymore but because you want to believe better! Ask the big questions from both sides. Are science and faith incompatible, or do these two different ways of knowing lead back to a Creator? Is the
world broken or isn’t it? Does Jesus, who claimed to be God have anything relevant to offer 21st century humans or doesn’t he?
Each of these questions has only one right answer and refusing to deal with the fallout of your spiritual sleuthing isn’t really faith. Faith that doesn’t get muddy is dead. So get to work. Know what you believe and know why you believe it.
Love God with all your mind.