What I’m Reading

By June 7, 2014Writing

I have a bunch of stuff on my nightstand right now.

My Bright Abyss, by Christian Wiman feeds my need for wedding art with deep thinking.  Check out Christian Wiman’s interview with Mako Fujimura. Some of his comments around minute 15 intersect with other reading I’m doing that reminds me of how  believers wrestle with doubt but don’t talk much about it.

I just finished reading select chapters in Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church. It’s on my reading list because I’m headed to Orvieto, Italy, later this month for a study program on Medieval Christianity. The program, sponsored by Fuller, includes a focus on some of the key women of that era such as Catherine of Siena and Clare of Assissi. The book introduces some spiritual practices common in the church before believers had a choice between “Catholic” and “Protestant.” In other words, we can embrace some shared history.

I especially appreciated the section about John of the Cross, best known for writing Dark Night of the Soul. Often we connect his title to trials in general, but his focus is actually on a specific kind of trial: the anguish of experiencing God’s silence. Have you ever heard, “If it seems like God is absent, guess who moved?” This little phrase beats up people wrestling with honest doubt.

We evangelicals don’t talk much about doubt. I heard a well-known evangelical theologian tell Larry King that he doesn’t have doubts. But most honest folks do. That’s part of faith! Do I believe what I cannot see? To some degree doing so challenges our reason. But that’s why we call it faith. Faith is believing in things hoped for, having assurance of things unseen.

John of the Cross, writing in the 1500s, suggested that sometimes we seek God merely for the consolations he brings. But imagine loving a spouse only for how he or she makes us feel. Dark nights of the soul can move us to more mature love. One of the disciples who walked with the in-the-flesh Jesus and saw miracles with his own eyes still begged, “Help thou my unbelief!”

Today’s reading: Catherine of Siena: Passion for the Truth, Compassion for Humanity.

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