Note: The following is the expanded text of a meditation, based on Mark 9.14-29, that I, during these coronavirus-induced quarantined times, previously shared via video livestream with my parish community, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC.
A man brought his sick child to Jesus, saying, “If you are able to do anything, help us!” Jesus answered, “All things can be done for one who believes.” The man cried out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”
This man is one of my biblical heroes because of his naked honesty. And because he speaks for me in those many times when I, hard-pressed by some circumstance beyond my command or control, in so many words, cried out:
“I believe, Jesus, or I wouldn’t be asking you for help!
But, at some level, to some degree, I don’t believe.
Yet I trust you to help me with that, too!”
As a lifelong Episcopalian, I was raised on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. One of the prayers of absolution following the confession speaks of God who, “pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel.”
Even as a child, I understood the idea of repentance. I comprehended the concept of turning away from my way and returning to God’s way. But unfeigned belief, that is, at least in my youthful imagining, belief untouched, untainted by doubt? Not so much!
This father, with his honest confession of doubt, taught and continues to teach me that God desires faith without falsehood, belief without blind bravado, an open faith that honestly can and will express, expose areas of doubt.
After all, and, here, the Book of Common Prayer’s Collect of Purity comes to mind, God is the one “to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.” Therefore, God knows both the depth of our faith and the breadth of our doubt. And, therefore, as doubting Thomas discovered with Jesus, can and will take our doubt and lead and guide us into greater faith.
So, I pray, “Lord, I believe! Help, heal my unbelief, for I have faith that you will!”
Illustration: The Possessed Boy at the Foot of Mount Tabor, James Tissot (1836-1902)