Nothing in my life has caused me to doubt quite like working for a church.
Though doubt is far from being a popular topic in Christian circles, I have heard a few brave souls bring it up. Mostly I’ve heard people say that it is OK to doubt – that doubt is actually faith’s partner, not its opposite. I’ve heard Christians I deeply respect share their own doubts, or tell stories about valleys in their spiritual lives where they were not sure what they believed. I listened and filed the information away, but to be honest I just couldn’t relate.
Last week I came to the end of my time as the Interim Worship & Arts Coordinator at our church. It’s rather complicated to explain exactly what that job entailed and how I came to be doing it, but the bottom line is that I have been planning our worship services for the past year and a half. Now that I’m done, I can look back and say that it has been one of the most fruitful and growth-filled times of my life – I have learned a ton, done things I never thought I could do, and experienced the Holy Spirit moving in amazing ways.
Alongside the growth came wave upon wave of fierce and soul-jarring doubt. Questions whose answers I’ve known for years were suddenly cloudy and unsettling to me. And these weren’t complex, 3rd year seminary questions either – they were more like 3rd grade Sunday school basics: Who is God? What is he like? What does he want? What part do I play? And the one that rang in my head over and over on most Sunday mornings: Does any of this matter?
I sometimes squirmed through services, shamed by my distracted thoughts, weighed down by self-accusation: I’m the one who put this service together and yet I feel like I don’t even know why we’re all here. I’m the last person who should be feeling like this and struggling with these questions… I am failing.
I wonder if being a worship planner (or leader or pastor or preacher) might mean learning to walk the razor’s edge of humility and boldness. Humility, because we must know our ourselves to be wholly incapable of doing anything without God – especially guiding his people in worship. And yet boldness, because we must fully live into the calling of God and actively follow him in order to lead others. This is not an easy line to walk; I sliced my tender feet trying.
Ultimately I struggled to reconcile the scandalous hugeness of my task with the laughable smallness of my person. If God would let someone like me do something as important and, quite frankly, as dangerous as leading his people in worship… what kind of a God could he really be? I know, I know – bring what you have, broken and inadequate as it may be, and God will do the rest: a boy brought a few loaves and fish and Jesus fed 5000, blah blah blah. I know it… but it is possible to know something without believing it.
And now? Now I am done. I can get down from the edge and bandage my feet, stretch out my hands and see that I have grown and changed, I have been blessed and built up. I have been shaken, and the pieces are still settling. But I remember the words I have heard about doubt – I hear them with fresh ears. Doubt is necessary for true faith. Doubt does not separate us from God. Doubt need not be a source of shame or guilt. I believe these things with a deeper conviction now than I ever have before. The questions are still there, but I am not afraid of them. Who is God? He is the one who says it is OK to ask.