To be perfectly honest, there is a deeper purpose behind my motivation to write. I do hope to convince people of something. Recently, it was well illustrated to me by an incident that happened at work.
During a reading I was giving of Annie Dillard, the point was made that she couldn’t be much of a Christian if she didn’t “take anything on faith.” Behind the guise of courtesy and understanding, I didn’t pounce on this little, gray-haired woman and say, “Of course, she doesn’t take everything on faith, you twit! She isn’t a mindless ninny like you!” In my better moments, I am able to reserve such rancor for the ignorance behind such comments, and not the commenters themselves. Fortunately, I controlled myself and agreed that if Dillard was raising too many unanswerable questions for everyone, we might read something else. A few more people agreed on the grounds that it was fairly thick reading so early in the morning, and we decided to move on to the “something else.”
But this is just the kind of thing over which I have trouble not hopping up on a soap box. The motivating force behind my writing is often this very questioning process that writers like Dillard reveal. And often, if my own search isn’t providing sufficient inspiration, the denouncement of small-minded Evangelical foolishness makes an acceptable stand in. It’s such a temptation to go on a holy crusade to ferret out the proof that the truer Christians are committed to working out their faith with fear and trembling–and the narrow-minded, faith-clingers are the ones responsible for the sad state the church finds itself in today, irrelevant and dying.
But no. I can’t insist others question and probe all things since I certainly don’t (though I aspire to). And if the Bible offers sufficient answers for some people, who am I to judge? While faith does require doubt, it is also not the natural equivalent of ignorance. But I struggle with this. I want to shake up, uproot, shock and frighten others into deeper understanding of the light because of its awesome, vital, and ineluctable weight on my own faith journey. When I read Dillard, I get a sense of running out of words, of finally being able to see beyond the barriers to the truth of life and art and music and beauty where all things intersect and God stands waiting just beyond my reach. And when others don’t see it—or even judge my worship as faithlessness—it is not my place to be self-righteous and judge them back. But there isn’t much that makes me want to start cracking heads more.
Because, on the other hand, can passion for God exist when His unknowable mystery is simply accepted on faith? Seekers are passionate because they realize their weakness, and the inescapable insufficiency of faith. Maybe those with stronger faith don’t need writers like Dillard. But for me, the knowledge of my fragile, incomplete understanding makes me eager and humble before God. I realize I do not possess the faith that can move mountains. Mine is the approximation, and often the masquerade of unswerving faith. I attempt to nudge up to greatness through borrowed words and unwieldy descriptions of the mystery with my stolen powers. And my passion may be mightier, but my heart is paper. And it’s the shame of this weakness that forms the central impetus of my journey.
Could it be otherwise, would I wish it so? It’s hard to say. At times I think it would be nice to feel the assurance of the thing hoped for. But more often, I realize that if I had that, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate Dillard and Buechner and the great faith tradition of seekers who came before me. And I realize that would be the greater loss.