Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disbelief or Disconnect?

Is it really that surprising that Mother Teresa was in a 40-year funk? She was like a little wooden raft on a sea of drowning souls. I would gather, after so many years of taking in all the misery and pain around her, that suffering became more din than shrill. But was she ever, ever cut loose from the shredding tether of humanity on that austere little raft? What are we to expect, really? That slogging it out in the streets of Calcutta and living amidst cloying poverty would make for a chipper heart?

I've only read excerpts from the book of her letters that's due to be published. But nothing I've seen yet makes my jaw hit the slate. I mean, really. Who doesn't have a mask? Who hasn't wondered why prayers echo? Who hasn't looked at evil and suffering in the world and thought about something other than the goodness of God? So Mother Teresa was a little philosophical in her writings? I was reminded of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians and the candor with which he expressed whether or not it would be best if he lived or died. Elsewhere, he writes generously of the ever-present joy he maintained in Christ. But this joy, it would seem, is not defined as perpetual happiness, and it allows most assuredly for windows of serious, unveiled reflection.

There's a wide divide between "disconnect" and "disbelief." I obviously haven't read the book. But the excerpts I've seen published seem to reflect the former not the latter. God has given us the ability to reason so that we might put form and structure to areas of confusion that would otherwise frustrate and shut us down. We're used to using our minds to process things... to find solutions and solve problems. To reason and contemplate and question and investigate is part of God's gifting to man. Do you think He is shocked and offended when we wrestle and grapple with aspects of our faith that have not been lit by the candle of revelation? I'm sitting here wondering if God would rather that I seriously study Him... with the exploratory mind of a student... so that I am prepared to encounter the questions of others with genuineness. Or would He rather that I stick my fingers in my ears and hum loud enough so as to drown out that which makes me dare to wonder.

God has given Christians the capacity to trust... wholeheartedly... in the humanity and divinity of Christ. He has also given us minds to reason and hearts to feel. It will be interesting to see if Mother Teresa's letters reflect the agnosticism that some in the media claim to see... or will we, instead, meet a spirit of pathos that roamed the quiet spaces of a humble vessel that could only hold so many.

On my iPod... Easy to be Hard by Three Dog Night


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sarah, for such a kind and compassionate reflection on faith. That Mother Teresa struggled with doubt is a great comfort to me. That this incredibly faithful woman could see herself us unworthy seems to indicate that she understood grace and how deeply dependent she was. That this godly woman would sometimes experience the silence and absense of God encourages and strengthens my faith in God. Her years of ministry among the poorest of the poor and the lack of compassion and support from so many professing Christians makes such struggles with the faith understandable. Finally, that so many professing Christians thought it appropriate to condemn her to hell as an unbeliever since she was Catholic might have added to her struggle. Some of those same people have responded to the release of this information with the claim that her stuggle with faith proves that she is not a Christian. May God have mercy on their souls.

Kreider (for some reason I was unable to log in)

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Hi, Dr. Kreider! So good to hear from you. I had a similar response, personally. It not only soothed some of my own heart issues... but also intensified my respect for Mother Teresa. I'm guessing she subordinated pain (the "mask" she talked about) in the interest of serving others. How does a person who's self-absorbed and moping around begin to encourage others? She obviously was well aware of this and had the strength and grace to keep on keeping on. There are some really hateful blogs on this subject. Perhaps the dialogue will ultimately prove healthy. I pray for this.

Hope you are off to a great start to the school year! I'm taking Dr. Allman's OT History... oh, my... it's good!

kreider said...

I hope you were really encouraged to see that your "genius" was recognized by the Dallas Morning News. I've read a lot of responses to Mother Teresa's struggle. Your's and Chuck Colson's were particularly good.

I'm on sabbatical this semester. That's good, because it gives me time to research and write. But it also means I don't get much time in the classroom.


Sarah Onderdonk said...

i would not have seen that had you not said something. thanks so much for your wonderful encouragement. i've had a love/hate relationship with my pen for the past few months. hope you have a restful, enlightening, productive sabbatical! i caught one of your podcasts on the emerging church last week. great dialogue!

re. the TGN... it was either that or Boogie Wonderland that day... all things considered, i'm thinking i made the best choice :)