Positive Negativity


Prayer – Louis Untermeyer

GOD, though this life is but a wraith,
Although we know not what we use,
Although we grope with little faith,
Give me the heart to fight—and lose.

Ever insurgent let me be,
Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free,
And fill me with a buoyant doubt.

Open my eyes to visions girt
With beauty, and with wonder lit—
But always let me see the dirt,
And all that spawn and die in it.

Open my ears to music; let
Me thrill with Spring’s first flutes and drums—
But never let me dare forget
The bitter ballads of the slums.

From compromise and things half done,
Keep me with stern and stubborn pride;
And when at last the fight is won,
God, keep me still unsatisfied.

In an adult forum yesterday, we discussed the second stanza of this poem among other “voices” that seemed to echo both an ancient biblical time of semi-depression and the current moods of people in our society. What appealed to some in our forum was the oxymoron of “buoyant doubt.” We probably think more normally of doubt as something which weighs or drags us down, a force from which our spirits need to be lifted, and doubt can be just that, but can it not also be buoyant?

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Doubter Believer


When I was a kid in our church’s youth group, one of our adult leaders played a record for us that pictured the church as a fortress under siege by the forces of Satan, and among the demonic elements attacking the true believers were battalions of doubters. I remember that one group was identified as “resurrection doubters.” Even then, by the way, I thought the record was awful and resented having to listen to it.

Biblical Christian faith is not belief that, but belief in. It is trust in the One who loves us. Faith is relational and responsive to the Other in whom we trust. Does belief in God not have beliefs about God? Of course it does, just as love for another human being has beliefs about that person and about the nature of the relationship I have with that person. I love this particular person, who . . . . After the word “who,” I may tell of things the person has done, qualities I appreciate and respect in that person, experiences we have shared, and what I currently think and feel the person means to me. What comes after “who” will change and grow as years pass and the relationship itself continues to develop. All the while, however, it will be the person I love.

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