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Doubt Dented Familiar

By Kellie Purcill

I hope it doesn’t dent your faith too badly.

I re-read the words.

Again.

I taste relief and exhaustion against my lips, and the screen goes blurry when I try to see Marnie’s message again.

I hope it doesn’t dent your faith too badly.

There is a deep, quenching kindness in allowing doubt.

When battles are being fought, lost, ceded and rarely won, there is a wonky, soggy relief in being believed. To be believed in. To have your belief known as present, if punched, muddy and a little concussed.

I hope it doesn’t dent your faith too badly. Isn’t that the perfect hope for someone currently being chewed on by life, circumstances, gossip or disasters?

Baruch b’al milchamot. Blessed is the one who engages in battles. – Jewish proverb

There’s a stunning thrill and surety to be able to say to Christ, “Lord, I believe…”, and an aching pang that’s recently been my more constant companion when I breathe “help thou mine unbelief.” Sometimes life just hammers down problems, inconveniences, disasters and jerks. If we’re all just walking each other home, as Ram Dass has said, I’ve dropped my map, misplaced my companion and at this point would welcome flying monkeys. And a flamethrower.

It’s better to light a flamethrower than curse at the darkness. – Terry Pratchett

My faith has been dented. Today, my faith is a box, welded in redheaded stubbornness from the broadside of a WW2 battleship, tagged, further pocked, scorched, painted and pierced by life. It leaks. Its weight fluctuates, depending on my mood, my budget, if my latest attempt at mint growing is abysmal or just horrific, how deeply I’m roaring in my prayers and countless other catalysts. Sometimes the box soars above my shoulders, jasmine-scented and sending cheesecake. Sometimes I clench it to my chest, desperate in the dark, drowning. Sometimes it’s dragging in the dirt, grumping at me as I haul it along on a barbed wire and spiny hoped tether. It’s ugly, stubborn, changeable, there.

There are certain aspects of the gospel, of determined discipleship, that are often quickly skipped past in the hope of being perfect, charitable, active and blessed. The deep, scouring beauty of repentance, the aching, sometimes nauseating benefits of questioning and seeking when building – and rebuilding – our faith. We can profess to believe in life after this one, but it’s when we bury a loved one that we sit in the furnace and find out what really sits among our ashes. We can autopilot “We are beloved daughters of Heavenly Father who loves us…” but HOW do you know? Do we really know? Really? Is it a rolling universe inside me, or a dangerous black hole too dangerous to get close to and examine?

Asking questions doesn’t mean unbelief. It’s seeking for greater understanding, for relief from bone-wear and heart-pain, thought-pang and disappointment. Seeking comfort means opening up the lid and, stunningly, there’s always something clinging to the walls, always a morsel or sweetness, no matter how light and echo-dense it seems. Lately, it means my asking “Can you remind me of those times I knew you loved me?” It means falling next to my box of faith, the dents and divots, stains and polishes, beloved, enduring and still here. It’s dented, and familiar, and while I’ve tossed some chunks and whispers out, there’s always room to shove or flood or slip something else in.

I’ve been untangling prayers and answers from my hair, from messages, from books and thunderstorms and trusting, weary, the crooning, stubborn, dented weight of my faith.

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

4 thoughts on “Doubt Dented Familiar”

  1. Sweet Kel, these words are absolutely transcendent. This: "Sometimes the box soars above my shoulders, jasmine-scented and sending cheesecake. Sometimes I clench it to my chest, desperate in the dark, drowning. Sometimes it’s dragging in the dirt, grumping at me as I haul it along on a barbed wire and spiny hoped tether. It’s ugly, stubborn, changeable, there." Exquisite. Transcendence mid the deep down ,dirty wrangling of your faith. I believe our testimonies, our boxes of what we believe as you describe them, ought to be like crowbars. Not fragile vases sitting on a shelf. You are leveraging with yours and that is how it should be. I love you.

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  2. Beautifully written, as always you clever woman. And I think if our faith is not being pummelled from some direction then it's probably because we are dead, because wasn't this one of the reasons we came here in the first place? I'm guessing it's a lifelong battle and we'll be sitting in the ashes (ours or others') in one way or another all our mortal days. I remind myself that whom the Lord loves, he chastens – or, as I prefer to interpret it – allows to be chastened. Like remembering the pain and stress of childbirth way after the fact, I reckon that we will look back on all the things that threatened to crush us here and now and it will all blend into the beautiful and worthwhile mess, out of which we get a beautiful shiny new life, but this time it will be ours. Like a phoenix. That doesn't make a lot of sense in print, but it makes sense in my head. Love you xoxoxo

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