I won't say I'm experiencing a "dark night of the soul." I haven't by any means earned that right.
"Dark nights" I'll leave to those who can face them: folks like Mother Theresa or Saint John of the Cross, who continually prayed to and yearned for God. They did so even when -- for decades, in Mother Theresa's case -- they felt no closeness to God in their prayers, and continually ached for God in his absence.
What I'm going through now is something less: an overnight flight delay of the soul.
In an airport lit up like it's noon, my own midnight is spent trying to sleep in a chair that's cleverly designed to prevent it.
Occasionally I get up and pace the terminals; I lug around my tambourine and giant golden harp. Logistically, I know they won't fit in the overhead compartment. What the hell was I thinking? I quietly put the thought out of my mind.
The thought comes back. I rest my hope on the First Class closet, where a few times they've let me stow my guitar.
At 4 a.m. I am downright pissed to find the five foolish bridesmaids, huddled together and dozing off (par for the course) on a bench by the women's bathroom. I see that every one of them has her oil lamp lingering somewhere nearby. This frustrates me: they've got lamps for God's sake -- IEDs if I ever saw them -- while I can't even get through with a six-ounce tube of Colgate.
I suppose I should just let these little injustices slide, and be thankful the six of us got tickets at all.
It's funny: in ways I am a firmer believer now than I've ever been. I unswervingly believe .... something, even something substantial, about God's promise to humanity made through Christ. I believe in God's fervent preference for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and in the responsibility that entails for a privileged kid like me.
I believe that God loves us. It's the one truth I really left seminary with. And that's almost always enough.
But sometimes I'm not sure "doubt" is even the word for what I feel. I find myself somewhere out past Thomas, if as yet shy of Judas.
I hide this from many -- though not all -- of my co-workers and clients. They are steeped in another language, a different language, which they share with me at least a little bit each day. "Holy Spirit-filled." "Just keep praising." "God will work a miracle." "Bathe it in prayer." They worry for the salvation of souls.
Their language feels like a litmus test, which, at least secretly, I continue to fail.
I've learned not to use those terms myself. I say "the Lord" and "Holy Spirit" with the sincerity of a flight attendant, welcoming another hundred people on the plane.
Sometimes, though rarely, the attendant even means "hello." He believes "hello."
Lord, help him with his unbelief.