The other day I had a conversation with a friend about the years I spent as a young man not really believing in God. She was curious what that period of my life was like, and how I came through the other side of it.
I had to confess to her that my late teens and early twenties was not the only time in my life when I struggled with a crisis of faith. About four years ago, I found myself wrestling with doubt, and questioning my own deeply held beliefs about God, the universe and everything.
Going through a crisis of faith while still having to serve as a pastor was easily one of the loneliest times I've ever experienced. And it would have broken me had it not been for some amazing people in my life, who spoke new truths into my heart, showed me grace and held on to me the whole time.
I found the courage then to dive to the bottom of my doubt--in large part because I knew I had lifeguards watching over my descent. And when I pushed off from the bottom and rose to the surface again, I was stronger, more faithful and more in love with God than I'd ever been.
I got to thinking today about those lifeguards, and how grateful I am for their faithful witness. And then I got to thinking about my many lifeguards in those early years, when, as a young man, I struggled and wrestled with doubts.
I'm convinced that God used all those people to demonstrate the relentless grace of God through Jesus---Jesus, who shows us what God is like, and through whom the Spirit of God permeates all of Creation, including you and me.
I read this quote today from Lois Cheney in one of my devotional readings: "Much of the positive which we do and think is in response to those who have smiled past the shell into the white light."
As followers of Jesus our constant prayer should be that we will get the chance to be a lifeguard to someone who feels as though they are drowning in doubt, and who are afraid to admit it. We should pray that we will be able to see beyond their shell and smile into the white light on the other side of it.
And we do this, we pay this forward, because we never know when one day we might feel like we are sinking and need to know that there is a hand reaching out for us, a hand placed there and guided by the Holy Spirit of God in Christ.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.