Debunking Doubt

June 10, 2013 by  
Filed under B2P Hot Stove

It’s been a while since the Gospel spoke to me. It’s been a while since I’d even been to church. One Sunday passed into another, yet I found myself choosing to sleep in or simply do something else. My story of a lapse in faith is no different than any other…sometimes God just takes a back seat to other priorities. I don’t necessarily like to admit it, but I’m not always the best “soldier of Christ” that was sent forth into this world at my 11th grade Confirmation. That being said, Catholic or not, I think every healthy Christian experiences doubt. Doubt seems to be intrinsic to humanity and teaches us some of our greatest lessons (often painfully). The main idea, despite these moments of ambiguity, is to pick up the faith once it is dropped. Some of God’s greatest servants were famous for questioning the very Almighty that they devoted their lives to. So what made them, and me this last Sunday, different? As an elite-level gymnast who’s competed all-over the world and seen his fair share of ups and downs, I can say that I’m different because I learn from my failures…Sport is my God-given vehicle of living out my personal form of Christianity. I continue to learn from the unavoidable pangs of suffering that are inherent in not just sport, but in

As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said,

“Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” Luke 9:12

Deacon Pat read Sunday’s Gospel (Luke LK 9:11-17), then did a great job of imaginarily relocating his flock to a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Vatican Square to relive a four-day-old homily given by Pope Francis. What caught my attention was how badly the disciples wanted to “dismiss the crowd,” look after only themselves and seek a more comfortable location than that “deserted place.” It’s as if the twelve were saying, “Jesus, this is getting ridiculous. Let’s get out of this crap-hole and get a drink and some shade.” I know that’s what I would have been thinking. But Jesus, as he so often does, turns everyday human insight on its head. “Give them some food yourselves,” he told them, almost reproachfully. To me, Jesus was saying, “Yea, I know it’s hot out here and things look pretty grim, but haven’t you learned yet that I’m all you need to believe in? Now do as I say, and go look after your brothers.”

This Sunday I was again reminded that I’m human, fallible and imperfect. Just like you, I doubt, sin and fall flat on my face from time-to-time. Even Jesus’ own chosen twelve, those that went to the ends of the earth to found His earthly church, were sinners and, more or less, thought exactly as us folks do today. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Then I got to thinking…oh geez, sometimes the floodgates open and my mind rolls off the beaten path to un-ventured  straights of deep reflection (As any of my friends will tell you, this usually happens on Sundays for me). Well, this past Sunday was no different. As my thoughts aimlessly drifted from one sublime subject to the next,

I stumbled upon the thought of the fact that I don’t really have a right to give up on God. Yes, human free-will and all, I suppose I do, but being a bit more than that, being a Christian, I was charged with a responsibility. In the broad scheme of things, the “catholic” part of my faith is and isn’t what connects me to my other Christian friends around the globe.

I say it “isn’t” because, sure, I believe a bunch of stuff that other faiths don’t; and I don’t believe another boat-load of things that other religions like to tack-on. I also say it “is,” more importantly, because in every Christian (in fact, in every human) is found the flowing spring of God’s grace. Whether it be the nun saying her rosary in the chapel for abortions in China, or the homeless man begging on the side of the road instead of getting a job and contributing to society…In those very people lie God’s grace. It’s up to us to take those opportunities and ask, “What is there to learn here?” Those six words have recently given me a brand-new perspective on very old problems. Girls, the gym, almost being 30 and not having a steady career…these are just a few of my problems that seems to loom over my head wherever I go like the proverbial black cloud. “Hey man, the sun’s shining over there, but above me I only get the shaft with clouds and rain.” The truth is, yes, it might not be the most ideal circumstances that have decided to frequent my neck of the woods, but, indeed, what is there for me to learn? What did Jesus’ disciples learn in every instance when the divine light shone through their own dark, spiritually-primitive clouds?

“Dismiss them…they have screwed you in the past and will continue to do so. Screw them!” That’s perhaps a more accurate interpretation of what many of us feel and think. That being said, if I see it as my obligation to not give up on God, and continue to have faith in Him, then who’s to say the same shouldn’t be said for my fellow man; for myself? My thoughts have led me to another insightful point of no return — How often do I give up on myself and others? As far as myself is concerned, I would like to tell you about how high of an opinion I have of myself; I have to, I’m a top-notch athlete. Where would I be without self-confidence? But the ugly truth sometimes bares its thirsty fangs. I attribute that part to the inevitable fight for one’s soul that rages within each of us, everyday. Someday’s the war is quiet and all the troops are holding steady, other days see the resurrection of all-out conflict. Being an elite-level athlete makes me no different from anyone else. Yes, I have developed tools to fight off depression, anxiety, doubt and fear; but, still, I experience them and am called to fight them as much as any other human.

As the day was drawing to a close…Isn’t that the time when we are usually at our weakest? When all of our strength has been pumped into other tasks that have demanded our energy? For me, the end of most days find me flush from the previous hours of hard work. It can oftentimes be a double-edged sword, in that I feel proud of my work but also lack the necessary faculties to push on. Sometimes, during these hours of weakness, I give up on myself…and others. I want nothing more than to seek refuge in more comfortable quarters. Despite the ill-natured thoughts and feelings that come with fatigue, I’m comforted in knowing that I am one of many believers that continue to struggle with the very same ways. As a Catholic, a christian, a human being, I am called to more.

At the end of every service, my Uncle — pastor of a nearby church — thanks “Catholic and non-Catholics alike” for attending services. As we are about to set out into a secular world, he reminds us that we are all children of God, whatever your religion might be. I urge you, my dear reader, if nothing else, remember this — In a world that constantly pulls us away from each other, and our very selves, know that we are all connected by His love.

Matt Hicks is a contributor to the Good Sports Blog, an elite level gymnast who has competed internationally and trained for the 2012 Olympics