Sunday, June 19, 2005

no doubt

A few summers back, for reasons known only to God and my son, Zac began to doubt the existence of the Almighty.

"How come, if he spoke to the prophets, God doesn't speak to me?" Zac asked one morning.

"He is speaking to you," I said. "Maybe you're just not realizing it."

Zac was silent for a long minute. "Don't you ever doubt, Mom? I mean, how do we know he's real? What if we're just making it all up?"

Calm down, I told my thrashing heart. "I don't doubt anymore," I said, in a voice more neutral than I thought possible. At least nothing in my tone betrayed my sense of panic. "But I did when I was your age. Younger than you, actually. I used to lie awake at night and make myself sick worrying that God wasn't real and that when I died, I'd just cease to exist."

"But you're convinced now," Zac said.

"Yes, I'm convinced." I couldn't put into words the rush of memory that filled my mind. I saw a hospital room, and the newborn I'd just watched delivered. I saw my friend stroking her son's face, and remembered the awe that swept through me and pushed aside some of that long-held doubt. I saw the northern lights again, on a night when God revealed himself through fingers of incandescent color that teased and tickled the sky, beckoning me to believe. I saw myself praying with a friend at 3:00 a.m. one morning, and heard again the unexpected thunder in my ears, saw again the orange, fiery glow behind my eyelids, felt again the weightlessness as God's Spirit filled my being and whispered, I'm here.

"I know he's real," I told my son.

"Well, I don't."

Before I could give release to the fear that surged through my heart, the voice I've grown to love so much whispered again. You can't give him your faith. He has to discover his own.

So God wasn't panicking.

"Why don't you just ask God to reveal himself to you?" I heard myself say.

"How do I do that?"

"Just ask. Just say, 'God, if you're there, show me.' "

Zac didn't answer me until he'd mounted the last stair. I felt his gaze from the upstairs loft. I looked up. "Can you do that?"

He waited a moment before answering. "Maybe. I'll have to think about it."

He left, and I started praying. "God, show him. Show him you're real, and you're near, and you love him."

Sometimes, God's answers take a lifetime of waiting and watching and listening. But some come mercifully quick. The following afternoon, Zac rushed through the front door and pounded into the living room. I sat on my same spot on the couch, only on this day, the thrashing heart beat in his chest.

"He's real, Mom," my boy said. Before the next words left his mouth, I'd already uttered my silent thanks.

"You'll never believe what happened today." With an exuberance pulled off best by fourteen-year old boys, Zac launched into the retelling of his day. He'd been walking along State Street with his friend, Broc. A man was drilling a sign about fifteen feet above the sidewalk, and Zac looked up to see exactly what the man was doing. In the same moment looked up, debris of some sort dropped from above and landed right in his eye. Zac staggered forward a few feet, bent over, and tried to blink out the intruder. And just as he did so, he heard and felt a fierce "whoosh" streaking past his head.

"Look out!" Broc yelled.

Zac froze -- but opened his eyes. And he saw a city bus zooming just inches from his head. The whooshing sound he'd heard came from the bus's side mirror -- which missed smacking Zac's head by a mere inch.

"Mom, that bus was going 40 miles an hour. If that mirror had hit me, I'd be dead right now."

I couldn't even let that thought sink in.

"God saved my life, Mom. He caused all that to happen -- me looking up, the dust hitting my eye, me bending over at the right time -- so I'd know he's real."

I could only stare.

"I did what you said. I asked God to show himself to me ... and he did."

Zac still has questions. So does his mother. So do most of God's children. But he's on a path. And every time I worry that he might wander a bit too far off that path, I have only to look at the picture posted above. Just a week after Zac's experience, he went to Whistler with our friends, Glen and Sonya Acord, and their three kids. While walking through a Canadian forest one afternoon, Zac noticed four or five doves flying from branch to branch. On a whim, he took some of the chips from his lunch, crushed them, and lifted them up to the birds. One accepted his offer ... and Sonya snapped this picture.

When she sent it to me, I printed it out and stared at it for a long moment. I thought about how much I loved that boy and how much I'd give up to know he'd always have a desire for God. The longer I looked at that picture, the more meaning I saw. Both Zac's wristbands bore embroidered doves. And there was something about the reaching and filling that caused me to pray out loud, "God, let this be a symbol of my son reaching for and being filled with your Holy Spirit."

On the heels of my plea, he reassured me with a whisper.

I want that even more than you do.

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22 Comment:

At 6/19/2005 9:25 PM, Blogger zandperl had this to say ...

Isn't "asking God to show himself" testing God? I thought that's what Satan tried to get Jesus to do by throwing himself off a mountain.

At 6/19/2005 9:38 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

No, I don't think so. No more than Moses was "testing God" when he asked Him, in Exodus 33, "Show me Your glory." God honored that request by hiding Moses in the rock and allowing him to see His back as His glory passed.

Satan's motive differed greatly from Moses's. Moses genuinely wanted God to reveal Himself to him. That's all Zac was asking as well.

At 6/20/2005 2:56 AM, Blogger Sameera Malinda had this to say ...

I tried best not 2 omment, but I can't resist. So according to U there is no chance happenings! Everything is decided by God. Try explaining 9/11. And since God tried to prove existance by the way of a dust particle to some doubting child, why the hell he can't answer the prayers of millions of needy people? Where they pray for their parent's/child's/ relative's life or for manythings more valuable & urgent ? Don't say that he is misterious & other generic things the creasionists usually provide.

At 6/20/2005 8:11 AM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Shanny, my heart was overflowed with joy at your post. I still see Zac as a helpful, smiling little guy. I'm thrilled to pieces to know that God spared his life and revealed Himself to Zac. That's just amazing. What an awesome testimony he will have.

Love, Kim

At 6/20/2005 8:18 AM, Blogger Jimmy had this to say ...

Shannon, my heart almost hurts at the joy that Zac's picture gives me. I think it in itself is a sign from God. I've saved it as my desktop picture here at work to remind of God's work in Zac's life and in yours and Dave's work as parents. Please know that Zac and your family is always in my prayers waaay over here in Georgia as you face these growing teenage years of faith.

At 6/20/2005 8:42 AM, Blogger Bill and Glory had this to say ...


How the mother's heart in you must be so filled with delight! That is such a picture worth saving and framing.


Zac is just getting started on his journey of faith with God. Please try to understand that nothing can be explained or understood by our human intellect, good or bad. As Zac grows closer to God then, yes, he will experience devastating losses along with overwhelming joys because God isn't just concerned with our earthly comfort and pleasure. God will allow whatever He wills into our lives first and foremost to draw us to Himself.

At 6/20/2005 9:33 AM, Blogger James had this to say ...

Beautiful post. I've linked to it today from my blog. Romans 1 is all about God revealing himself to those who take a step, however small or halting, in His direction.

At 6/20/2005 10:30 AM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, it's so freeing when we can turn our kids completely over to God. Zac's story is huge. Thanks for writing yet another post from your heart. Zac is blessed to have a praying mom who leaves the hard work up to the Holy Spirit. Have a good week! Bonnie

At 6/20/2005 2:07 PM, Blogger thequeen had this to say ...

Tears have filled my eyes for the knowing in my heart.

At 6/20/2005 5:25 PM, Anonymous susan had this to say ...

What a beautiful photo. No doubt of the message therein. Once again tears are sprung at reading your post!!! Ill be billing you for my tissue expense!!!

At 6/20/2005 10:05 PM, Blogger Tanton had this to say ...

Wonderful post. God has done much for me in my life as well. Reading your post reminded me to thank him for everything he does for me, my family, you, and everyone else.

At 6/20/2005 10:19 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thanks for such nice feedback, everyone.

And Sameera, the only thing I can pass on to you is something someone much wiser than I once said: "If God were small enough for you to figure out, He wouldn't be big enough for you to worship." I can't answer for God but I can certainly testify to His touch on my life. You'll never convince me He's not there ... or that He doesn't care deeply for His creation.

At 6/20/2005 10:29 PM, Anonymous joe cool cowboy poet had this to say ...

I have to agree with Shannon's last comment here. If we could explain every action with intellect and say this is WHY God has chosen this path or that, then we wouldn't be able to worship him. He is bigger than that. His love is bigger than that too.
Beautiful post and beautiful picture.

At 6/21/2005 10:29 AM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...

Since I first saw it I've thought that was the coolest picture and I love your telling of this story. As a mom I hope to see similar things in my kid's lives and I regularly pray that God will reveal Himself to them; like Paul prayed for the Ephesians (Eph. 1:17-19)

Several times a week I drive by a construction site. Everytime I drive by it looks like a bigger and bigger mess. It makes no sense to me at all. I know there is someone who has the master plan for the site though and eventually it will be a peaceful little neighborhood with well manicured lawns, flowers and precisely planted trees. The one with a plan will bring order out of what seems to be chaos.

I don't pretend to know what God's plan is but I know He has one. I couldn't explain His reasoning to you anymore than I could explain why it seems the construction guys are just moving around piles of dirt. But just because I can't explain the reasoning doesn't mean it's not for a purpose.

I think I'm rambling so I'd better stop!

At 6/21/2005 11:56 AM, Blogger Cora had this to say ...

I just love that picture and stare at it every time I see it! I'm watching Zac grow up and am loving the work God is doing in his life.

We don't always know what God is up to, but I can tell you He is here everyday (and He was there on 9/11). His plans for our lives are not for us to question, but for us to draw nearer to Him as we go through what He is putting us through.

At 6/21/2005 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

that's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read!

At 6/25/2005 5:10 PM, Blogger Teresa had this to say ...

Wow! I guess I'm saying that a lot. I've had some of those conversations with my son and they are always difficult. But I'm glad he asks and trys to work through them. Yet sometimes I used to try to force my faith on him. I even took him to a Christian counselor. My comment to her, in front of my son, "I just don't know what to do with him--he doesn't have a walk with God anymore". A smile came over her face and I'll never forget what she said, "My God is a VERY big God and He can take care of that". I often have to remind myself.

At 7/08/2005 10:29 PM, Anonymous Thom had this to say ...

RE: Sameera Malinda
Evil is present in the world. Man has free will, if not then man would be no more than a robot. I have no problem seeing evil in the world and what it accomplishes, hence 9/11. The rain and sun will fall on the unsaved and saved alike. If one is not being honest with God I am not sure He listens always and even then maybe His plan is not what we want and what can make us madder than not thinking we know best. It would be a bit odd to say we believe in God but we will decide what is best, our god would be as small as we are. But in the big picture, all things work to the good of those who love the Lord. So whatever bad befalls, the Christian knows God can make good come of it in some way, maybe we will see it, maybe not, in this life. That doesn't mean God caused the evil. Not being robots God left our lives up to us and we have made a mess and allowed evil much room to work. We have to turn to Him to ask Him to work in our lives sometimes. That is not to save He can't work through one for the good of another.
I hope I have expressed what I really meant and not sounded cold hearted towards anyone, saved or unsaved, as God loves all and wishes all to be saved through His Son, Jesus Christ.

At 7/08/2005 10:51 PM, Anonymous Thom had this to say ...

After floundering with what I felt I have found a very well written article on why bad things happen in a world created by a loving God. I hope it is okay to post here.
Email from a Skeptic:
*Why Does God Allow Evil?
*/by Dr. Mark Eastman/
Have a good day,

At 7/14/2005 10:07 AM, Blogger zandperl had this to say ...

Just to play Devil's Advocate here, what objective proof do Zac and Broc have that "the bus's side mirror missed smacking Zac's head by a mere inch"? The human mind tends to easily misjudge dangers like that, and we would be just as scared if something flew by our heads a foot away as an inch away. Additionally, children tend to exaggerate.

I do not doubt that Zac's faith has been strengthened, I just question whether it is a personal interpretation of an everyday event, or actual divine intervention.

At 8/08/2005 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

This is an old blog, but i still feel like commenting. The way I see it, is that everyone goes through heartache and tough times to become the person God wants us to be. Without bad things happening in our lives, we would be expecting too much out of God.

At 5/25/2006 6:42 AM, Blogger Brian had this to say ...

Thanks for your post. I know it's an old one, but I stumbled across it when searching for something else.
I've had this "doubt" conversation with my son a few times in the last couple weeks. He's just turned 10, he's a pastor's kid, and he wants to know why God doesn't speak, and why we prayed for his aunt's healing but she died anyway, and if God even exists, etc., etc.

I used to speak at summer camps, and I loved it when 10-12 year old kids asked the "is God real?" question. But coming from under my own roof, it's a lot harder to take.

I'm advising him the same way you did - just ask! And I'm trying to stay calm, and realize that if he can make his faith his own now, he's be much better off for it in the years to come.

Thanks for sharing - it's nice to know we're not alone in this.



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