Here I sit–annual confession

I often live with a sense of abandonment…yet with a keen anticipation of epiphany. I live with the idea that natural life is a miracle and a mystery; butstamens that it is also the arena of science and reason which may at any moment curb my understanding of miracle and mystery.

I believe that we are beings suited for contemplation, meditation and prayer. But I’m not sure what prayer does or doesn’t do.

I revere the self-gift of Jesus, but don’t believe in Anselm’s satisfaction theory of atonement. I’m deeply attracted to the Eucharist, what I used to call the Lord’s supper. I consider it a dramatic enigma.

I’m never far from asking for guidance but I don’t know if God guides my life, let alone has a detailed plan for me. It seems that time and chance happen to us all. But when I’m in a crisis I jettison every fatalistic cell and plead for light.

I often dislike myself and at these times I do one of two things: I sink into a deep funk, or I emotionally preen myself beyond recognition while going out of my way to solicit praise, surreptitiously of course. But too, I often find myself to be a fair friend and good company. And when in this way, I am pleasant to be around.

I hate sickness, violence, seeing people I love hurt, seeing anyone hurt; I hate the loss that chronic pain forces upon lives, the inevitability of decay, the death of friends and relatives. I used to think, and was given to believe, that God allowed of these things and I called this God’s unsearchable wisdom. But even as I regurgitated this theodicy, I really didn’t know what to make of it. And now I believe the idea and the language to be unhelpful if not harmful.

Learning to let go of loss, pain or anger, seems the healthy thing to do; but I don’t think it’s always possible. And I have arm-loads of mercy for those who can’t let go and let god. Insanity, or drink, or drugs, or the many other possible addictions are not unreasonable options in the face of some forms of personal suffering. Oddly enough, an untroubled life may also court addiction.

I’m a distracted, but just as often a captivated reader of the Psalms and gospels. I’ve pretty much left off reading the rest of the bible except where I intuit a reference.

Every month as I lurch along through the Psalms, by way of morning lectio divina, I come upon this coordinate:  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part, thou shalt make me to know wisdom.  And while I have no hope of arriving at anything like untarnished inner truth before my three-score-and-ten, I’m figuring here that the spirit of Love, the spirit of the maker of the cosmos, the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of the mysterium tremendum is as patient as a desert, and fancies my liberation from every form of distortion and self-delusion. As it is, I believe that this I Am has no issue with my doubts or my ravings (consider the ancient Hebrew  poets), but is concerned primarily about pulling me toward personal verity and inner integrity (well, perhaps I do believe in guidance).

And what I’ve found, dear reader, is that when I stray from this inner compass, I place myself in peril of living life without breath—of living a life of fantasy—dead directionless fantasy at that. I may as well exhume the corpse of Dean Martin and ask it the secret of sobriety.

So this coming year, I will continue doing what I do: I will listen, watch, wait, doubt, believe, chronicle and so perhaps fashion a few true sentences. And if that should happen—about the sentences—I will try as best I can to see that my life catches up to them.


  1. Hi Steven,

    I appreciate your honesty! This thought echoes within me:

    I Am has no issue with my doubts or my ravings (consider the ancient Hebrew poets), but is concerned primarily about pulling me toward personal verity and inner integrity

    and I say, “God is gracious and patient”.

    You are blessed, (Ephesians chapter one. Try adding that to your morning constitutional). 🙂 🙂

    Pam Mytroen

  2. Thank you Stephen! I appreciate your pilgrim’s ethic of hope, doubt and openness — and your emphasis on Mystery, with a capital m — trying to avoid the easy answers. I can definitely relate to many of these confessions. Inspiring, as always.

  3. Thank you Pam. Your reminder of blessing is received.

    Stacey, thanks for the encouragement. I recall your own inner integrity.

    Craig, thanks much for the reference…and for your many monastic and contemplative insights.

    Kelly, my poet friend, thank you. Here’s to your own kaleidoscopic pilgrimage.

  4. It is always encouraging to hear my own doubts spoken by someone in whom I see God working. It gives me hope that in the midst of my own disbelief my faith is not compromised, and is perhaps made stronger and more complete.

  5. Thank you so much for your words Jennie. Let me just add this quote from the wonderful Flannery O’Conner, “I don’t know how the kind of faith required of a Christian living in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on the experience of unbelief.” Just as true here in the 21st century I believe.

  6. Ahhh … Stephen,

    Your confession so reaches inside the depths of mine own heart, saying what I feel, communicating what I experience as I plod and limp my way along this litter strewn pathway.



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