The Faith to Shut My Mouth
“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
I have tried to convince people of God’s existence.
Over drinks with agnostic friends I’ll try to establish God’s existence by reminding them of awe. “Look around! Think about the white of a whitecap or the ping of your radiator on a cold winter night. The height of mountains or the way water feels when you dive right into it. You think all of that just happened?” Sometimes I get uptight about it and my voice squeaks.
In hospitals I visit parishioners. It isn’t God’s existence that’s in question; it’s God’s presence. Abandoned, the faithful sufferer suffers twice. So I defend Jesus in the courtroom of my people’s pain. “God isn’t gone. But your conception of God might be crashing. God isn’t ‘almighty.’ Look to the cross. We might want a God who could prevent your illness, but the Jesus we have cries right alongside us.” Sometimes I get anxious and my voice grows thin, as if Christ’s presence depends upon how convincing I am.
The awe and the cross are the truth. I win the argument every time. But I don’t think I’ve ever convinced a single soul.
Why not? Karl Barth says that in the attempt to prove God, we deny God. When we anxiously try to establish God’s reality, “God withdraws from our anxiety.” I don’t need to defend God. I don’t need to demonstrate God’s presence. God speaks for God’s self. What I need to do is be still and get out of the way.
Dear God, give me the faith to shut my mouth. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.