I swear there’s something in the empty tomb.

June 17, 2013

“Those of us who have committed ourselves to a life of repentance and return will not give up on ourselves, no matter how many times we have to repeat the process. We will keep telling the truth and turning around, every day if need be. We will never say never (I’ll never recover, I’ll never get it, I’ll never learn). Why? Because we believe in God’s goodness more than we believe in our own badness.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor


that’s about despair. It’s from one of the articles that come up when you put ‘despair’ into the searchbox of the theological journal database Carey has access to. Other things that have gone into that searchbox recently have been ’empty tomb’, ‘absence’, ‘present absence’, ‘absent presence’, ‘resurrection’, ‘Emmaus’ and ‘Trinity’, because when have I stopped talking about the Trinity this semester.

It’s research for an assignment, but it’s also deeply personal research, because I- incredible fool that I am- chose to pick an assignment that involves writing a Trinitarian song, plus a run-through on why exactly I wrote what I wrote in said song, with fifteen works referenced. I never thought it’d be easy, but in my delusional yay I get to do something I enjoy fervor I conveniently forgot that one of the underlying tenets of my existence is doubt. I doubt God’s goodness and care as a matter of course, as a thing so natural to my existence by this point that it pretty much informs my ontological makeup. And while I’ve been learning lots about the transforming presence of Trinitarian activity in life, salvation, existence, creation, worship, everything, while that’s been slowly affecting how I think about God and everything-that-isn’t-God, what it hasn’t done is miraculously transformed me into a radiant affirming being of belief and trust and adoration, confirming and testifying to the goodness and blessing of God’s plans and presence and care. Because I can’t confirm God’s goodness of plans and presence and care. Because that’s not what I’ve experienced and what I understand, regardless of some alteration in my thinking and conceptions. I’ve had a long go at being an incredibly doubting believer, remember.

Now, this doubt business is all very well if I’m writing an essay. What I’ve experienced and what I understand to the very heart of me has no bearing on my comprehension of ideas and information, or my ability to analyse a subject, and my private doubts will merely surface in an occasional slightly-cynical choice of phrasing in an essay or an exegesis. But I’m writing a song for this assignment, and this means that whatever I write has to come from at least some perspective of what I’ve experienced and what I understand, if it is to be truthful and stand with any kind of integrity at all (unless I want to cram a distilled summary of ten foundational theological points into rhyming verse, like some kind of very strange Sunday School primer. I’ve considered it. I’ve also considered, in my wilder moments, just handing in the Nicene Creed).

Given that I need to write from a place of my own experience and heart-understanding, then, if what I’ve experienced and understood is a deeply overwhelming, unbelievably despair-causing awareness of the unfixable mess that is myself and the world, running alongside the dogged belief that God is not good or loving or interested in fixing it, even tempered by the constant hope that I’m wrong about everything (I call it my antifaith. I’m pretty sure it’s the only foundational belief I really cling to constantly, this hope that I’m really seriously wrong about God), any kind of song I write isn’t going to be Trinitarian. Or positive. Unless it’s possible to write a negatively Trinitarian song. About absence. I’m really not sure how absence looks from a Trinitarian perspective.

can’t do worship songs. I can’t do adoration. I have nothing to adore. Like I said, most of my faith consists of Seriously Hoping that all this despair-and-life-is-suffering-and-everything-is-unrescuable shtick I’m largely convinced of is Very Wrong And Misguided and that Eventually I’ll Be Proved Wrong (I don’t know what I’m on or how I got here, but there you go. Antifaith). Even if I were to do something that wasn’t an affirmatory ‘contemporary worship’ song, though- even if I were to do something that was an adequate expression of the Doubt Limbo I seem to permanently exist in, there is no way to make it Trinitarian without taking it beyond what I currently hold to be true.

I really don’t know. This whole business isn’t helping much with the whole despair part of everything. I’m spending a lot more time than usual thinking longingly about being blessedly unconscious, but the temporary nature of sleep is becoming harder and harder to avoid seeing. I’m running out of valid options to hide in or escape to, which is probably part of some perverse mechanism from On High calculated to spur me into something horrible (my faith in the inescapable sovereignty of God is, unfortunately, entirely intact).

enough. class tomorrow, and work due.



One Response to “I swear there’s something in the empty tomb.”

  1. […] I wanted him to be right but knew that believing anything of God was an incredibly stupid move (antifaith in action). And as I went to lectures and ate free lunches and made friends and panicked in the […]

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