Last week I said that personal doubts have actually been used to benefit my walk with Jesus. Today I want to share a specific instance as an example.
Two summers ago I was in a suburb of Las Vegas attending the 2008 NFL (National Forensics League) National Speech and Debate tournament. One big excitement about heading west was the chance to frequent In-N-Out Burger, perhaps the most addictive and delicious fast-food establishment in existence.
On a particular food-run to In-N-Out, I purchased two double-doubles, a carton of milk, and a cup of water. The OCD part of me was compelled to ration my milk between the two burgers, which meant that I alternated drinking from the water cup and the milk every few bites.
I was drinking from one of my straws and enjoying what I thought was milk when I looked down and discovered I was actually drawing water through the straw. I was surprised – my preconception that it was milk had actually served to dupe my taste buds for a number of seconds. I had seemingly experienced drinking dairy without partaking of it in reality.
This is where it gets interesting.
My mind jumped to the theological. If it were possible to feel milk-drinking because of a preconception, what if the times I have felt that I experienced God’s presence were due only to a mixture of religious conviction and desire? For brief seconds, my heart stood still (the ropes were straining, as I said before) as I pondered the possible ramifications of the question.
Then I took a breath.
And thoughts began to weave together. Although I had imagined I was drinking milk when I was actually slurping H2O (thereby deceiving myself) the only reason I was able to conjure those feelings was because I had tasted milk in reality beforehand. If I had never had milk before, I could not know the taste/feel combination to produce in order to dupe myself.
When these thoughts were extended to the arena of doubt I was battling in, I understood that it was possible to manufacture an experience with the Divine. In fact, some people probably do quite often. However, I would not know what feelings to conjure in order to simulate a supernatural encounter unless I had previously experienced one in reality.
Granted, this reasoning is not flawless. We could manifest what we think a numinous encounter should be like. But how would we know what that is? Furthermore, even granting that caveat in no way renders God’s existence impossible.
That being said, the brief exchange of argumentation in my head that night served to calm the qualms I was thrust into. I learned not to panic when doubts arise, and that there are legitimate answers when they do.
My thoughts came in, and out, at In-N-Out. I finished my burgers and shared with a friend what had just occurred.