Glimpsing the Kin-dom: A Reflection on Doubt and Hope
Written by Sarah Jordan
Julian Year alum
In the first chapter of Mark, immediately after his baptism, Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, encountering wild beasts, and being waited on by angels. Sounds like a strange, challenging, and transforming experience. I imagine that Jesus, fully human, experienced doubts about his own abilities and calling, about whether God was present, about whether people would listen to him, about whether he’d make it out of the wilderness in one piece.
Wildernesses come in many forms and lengths of time, and the Julian Year in many ways was a wilderness for me. I encountered temptation and wild beasts and I most definitely encountered angels. While wilderness is not a perfect parallel, the Julian Year was a strange, challenging and transforming experience. Like my depiction of Jesus, I also experience doubt. I’m uncertain that I can be the kind of person that I’m called to be. I lack confidence that systems of oppression can be dismantled. I doubt that God is at work in the world. I’m uncertain that people will keep their promises. In a lot of ways, living in community affirmed all these doubts. I can be petty and selfish. Power structures are alive and well at the micro level. God can seem pretty absent at weekly house meetings. And people cross boundaries, hurt your feelings, and aren’t there when you need them. Doubt is not an easy space to occupy. Yet, I’ve come to cherish my doubts as they are a reminder of the world as it is, keeping me grounded in reality and honest about my own shortcomings. Doubt makes sure that I don’t lose sight of the work that needs to be done both in myself and in the world around me.
In Mark, Jesus leaves the wilderness possibly still holding onto his doubts, but definitely proclaiming hope and good news that “the kin-dom of God has come near.” I left my experience with the Julian Year with all my doubts but with renewed hope that maybe the kin-dom of God really has come near. Living in community, I witnessed people caring for each other at moments of despair and supporting each other through the everyday challenges. We fought against our own desires to exercise power over others, sometimes even successfully. We cooked for each other and sat down at a table together. I learned how to better love people and myself. These moments and actions showed me glimpses of God’s kin-dom that I might not have seen in that way without my experiences of doubt. Holding my doubt and hope together lets me practice my faith with my eyes open to both the obstacles to and the possibilities of the kin-dom of God breaking in to our world here and now.
In this wilderness time of Lent, let us explore our doubts and notice what gives us hope so that we may glimpse God’s kin-dom and be transformed.