Last week the world was blessed with a so-called “super harvest moon”, which occurs only when a full moon rises on the first day of autumn. It happens once every 20 years or so, and apparently the combination of a full moon occurring at the time of the sun passing the equinox creates a particularly spectacular moonrise. I say “apparently” because, on the day, we had cloudy weather here in Holland.
For millennia man has marveled at the near side of the moon, the side that remains constant to the earth, glowing musty orange, rising slowly in its glory, magnified by the earth’s warm breezes at autumn’s harvest. The face of the moon we know and all mankind has known for thousands and thousands of years. Familiar, unchanging, charted and drawn. The moon of countless paintings and photos, age after age.
There are people, I have known a good number, whose Christian faith is like this never altering or changing visage. No matter what life brings, their beliefs remain constant, familiar, comforting. It’s the experience of God by those blessed with a life devoid of niggling questions.
I once had that kind of constancy, a sure and ready answer for every question of life. I use to read and enjoy books on systematic theology. Those days are a long time gone. Now, at times, I discover I have ambled onto the far side, where I can be found among the disciples who “worshipped him, but doubted” (Matthew 28:17).
The moon is still the moon, my faith is still faith, near side or far, familiar or unknown. Faith on the far side is full of unanswered questions and quiet voids. Uncertain terrain and unexpected vistas are common; strange at first, but still authentic, still the real thing.
And, I’ve discovered, it’s not the “dark side” as is mistakenly suggested; the sun does shine there too.
(6 October: I’m still not happy with this post. I’ve messed with it and messed with it, and been sorely tempted to break my own rule and delete it. But I won’t. The problem is that it’s trying too hard, is not clear enough with regard to the spiritual experience I’m talking about, and is perhaps discouraging to my younger readers. So let me just say: I believe it is quite acceptable to live your whole life within inherited and familiar faith parameters, if you can. There is much to be said for stability and certitude. But please be patient with those of us who wander around at times wondering – out loud – if what we inherited really does make sense. Thanks!)