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By Luke Hawley

My 7-year-old son, Judah, asked me last night about the meaning of the word complicated.

He had just asked his older sister a question—one I didn’t hear—and she had answered by telling him that it was complicated. I only had a moment to appreciate her answer (it’s mine for just about everything) before I had to think about how to properly define the word for Judah. I hemmed and hawed and answered something like, When there’s not an easy solution for something—when something is hard to explain or understand.

Then he made this face that I see on him all the time. His skeptic’s face.

***

A couple years ago, we were sitting in church and my wife gave Judah some change for the offering plate. When it came by, he had a question, or a series of questions, as usual, and he was fairly loud about it and a bit disruptive, so I picked him up and took him to the entryway steps and sat with him and let him ask away.

Who does this money go to?

Well, the church. Sort of. It’s complicated.

Why do we give it?

Um… because God says so?

Who’s God?

Oh boy.

***

The lectionary offers Acts 8 this morning, Philip and the eunuch, a story chock full of quick belief. The Spirit says to Philip, Go jump in that chariot, and he does. The eunuch is a bit perplexed about Isaiah but asks one question and Philip jumps in with the Gospel, apparently explained so exceptionally clear that they pull over to the side of the road and baptize the eunuch on the spot.

For a long time—and in all honestly, sometimes still—I was really jealous of people for whom belief came that easy. Thomas is more my speed. Show me the holes. Tell it to me again. What’s complicated mean? Who’s God?

Now, I can usually manage to embrace the spirit of It’s Complicated and understand that there’s a false binary between faith and doubt, that you can’t have one without the other, that Philip and the eunuch takes place over 14 verses and it’s possible that belief was never that easy again, maybe the eunuch went back to read Isaiah later and found In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe this generation? and was bombarded by more questions, bamboozled by the ease of his initial belief.

***

For me, faith and doubt are fluid. Ask me during Easter if I believe God became flesh and Christ the Incarnate died for the sins of the world and I’ll say yes. Ask me in the long, cold drudge and dread of January? You might get that same skeptic’s face that I see on my son.

But this is why 1 John is helpful—again (and is this why the lectionary is set up like this?): Because he lays out the doing, which can be done with or without the believing.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

I can start there.

Luke Hawley

Luke Hawley teaches English at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. His collection of short stories, The Northwoods Hymnal, won a Nebraska Book Award. He sings and writes songs for The Ruralists. Check him out at www.lhawley.com or www.fullyruralized.com.

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