Mother Theresa and Beethoven walk into a bar…

By now, pretty much everybody knows that Mother Theresa struggled with her faith for much of her life. But it seems like we can’t really agree on just what it means that she struggled.
I can’t say that I’ve seen anybody explicitly and openly use her as a pawn in their arguments. But her struggles with faith are this subtext to lots of stuff that’s been left implied.
The interesting thing to me is that there are at least two sides, perhaps more, that seem to think her struggles with God indicate something. A snap shot of this dynamic is captured in the fact that she herself did not seem to want her struggles made public; on the other hand huge numbers of people of faith find comfort in her struggles.
Though I have mixed feelings about making something like this public against the deceased wishes, I am deeply moved. It took me a while to put my finger in why.

And then I got it, at quite an unexpected day and time.
I was reading to my daughter a passage about Beethoven. (I’m not as much a culture vulture as that makes it sound like. The selection was sent home by the school.) It focused on how he coped with his deafness and made music despite the fact that he couldn’t hear. My beautiful daughter found this fascinating. Though on some level I’d known Beethoven had continued to compose while deaf, through her fascination I rediscovered what an amazing thing this is.
It wasn’t the music itself that motivated him. He never heard the pieces he composed late in his life. (Atleast in this life he never heard it… I have this idea that he will get to hear it in the next life. What a cool thing.) It was his memory of the music, it was his faith in music itself that had to keep him going.
And that’s how Mother Theresa fits into all this. Jesus was such a powerful figure in her world that even while spiritually deaf, she continuted to submit and follow. Paradoxically, this witnesses to God’s truth and reality so much more powerfully than if she’d been assured, in every moment, of God’s reality and greatness.


Published by


The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “Mother Theresa and Beethoven walk into a bar…”

  1. This reminds me of the story of Billy Graham’s friend Charles Templeton (I think). In the book “The case for Faith” Lee Strobel is interviewing Templeton about why he has left his faith and at the end, Strobel asks Templeton what he misses the most. Templeton breaks down in tears and mentions that he misses his relationship with Jesus Christ the most.


  2. I love that part of the book… It is really touching.
    This compairison implies a question: Why did Templeton stop doing all the things he did as a believer and Mother Theresa keep going despite her struggles with belief?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s