Welcome your doubts. There’s room for them here. Don’t be ashamed of your questions, of the things you don’t know. Questions are holy and righteous and deserve to be heard. And the things that you don’t know yet? They create room for you to learn and grow. Belief and doubt are friends; let them be together; you don’t need to keep them apart to be right or good or holy. Let them be. Let yourself be.
There’s a beautiful tension between trust and belief and curiosity and inquiry that will lead you always and ever onwards. Because the truth is? Your doubt is holy; your questions are sacred; it is not shameful to be learning still. The Christian tradition is one born of questions and doubts, where they are invitations for presence, not opportunities for judgement.
In the Biblical text: Mary asked, “A virgin birth, how?” A lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Peter asked, “How many times should I forgive?” Nicodemus asked, “What are you saying with this ‘born from above’ talk?” The Pharisees asked, “By what authority do you do these things?” John the Baptist asked, “Are you the one? Or should I look for another?” Jesus asked, “My God, My God! Why have you abandoned me?”
In her book, Inspired, Rachel Held Evens said: “For Jewish readers, the tensions and questions produced by Scripture aren’t obstacles to be avoided, but rather opportunities for engagement, invitations to join in the Great Conversation between God and God’s people that has been going on for centuries and to which everyone is invited.”
And the answers come in the living. Not in words and formulas and certainties but in the form of love and life and faith. And then there’s this: the answers are ongoing. Answers unfold. They’re dynamic and alive and full of movement. Faith is often relegated to a box, a political party, the way a prayer is said out loud, the way we quote scripture, the lines we say when we hear bad news; the songs we sing, where we go on Sunday morning; the dogmas and doctrines, the leaders and the rules. But faith doesn’t live in a box.
The letter to the Hebrews says: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” and Frederick Buechner said: “Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re going, but going anyway. A journey without maps.”
Alan Watts said: “Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is like when you trust yourself to the water. You don’t grab hold of the water when you swim, because if you do you will become stiff and tight in the water, and sink. You have to relax, and the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging, and holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead, they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
Questions deepen your faith and take you further down the road of belief; deeper into truth, whatever it might turn out to be, again and again and again. Because this is also true: doubt that is pacified, ignored, smothered, turned away, pushed down, covered up, hidden, is doubt that will fester and twist and become something else altogether, a bitter and hardened pain that will cripple you and take your wonder away. Doubt that is welcomed, acknowledged, and accepted is doubt that has a chance to learn and explore and bloom and grow, bringing you to presence, bringing you to wonder.
Words of Grace and Healing from Liz Melani, The Practice Co. This week’s series is called True Believer. Mindful Prompt: Faith never comes to an end. It begs for more conversation, more walking it out, more living it out, more questions. Ask. Seek. Knock. You will receive, you will find, and a door will open. And then? You do it all over again.