Recently a friend of mine shared with me about the season of life and faith in which she found herself. I listened and asked her if she had found spaces in which she felt safe to share about the doubts and confusion she sensed. She shared that she had found very few people who could hold what she brought to the conversation about her faith (or lack of it), and that in fact when another friend found out she was “struggling,” this friend set up a lunch to talk to her about all the reasons why she should believe and not doubt.
I’m not one to turn down a free lunch, but I am one to decry our seeming inability to embrace the sacredness of doubt, of wonder, of questioning, of mystery. I have spent years of my life pursuing theological studies, and I’ve learned much. But the more I study and engage with my faith, the less convinced I become about most everything. In fact, I’m most skeptical of those who claim to be certain of much, who seem to operate within a closed system that accounts for everything, a paradigm that is bounded and sure. I’m skeptical because so very much of life pokes endless holes in such a system. I’m skeptical because, generally speaking, those who operate in certainty seem to be the most threatened by others’ lack of it.
Doubt, wrestling, questioning, uncertainty: these are not in opposition to faith, but are rather a pursuit of something real, something sincere. A faith that must exist sans any space for doubt is not faith at all but fear, a fear that compels us to white knuckle our grip on whatever truths feel comfortable and to ignore the presence of anything less/other. I’m convinced that doubt is a sacred act because it is real, the way that sacraments are sacred because they invite us into an encounter with the Really Real, the way that creation is sacred because it resonates with the part of us that so much of our lived reality can’t begin to touch, the way that our religious texts are sacred because they capture honest and sincere and beautiful communication with the Divine.
If you find yourself questioning and wondering and feeling less certain than ever before, do not be afraid. Press in, engage, pursue. In our release of certainty, we encounter the Mystery in ways deeper and more true than we ever thought possible.
And if you find yourself across from a friend who is questioning and wondering and feeling less certain that ever before, do not be afraid. Simply listen and give thanks to a God who has never needed or demanded our certainty.