So I had one of those weeks where agnosticism crossed my mind more than once. I’m not sure what triggered it—maybe Calvinism, maybe a National Geographic special about the enormity of the universe, maybe a late-night discussion about our inability to reason objectively. (I’ve never liked talking epistemology, even when there’s chocolate and wine around to help.)
I think that once you’ve had a serious encounter with doubt, it never really goes away, even if you live most days without the symptoms. I’ve come to terms with the fact that doubt will probably always be a part of my faith experience. We’ve all got our things, right?
So, what do I do to get through weeks like these?
1. I talk to God about what I’m thinking, even if it isn’t very nice, and even if I’m not convinced he’s listening. I tell him that I’m not sure that he is good. I tell Him that I’m not sure he is wise. And I tell him I’m not sure that he exists. I tell him that I’m mad about what’s happening in Gaza, that I’m frustrated with Christians and Christianity, and that I wish the Bible didn’t include verses about the sun standing still or God-authorized genocide or women being property. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but I’m pretty convinced that keeping the lines of communication open through prayer is vital to surviving a faith crisis. I’ve always found prayer to be oddly reassuring, a reminder that I can’t possibly be an actual atheist if I’m still talking to God.
2. Usually, after a few days of trying to ignore them, I grab those pesky little doubts running around my mind by their tails and look them in the eye. I read the verses about the sun standing still. I stare into the expanse of the night sky. I Google “mind/brain identity theory.” Why? The longer I try to run away from my questions, the more mysterious and dangerous they seem. It’s better just to confront them, try my best to figure them out (even if very smart people have been trying to do so for centuries), and make peace with them enough to function like a relatively normal human being. Every now and then, this process results in learning something new. Sometimes it results in learning something important.
Perhaps this is what Rilke meant when he wrote in “Letters to a Young Poet,” “...Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
3. I remind myself that faith is a journey, and that no matter how far ahead of me he seems, Jesus is up ahead...even if I can barely make out the back of His head.
4. I tell somebody, because doubt is a lot less powerful when it’s not a secret. (Thanks for listening, by the way!)
Do you ever doubt? How do you cope?
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