Thursday, May 22, 2014

Coming Out : I don't know (and a link-up announcement!)

This post is part of a series on spirituality and coming out. You can read the rest here.

***

Here's the complicated thing about faith for me: it is a paradox. Without doubt, even just the slightest shadow of it, there is no need for faith. Faith with no room for doubt is merely an observation of facts. And if life was that apparent, if spirituality and religion and the origins of our universe were that obvious, we would all believe the exact same things, all the time. But we don't, because when it comes to life's great mysteries, there are few true facts to stand on. So what we have instead is faith, our own private collections of things we choose to believe are true, though we cannot prove them to be. This is the essence of what unites entire religions, and at the core of it all, is a small space for doubt.

***

When it comes to spirituality, ask me what I believe, and I will give you a short list. On it, are things I can persuade my soul to see as true without it revolting, things like the existence of God and grace and the soul.

Ask me what I want to believe, what I have tried for years to force myself to believe so I could wrap my identity up in a pretty bow and call it saved, so my relationships and life and purpose could be easy and simple and safe and good, and I will hand you a laundry list so long you won't even want to read it. I no longer care to read it myself.

Ask me what I know for sure and I will tell you: absolutely nothing.


0610 list by paloetic, on Flickr


Go ahead, look me in the eye and ask me if God exists, ask me if He really is Love, or who Jesus is. Ask me whether any of the things I have experienced as God were actually Her. I will give you the same answer to every single one:

I don't know.
I don't know.
I don't know.

I can only tell you what I choose to believe is true, what I hope to be true, and how I let those hopes affect the way I see and live in the world. I cannot tell you facts. To me, spirituality is not a matter of facts. It is a matter of the balance between faith and doubt.

***

Not everybody sees it this way of course. Some people look at the mysteries of the universe and respond with bullet points. They will give you all the right answers the second you ask them, as if all their confidence could prove it were so.

Other people have found a happy medium. They hold to faith with one hand and doubt with the other. They don't let their faith make them self-righteous, but they also don't let their doubts take over. They simply choose to believe what they know they cannot prove and don't let the questions and possibilities overwhelm them.

And then there are people like me, who doubt uncontrollably until they are both dizzy and disillusioned. They watch what was once their living water, fluid yet containable, slip through their fingers like a fine mist.


By fate or by chance, I found a few of those people, a lot like me, first in my own community and then online. We even started a little group, which we call Doubters Anonymous, and I can't tell you how much it has meant to me, to us, to know we are not alone, nor crazy.

Maybe you also need to remember you're not alone in your perpetual not-knowing. You aren't, you know. There are lots of us, who want to believe, who try to believe, but for whom faith is just. so. hard. because we have been burned by it or scarred by it or just can't reconcile it with our hearts or souls or minds. You can join us there if you like. I sincerely hope you will.

And just to show you how not alone you are, we're hosting a little link-up called What I Want You to Know about Doubt (with thanks to fellow doubter Beth Morey for the idea). It's just a way for us to get together and be who we are, to invite others into what we're processing and to banish shame from the experience. If you're a doubter who writes, please consider adding your voice to the conversation by writing about whatever it is you wish more people understood about doubt. The link up will be held here on Thursday, June 5th. Just write something at your own place before then, then come here to add it to the list of posts. Or if you'd like to contribute but don't have a blog, I can host you here, publicly or anonymously. Just email me at alissambc at gmail dot com. Here's to hoping I see you then! Your voice is needed in this conversation.

5 comments :

  1. Thank you for your honesty here. It is so exhausting to me to hear people drone on and on about those "Clearly, God said THIS" ideas, especially when other God-fearing people believe THE EXACT OPPOSITE of that. Doubt seems more truthful to me than strident self-righteousness, more honest about the question marks we all have even as we choose to believe. Anyway, I love this post and would LOVE to link up in June. Thanks for the opportunity to meet other doubt-y people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so excited you're joining us Tanya! And thank you for the encouragement. <3 P.S. Feel free to join the facebook group too, if you'd like!

      Delete
  2. Yes! I absolutely agree! I have found that this girl who once had ALL the answers and was super secure in her faith. Now I feel like I DON'T know more than I know. Faith used to be knowing, but faith is something different to me now. Spirituality should be something experienced deep in soul and holistically, not just a list of statements and waving hands in an emotional church service. I question everything now - Scripture, tradition, Jesus, "rules," sin, holiness. Have you read Evolving in Monkeytown by Rachel Held Evans? It was in this same vein. I've been thinking a lot about the girl I used to be and all the emotions that go with that. I think, to some extent, I grieve the loss of that girl, because the world was so much easier to her. She could wrap everything up in a little box called "God's will" and go on. I can't do that anymore. I plan on linking up next week, and am very excited about this! Also, I saw you're from Chattanooga - I'd love to hang out with your Doubters Anonymous group sometime. I'm in Nashville.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karissa! I'm so glad you found us and I'm delighted that you'll be linking up with us next week. I can't wait to read your thoughts. You are always welcome to join our monthly meetings in Chattanooga (I sent you an invite, but if you can't make it, feel free to let me know if you're through here some other time!). And yes, Evolving in Monkeytown is wonderful. It's always good to find kindreds, isn't it? <3

      Delete
  3. Yes, amen on owning our doubts. I have pondered this a lot lately and am jumping on board on this link up.

    ReplyDelete