I’ve recently become reacquainted with doubt.
Years ago, I learned to not fear doubt… we all have doubt from time to time. I hold fast to Tillich’s understanding that doubt is not the opposite of faith, rather it is a component of faith. In other words, I have doubt, only because I have faith. What is amazing is how those two things can coexist in my brain.
What am I doubting these days?
All sorts of things. From my wisdom to plant a garden prior to erecting a deer fence to a variety of decisions that have me questioning my sanity. One of my favorite memes is the quip: “Everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is that I made a bad decision”. Doubt, at least for me, tends to run in cycles.
One of the reasons we Presbyterians center our polity on mutual discernment (via a representational democracy) is because it doesn’t negate personal doubt, but rather complements it. When an Elder brings to the Session table concerns (or doubts) about a decision, those concerns are heard and weighed against other inputs. We listen to one another’s wisdom and doubts and passions… and we listen for the Spirit breathing through them. God uses the doubts of one or two sitting at the table to refine a proposal and make it more sound. I’ve seen this happen at the meetings of Session and Congregations as well as with a body as large as our General Assembly. Certainly, God uses our faith… but what an amazing thing it is when God uses our doubts as well.
We continue to minister in a time where there is so much unknown, and undoubtedly(!) a fair amount of doubt. The pandemic has waned, but there continues to be lingering concern that it may not be done with us yet. Some church members cannot wait to return to regular in-person gatherings, whereas others have found worship from their couch to be a better fit. We discuss and debate topics that just two years ago weren’t even on our radar.
So much uncertainty. So much doubt.
Remember Tillich. Doubt is a component of faith.
Might we use our doubts to be more faithful in our decision-making? I imagine if we were to do that, it would require us to listen deeply to those who express their concerns. It might mean putting aside our own certainty so that we could hear the voice of the other as clearly as possible. It would require us to be silent for a bit, and to listen for the Spirit speaking through the doubts and concerns of those we disagree with. It might be incredibly holy. It might look an awful lot like church.
Come doubt with me. Come share this faith.