doubt & faith: living in the tension

kathyescobar spiritual formation, the refuge 12 Comments

thanks for the comments & for hanging in there on the last series of posts on doubt & faith.  we wrapped up our series 2 saturdays ago with dinner & a fun conversation together.  my friend john & i facilitated together (how many times can i say that i love that in the refuge community we get to hear from so many different voices?)

john shared one of those optical illusion pictures that so many of us have seen–the one that had a face if you looked from one side and an eskimo going into an igloo if you saw it from another.  of course, in any group you get a myriad of responses–those who saw one or the other right away, a few that saw both, people helping others try to see what they couldn’t see on their own, others wondering why they could only see one and not the other.

i think it’s that way with faith, too.  people can see the same picture and view it completely differently. to one, it means one thing and to another it means something quite different.  this is readily apparent in our community where we have a wide range of theological perspectives in addition to about every other way we can be diverse.  some are definitely on the more conservative side and others would say they are deconstructing all they once believed.   what this means in community is that for some, when the Bible is read, it feeds their soul.  for others, it can trigger all kinds of other weird feelings from past experiences.  for others, “worship” fills a deep soul longing while for others the thought of reading words from a screen and singing them toward the front is just not very satisfying.  for some, God feels real, close, intimate, kind, good while for others God is distant and far-from-being-a-friend-at-the-moment.  oh, it is tricky to all live together in community!  but what i love about it is it reminds us how important it is to live in the tension.

to respect that everyone might not see what we see, but it doesn’t make us right and them wrong.  or us wrong and them right.  they just both “are.” part of loving each other well is letting each other be where we are at and not trying to convince the other to “see what we see.”  the tension of faith and doubt is like that, too.  they aren’t necessarily “bad” or “good.”   i think we need to shake the idea that faith & doubt are on some kind of scale where if you tip toward too much doubt, you’re toast and if you stay on the faith side somehow you’re okay.  they can live together.  they do live together.  and for some of us, they must live together.

i have faith.  i have doubt.   some days i have more faith.  other days i have more doubt.  and i think that’s just real life for most of us.  some questions worth asking are:  can i live in the tension of what others believe or doubt? and for many on the journey of making some shifts in faith & life,  can i live in the tension of what i believe or doubt?

i think an improvement “the church” will hopefully continue to make is to better respect that the presence of doubt is not the absence of faith.  to help people learn to live in the tension.  to affirm that real people have a wide range of feelings & emotions & responses that shift and change over time and a beautiful gift that christian community can give to each other is the space to be wherever they are and trust that God is at work and doesn’t always need our two cents.

i love being part of a group of lovely friends where i can still believe and doubt at the same time.

here’s the question john asked everyone to process at their tables:

  • “even though i still believe __________________, i often doubt that ________________.” how would you finish that sentence?

then, because sometimes it is nice to remember that despite all the shifts, despite all the questions, despite all the unknowns, despite all the doubts, that we still have something to hold on to, we closed our series with this parting thought, a chance to hear from everyone who was present that night.  we stood together & asked everyone to finish this sentence with 2-3 words max:

  • “despite my doubt, i still believe _____________”

mine feels simple today “despite my doubt, i still believe that God mysteriously brings beauty into the ugliest of places.”

if you are willing, i‘d love to hear some of yours.  they always infuse me with hope, for me, for us, for the world. thank you for being part of this crazy journey i am on.  it’s wild & scary but every day i realize even more clearly how not alone i am in the tension of faith & doubt.

so what’s yours, despite your doubt, what do you still believe?

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ps: if you’re just reading, the previous posts in this series are–

next week i have another addition to the out of the darkness interview seriesnever underestimate the damage of spiritual abuse