Because I Just Don’t Know

598339_4896634896225_1721330492_n“No!” he shouted. “I don’t want that! I don’t want it!” Our 5-year-old neighbor was losing his business in front of us. Then the big tears came, the raindrop splatter down your face kind. Even as his voice got bigger, he pushed himself farther back into the couch, trying to be smaller.

He’s still pretty little. So he was still able to mostly cover himself with a sofa pillow. He kept trying to make his body disappear. As if somehow he could just get his body tiny enough, the gaping hole of pain inside him would get smaller too.

I recognized the move immediately. I’ve done it all my life: make myself smaller, thinner, more palatable to others so the hole of pain inside would somehow stop growing.

But it doesn’t work like that. You can’t starve it out or fill it up with liquor or bread and cheese. You can’t ignore it or dress it up as humor to pretend it’s not there. The big, gaping hole of need that being alive seems to rip inside everybody never fully goes away.

I’ve been thinking about him for days. He is suffering because of circumstances out of his control. He is hurting. And while it may not be as obvious to the neighbors, many of us are. The big questions of the Universe are hard to answer.

Can you prove any of the stuff you believe in? my son asked me & when I said that’s not how belief works, he nodded & said that’s what he thought but he was just checking to make sure he hadn’t missed a key point.

~Story People

I got an email from a friend about one of those big questions of the Universe, the kind of question that cause the big tears and bigger screaming matches. It was just a draft of some things he’s been thinking about. It walked through some difficult territory. The conclusion was simple: I don’t know.

It was a breath of uncommon fresh air. Someone with a lot of education and training was simply willing to say out loud there are things he doesn’t know for sure. It was possibly the most reassuring thing I’ve read all week.

Faith is a tough thing for me sometimes. I’m a nice Christian girl, so this is a big week for my people. Holy Week has a lot of pageantry, yet I’m in a place of a lot of uncertainty. It’s hard to write that: this week of great glory is also a time of doubt.

Then I’m reminded that’s exactly what faith is. It’s learning to live with the sticky, wildly awkward awareness that is uncertainty, not pretending it’s not there or covering over it.

“My scientist friends have come up with things like ‘principles of uncertainty’ and dark holes,” writes theologian RIchard Rohr. “They’re willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of ‘faith’! How strange that the very word ‘faith’ has come to mean its exact opposite.”

I don’t know why my neighbor kid has to hurt. I don’t know why people get broken and damaged. I’m a reasonably smart girl. I’ve read a lot of books, but I don’t know why bad things happen to good people.

The only thing that has ever made the big, gaping hole of need any smaller for me was my faith. My uncertain, shaky, weird, messy faith. Because I just don’t know.

So I’ll take myself back to church again this Easter Sunday with my family. We’ll sit with a community who is also still trying to figure it all out and listen to the miracle that seems so impossible that somehow it must be true. In my pockets, will be my doubt and my faith all mixed up together. They’ve become pretty good roommates.

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2 thoughts on “Because I Just Don’t Know

  1. Rachel Held Evans had a great piece on Holy Week for Doubters this week: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/holy-week-for-doubters

    I just loved this line, and may write a whole post jumping off from it if I find the time: “And sometimes, just showing up – burial spices in hand – is all it takes to witness a miracle.” The same has been true for me. Faith is not easy for me. I am a want-to-believer instead of a believer. But every time I show up to bury my faith, it seems to rise again. Blessed be the name of the risen Lord who brings life to dead things and dead places, even the ones in my heart.

  2. Jews are taught to question everything in their faith as part of the religious school experience growing up — We are forced to argue it, rub right up against it, mostly in the 8th – 10th grade when arguing comes naturally (heh). I remember how frustrating it was – how confusing at times. And then you stand up in 10th grade for Confirmation and state you are okay with it – you confirm your beliefs and this is the life for you, so to speak.

    I’m sure I believed a lot of it when I did that and led part of that service, but it wasn’t until I was 27, a new stepparent, when my stepkids (15 and 10) were asking questions that needed answers – very clear answers from a parent – that I realized not only what I DID believe, but how strongly I believed it. I realized how much kids needed clarity and a touchstone and from there on, it was okay. All the work I was asked to do all those years ago really was okay.

    All this is to say, I think it’s okay to question – I think it’s part of the growth of faith, seeking the answers. And eventually it helps others answer their questions. 🙂 Happy Easter, my friend —

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