Doubts

Posted: January 16, 2020 in doubts
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We all have questions, doubts, about ourselves, others, politics, religion, God.

Doubts can make us feel alone, make us feel like outliers, add angst to our quest to figure out life.

But doubts are normal. If someone has no doubt perhaps that person isn’t thinking deeply, perhaps they are afraid of nuances, of grey areas, paradoxes and contradictions. Perhaps they aren’t free to explore life’s hard questions. Doubts are healthy and normal and good

Doubts, questions, theories, testing — theses are the door to discovery.

“Test everything,” says Paul in the Bible.

In Wendell Barry’s novel Jayber Crow a conversation between Jaber and a professor of religion illustrates this nicely.

“Well,” I said, [Jayber] “I’ve got a lot of questions.”

He [the professor] said, “Perhaps you would like to say what they are?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, “if Jesus said for us to love our enemies—and He did say that, didn’t He?—how can it ever be right to kill our enemies? And if He said not to pray in public, how come we’re all the time praying in public? And if Jesus’ own prayer in the garden wasn’t granted, what is there for us to pray, except ‘thy will be done,’ which there’s no use in praying because it will be done anyhow?”

I sort of ran down. He didn’t say anything. He was looking straight at me. And then I realized that he wasn’t looking at me the way he usually did. I seemed to see way back in his eyes a little gleam of light. It was a light of kindness and (as I now think) of amusement.

He said, “Have you any more?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, for it had just occurred to me, “suppose you prayed for something and you got it, how do you know how you got it? How do you know you didn’t get it because you were going to get it whether you prayed for it or not? So how do you know it does any good to pray? You would need proof, wouldn’t you?”

He nodded.

“But there’s no way to get any proof.”

He shook his head. We looked at each other.

He said, “Do you have any answers?”

“No,” I said.

Jaber asks good questions.

Interestingly if you look closely a few answers are present in his questions.

Killing people — Jesus was against it. Then let’s not do it. A better world would ensue.

Prayer — “your will be done” is simple, good enough, or perhaps we might be more just silence before God, waiting, listening.

Proofs, proof of divine intervention — those can be unclear. They are debatable. The older I am the less I understand so many things, including God’s ways in the world and including myself. I am currently suffering some health issues that the doctors can’t resolve. This is changing me.

God has not decided as yet to intervene. So I am developing a different relationship with God. I seek less selfish proofs. God and I now share more mutual silences. We sit without talking. I leave the next move on the game board to him. I want him closer than I feel him but I am learning to be brave and patient when I don’t get what I want.

I sit with my stuff, my own unsolved mysteries, and then I move toward grounding myself in the now, the beauty of the now, in the surrounding astonishing divine whatness, our amazing earth. I practice gratitude in small doses for where I do see God — in the care of my wife, in a song, in my food, in a doctors care in brief times of peace.

Wendell Barry’s Jayber is my man! I love his questions. I love how he eventually changes and learns to love his community.

Our questions, as we mature — they soften overtime. The answers come as discernments, specific insights, for each case, not platitudes, not formulas, not propositional truth, not universals we pound others with, and the answers — they eventually are not so black and white as we once thought and not so much required.

The answers come in their own time.

It isn’t all up to us.

Best not to hate and kill people.

Kindness with ourselves and others is paramount.

Prayer is mostly alignment, not asking, me aligning with God.

Be at peace with yourself and God.

Life is mysterious.

Like God.

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