Faith is not born of manicured soil sowed with seeds of knowledge and mixed with waters of assurance. Confidence, maybe, which is at once virtuous and necessary to a life lived full. But not faith.
“Faith” (what I mean is the action of choice) grows staunchly among the grounds that hold more stones of uncertainty than dirt itself. Faith’s flowers blossom in the dioxide-deprived airs of unknowing. It’s stems thicken amidst the harsh, hot, battering winds of questioning. The blood of the spiritually wounded, hurt by a God they can’t understand yet can’t live without, are its water. Its fertilizer the love they know the world needs from them.
It’s okay to have questions, friend. It’s more than okay to have doubts. I know being certain is comfortable, but if I have learned anything from the past few years of my life it’s that misplaced certainty stunts growth.
Be willing to not know. Try and be okay with not having answers. I know it’s difficult to think about, as those answers to the tough questions are the supporting beams of your image of God. But that’s the very reason why, at some point, they need to come down.
You subscribe to a system of thought, whether you realize it or not. Your beliefs about God, the world around you, and yourself are all contained in an eclectic assimilation of various systems of thinking you’ve been exposed to. Some like to try to fully adhere to one system, accepting it as their own and defending it whenever possible like it was a college sports team. Others take snippets from many, gluing them to a page in a similar fashion to a kidnapper making a ransom note. Those who are smart develop their systems, add to them, search for truth in a world of relativity. I can’t tell you either approach is wrong, as we do both whether we desire to or not. What I saw in my years at college, however, convinced me the problem isn’t pursuing systems of belief: it’s making those beliefs our end goal.
Belief, knowledge, and certainty cannot be an end, only a means to an end. If certainty about God is the destination you’re pursuing then be prepared to, if you’re an honest person, be traveling that road the rest of your life before realizing you know little more than when you started; or if you’re easily swayed by falsity and comfort, find yourself living in a tourist trap of a town that professes to have all the answers but merely consists of pretty cardboard cutouts propped up on either side of the road.
If the intended destination of your life journey is truly God, then somewhere along the way you must come to terms with unknowing. You won’t have answers most of the time; but that’s okay, because that’s not why you’re on this road. You’re on this road because you were called by a heart of love, a love that desires your affection first and your obedience second, and obedience not to any systems of thought but to the commands “love me” and “love your neighbor as much as you love yourself”.
Those few people I’ve looked up to as spiritual giants weren’t so freakishly tall because they stood on towers constructed of their beliefs (in fact, any who have inevitably fell when floods came in and revealed their stones to be nothing but sand). No, those giants were kneeling in both the humility that follows close behind unknowing and the deep love they have for the broken world they live in. They’ve not only accepted that they don’t have the answers, but live lives where being right isn’t the goal.
Now, what I’m not proposing is a world of men and women who don’t believe anything, whose wills bend and break at the slightest breeze. In the imagery above of our faith being a plant, in all of the proposed situations it grew stronger and more resolute. If you look a little later, you’ll see I only said “misplaced certainty stunts growth.” Concrete composed of one part certainty and one part humility creates the strongest foundation you’ll ever be able to stand on. In all the questions I’ve asked about God, as I’ve sailed my tiny boat through massive storms of struggles and uncertainty, the only lighthouse in the distance – the only thing I could be certain of – is that our God is only ever love embodied. Without confidence in that, I would have drowned in those dark waters years ago.
So sail your ship with confidence. But keep a humble, open mind, willing to have your end port changed from time to time. Your God is faithful, and I don’t say that because I read it somewhere but as a fellow seafarer who has found it to be true. Your journey has been a good one, and it will continue to be good. Not due to where you are, what you’ve learned, or what you believe now – but because of who is directing you.
Much love, and good luck.