Sometimes people will ask me if I ever doubt (in regards to God, of course). And they often seem surprised when I say “of course, all the time.” Pastors apparently aren’t supposed to doubt or question… ever. What they don’t realize is that I have complete faith in the existence of Something More in this universe – call it God, the Divine, Love energy, the Absolute, Goddess, Spirit or Higher Power. Whatever it is, I’ve felt it, experienced it and even heard it whisper.
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My doubts, 99.9% of the time, are about what I believe about the Divine or what I’ve been taught about the Divine, not about whether the Divine actually exists. Let’s face it, there are many things that the institutional church insists that we believe, or do, that make no sense, or just don’t jive with an all-loving, all-forgiving God. Yet, as far as I remember, Jesus didn’t try to force specific beliefs or religious rules and laws on anyone. As one Jewish saying goes, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. All the rest is commentary.” Our churches are getting way too hung up on the commentary.
Moving from doubt to faith isn’t about finding some way to make the churches’ teachings palatable. It’s about keeping faith in the existence of Something More, while sorting through the commentary. The commentary deserves to be doubted. It was created by fallible human beings. For example, I have a student in my class who was told in Catholic grade school that he had to love God more than his mother. That made no sense to him. As far as he could tell, his mother did much more for him than God ever did. So, at a very young age he decided that the church wasn’t for him. Even now he calls himself an atheist; however, I would say that he is a very spiritual young man and is in touch with the Divine in a number of other ways. He doubted what he was supposed to believe, but has faith in his own spiritual path and experience of Something More.
Sometimes we forget that God is more than what we’ve been taught. We can let go of what we’ve been taught without letting go of God. We can move from doubt to faith by letting go of the things that don’t make sense and allowing ourselves to follow our heart and our experiences.
It took a Holy 2×4 to get Saul (aka “Paul” after his enlightenment) to let go of the commentary and focus on his experience of God. If you remember, Saul was a devout Jew who relentlessly persecuted Jesus’ followers because he felt they were violating the rules and teachings of the Jewish religion. It essentially amounted to an inquisition.
One day, on the road to Damascus, Saul saw a blinding light and heard a voice saying “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” Saul fell on the ground and said, “Who are you Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city and I’ll let you know what to do from there.” When the voice and light disappeared, Saul was left unable to see.
Three days later Jesus sent Ananias to lay hands on Saul, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. Saul got up, was baptized, and had something to eat. His transformation, from doubt (complete unbelief actually) in Jesus to complete faith in his experience of Jesus, was finished. He began to preach and proclaim to everyone that he was wrong, and Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah.
Metaphorically, Saul was blinded by his ignorance, his unwillingness to see a new perspective, and his tenacious adherence to his religious traditions and history. Then his eyes were opened by his experience and he saw everything in a new light. He found faith in Jesus.
Just like Saul, where we see and experience the Divine each day has no bearing on the dogma and doctrine of any religious institution. It’s really about being willing to see and experience love. Do we need a Holy 2×4? Or will we have trust and faith in our personal experiences of the Divine?
Mother Superior, in the Sound of Music, told the distraught and questioning Maria, “I always try to keep faith in my doubts.” Let go of the commentary if it doesn’t work for you. But keep faith in the loving, creative, compassionate presence of the universe. Keep faith in the love, beauty and synchronicity you experience in life.