When we first moved back to Montgomery, the question we heard the most was, “What church do you go to?” My husband was taken aback by this question, because he’s from the redneck state of the North: Rhode Island. I wasn’t surprised, having grown up in the Bible Belt, I knew living in the South is synonymous with church-going. God and college football are the two things most worshiped down here. (War Eagle!)
We weren’t godly in those days. We started going to my parents’ church because they were there. Plus, we needed an answer to the question so the Southern Baptists didn’t try to convert us or the Church of Christ goers. Or the many other churches that stand on every corner in Montgomery. (Our church stands directly across the street from another church–only in the South)
I grew up Episcopalian with a good dose of skepticism. My husband grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school, and felt done with it all by the time we moved here. I went through a long period of non-belief. I questioned whether there is a God. I questioned whether Jesus was just a man. I have a questioning soul, what can I say? I’m a writer.
We moved a few years ago to a new church that we love despite a few setbacks and misunderstandings. Despite my questions, I wanted to raise my kids with the church, especially in the South where it is not only a religious experience but a social one too. I think it would be inherently easier to have faith than to question it all the time. I struggle with this part of my personality, because faith provides solace. People who have a love of God and Jesus can find solace in their faith when someone dies or something terrible happens in their life. I think that’s an amazing thing. I also think part of my reason for initially turning away from the church is because of the judgment I see in so-called Christians. I have read the Bible and studied it, in Catholic school, and on my own. I see a kind and loving God. I see a God who is accepting of all his people, not just a select holier-than-thou few. I want my children to have the power faith can bring to their life. I want them to believe more than they doubt.
I was asked this year to teach Sunday school. I’ve taught before to a handful of kids at Grace. I knew there would be more kids at the Ascension. I questioned my ability to lead children in the eyes of God when my heart and soul still question. But I thought maybe I had been led to this moment, to teach these children, and to find the love of God together.
I have not been quiet about my doubts to my children. I want them to have faith, but not blind faith.
When they were attending an Episcopal School, my middle son said, “Mom, isn’t God the best?”
And I said, “I’m not sure if I totally believe in God.”
And my son said, “Then I need a new Mommy.”
I told him, “No. You can still love me even if we have different beliefs. Not everyone believes in the same things, and that’s really okay.”
I needed to be honest to him in that moment. I like the faith he has. I love that he believes in God, but he needs to know it’s okay to love those who don’t believe in God too. He needs to know it’s okay to love those who are different from you and who have different beliefs.
I like to think about Doubting Thomas when I have my doubts about God. I think about how Jesus showed Thomas that he was alive. Aren’t there miracles in everyday life that prove the existence of something bigger than us? Is this God showing us his presence?
Jesus made an important impact on the Israelites and continues to impact our culture and world today (obviously). His good works show us how to live as Christians. My times of doubt come more from the ability of some people to twist the Bible into some perversion to further their own agenda. Then I become angry with how organized religion can accentuate hate. It’s times like that I feel like I could turn away from the church again.
In Sunday School this past week, I helped out. We went over the Genesis 2:4-3:24 Chapter where Eve hands Adam the forbidden fruit. We talked about God’s love. We talked about how it would feel to be cast out of the Garden of Eden.
My nine year old son raised his hand and said, “Yeah, but what if God’s not real anyway?”
Maybe he is like me and has a little too much of Doubting Thomas inside of him but maybe that’s okay.
What do you think? Is doubting normal? Do you have faith? If so, how did you come to it or was it something you feel is inherent to you? Let me know in the comments below.
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3 thoughts on “Doubt and Faith”
Doubting it absolutely and, totally a valuable part of faith as far as I’m concerned. I have always loved the image of Joseph wrestling with God because faith has never been easy for me. But asking the big hard questions, “putting it out there” with God has always called me into a deeper, perhaps more complicated, but also far richer, understanding of myself, the creation that surrounds me, the possibility of a God who does in fact continue the work of creating, redeeming and sustaining all that is, including me. More and more, my wrestling with the big questions pushes me towards greater humility and greater gratitude–I don’t find answers or certainties but I *do* experience some sense of connection to much that is greater and more mysterious and beautiful than I could have imagined.
When Sunday school is at its best, it creates an environment where children can wonder and explore, not where they are handed a canned set of easy answers that they either believe (so they can be in) or not (which automatically excludes them). I am so very glad you, and your family, your doubts, and your generosity, are a part of our community.
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Thank you Rosa. We love our church community. I love to hear your experience. You are so wise, and I feel like I have a lot to learn regarding faith and religion. I think it’s normal to question and doubt, but I feel few people talk about it. Thank you for being open to the dialogue!
I appreciate the courage it takes to write a post this revelatory and honest. My dad was from the South and gave up going to church because the northern minister preached that we are all equal and my dad, a lifelong homophobe and racist, could not accept that. I was raised in my mother’s religion–Catholic–and always found the idea of God uncomfortable. I can’t say just why, but even at age 6, God made me squirm. So different strokes. For these many years, when asked if I have a religion, I say “Mother Nature. We disrespect her at our own expense.” I believe in equality of all human beings, in generosity of the heart, in the beauty of the natural world. And I am very happy to find others who feel the same, whether they belong to an established religion or not, whether they give the name of their belief as God, or not. Thanks for your candor, and goodness.
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