Campaign for Vulnerability: Part 2, Untangling Doubt

Committing to anything worthwhile has a way of subjecting us to a stormy phase of deconstruction. It may come disguised as a rough patch, an interpersonal disagreement, a period of exhaustion or disinterest. Most commonly it will fall under the umbrella of unmet expectations, or a discrepancy between expectations and reality.

When trust is broken or when we feel our equilibrium threatened, the floor can seemingly collapse beneath us.

The world has shifted, there is no solid ground. One truth tumbles and it threatens the other truths we know to tumble down with it. It’s like taking a building down to the studs, cutting out the rot, and trying to build it back up again with holes in the frame.

With disillusionment exists an element of perceived dissonance — tension between what we believed to be true (of ourselves, of others, of something large) and what our eyes now see, or what our hearts now believe. It reminds me of autumn. The first autumn morning catches me off guard — the air is so crisp and refreshing, but unfamiliar and cold entering my lungs. Even thinking about fall as summer ends, nothing prepares me for that first frigid morning. The cold can be shocking and uncomfortable.

Disillusionment leaves space for the gray — black and white won’t fit here, they can’t fit here. In large, the discomfort of disillusionment stems from the doubt experienced. Doubt. That forsaken word, often avoided in our churches and in our work places and in our walks. The word doubt is inexplicably tied to concepts of “backsliding” or “mistrust” and represents the very opposite of faith in our culture. How many times have you seen a paradigm with “faith” on one side, contrasted by “doubt” on the other?

What if we untangled doubt from those negative concepts and let it be free — free to roam, to ask questions, to pray, to relax, to build our faith stronger. Because now instead of hiding and being afraid of our doubt, we recognize doubt as an expression of ourselves worthy of exploring. What if we considered doubt as an act of fidelity to our passions and faith because instead of hiding we choose honesty and light even if it puts us in the gray.

On The Liturgists Podcast, speaking on the darkness sometimes found in music, Michael Gungor says:

Doubt is key to us moving forward. Doubt is key to our faith, even.

With each season of sorting doubts, our perspective becomes different. But it becomes stronger and more whole. Collectively, we begin to see each other with more clarity, for better or for worse. In seeing those within our groups and churches and workplaces as so totally human, we begin to see those outside of the group as human also. We can embrace the individual and collective doubts and live authentic lives together. By deconstructing our faith and concepts of community we become inclusive because we’re not so different after all. Rachel Held Evans writes beautifully:

I am writing because sometimes we are closer to truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties, and because in spite of all my doubt and insecurity, in spite of my abiding impulse to sleep in on Sunday mornings, I have seen the first few ribbons of dawn’s light seep through my bedroom window, and there is a dim, hopeful glow kissing the horizon.

Campaign for Vulnerability: Part 1, The Table

 

I long for a place where we all sit together. By we all, yes I mean we all. I think I would share a meal with anyone because sitting together doesn’t require agreeing with eachother. Recognizing this concept has allowed so much freedom.

Sharing food, sharing drinks, sharing laughs. A sister shares a story and her brother listens without judgment. The skin colors are different, the clothes come from varied cultures. Stories and cultural context and history often get lost in translation, but at least they’re explored. When someone misunderstands they say, “Wait, what do you mean? Tell me more.” There is some laughter, because yes, how could we possibly understand the entire context of another person’s life? But there is respect, friendship, and a desire to understand nonetheless. 

When the topic of diversity has come up, often I fell silent out of fear of not knowing enough, of not feeling worthy to enter the conversation. This is so untrue! We all have a place at the table, that’s the whole point of the table. Maybe I have not experienced discrimination on a deep level, but I know in my innermost being that discrimination pains me and there is another way. If we are to move forward, there must be. 

Our prejudices come in so many different flavors. And they’re all bitter and ugly.

Progressive or conservative. Black or white or anything in between. Gay or straight or transgender or queer or bisexual. Man or woman. 

These are not the essence of who we are. Of course they can be important; these diversities contribute to our identity, our behavior, our lifestyles. But underneath we all have beating hearts and fascinating brains – we are all trying to make sense of this life. Of the meaning. Of our purpose. We do not ignore the differences – heck no! To ignore the differences is just as awful as defining people by them. What if we embrace our differences, are honest about our misunderstanding of different people + different ways of life, and just tried to listen. 

Often I’ve thought, What in the world can I (little old me) do about the gaping problems in society related to all of our differences? I think there are many people who desire a community that reflects love, respect, and dignity for all. We can’t take responsibility for other’s actions across the globe, but we can empathize with others. We can exude openness, love, curiousity, and honesty in our sphere of influence. 

How do we get to the table? We create it, and we create a culture that welcomes it. Walk to the table, sit, listen and learn. Then invite others to the table with you.

Create the community you long for. Invite diversity and humility. Ask questions and listen. Acknowledge the differences and celebrate the differences.