The squirrels in my yard are a study in wayward behavior. Repeatedly they take off in full stride then stop abruptly. Run-stop. Run-stop. As I watch their rambling movements, I am reminded of my own roaming nature, when I arrive at the heretical intersection of faith and doubt. Like the squirrels, I seesaw between a full stride and a stop-and-check paralysis. It’s a two note song with only one verse: Faith–Doubt, Faith–Doubt.
Some scholars write about the interconnectedness of these two opposing themes, suggesting that doubt is inherent in us and that faith is strengthened with purposeful questioning. Are faith and doubt really two sides of the same coin? As I think about the co-existence of faith and doubt, I recall reading somewhere that Faith and Doubt are cousins living in the same apartment building. When Faith goes on vacation, Doubt comes in to water her plants. Extending the analogy, if the cousins did indeed live in the same building, I see Doubt living on the ground floor, for easy access. Faith on the other hand, is a steep climb up to the top floor. We huff and puff our way up the stairs.
I’ve come to think that the faith-doubt relationship is not an off-on switch as my squirrel friends exhibit. It’s not either-or. There are levels of doubt that are useful. Reconstructing my Faith-Doubt dwelling, with new understanding, I can now refer to some doubts as lower floor doubts, such as “I doubt it will rain.” or “I doubt my team will win.” Upper floor doubts might be, “I doubt my ability to stay on this diet.” “I doubt I have studied enough to pass this test.” And so on. I won’t berate myself for running these doubts through my mental sieve. They often propel me to study more, to find new strategies to keep on my diet.
While the ground floor offers easy access, we humans look skyward. We climb. We fly. We defy gravity. When I look up, I see Faith on the top floor and that is my quest.
Oscar Hammerstein, the great lyricist wrote, “Walk on, Walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.” I know I do not take this journey by myself. I walk on and climb up to that top floor. I might waddle a bit, but I do not go alone. I walk with company.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16: 7-11.