The thoughts in this post have been shuffling around in my heart and on my computer screen for at least a month, but the timing hasn’t been right, until now. A couple of days ago I stumbled across Alissa Writes Words, who is hosting a link-up on the theme of “What I want you to know about doubt”. When I read through some of the submissions I knew that now was the time. So here are some follow-up thoughts from an older post discussing the themes of doubt and mystery and freedom. And really, this whole post is mostly a preamble to the poem at the end, which burned its way out of my belly, through my fingertips, because I couldn’t find any other way to express it at the time. Thank you for taking the time to read, I really appreciate you stopping by – please, leave a comment and let me know you were here.
Sometimes my prose is imperfect, and that’s okay – of course it’s okay – but it means sometimes I can’t say what is pulsing through my veins by trying to spell it out, point by laborious point. So I’ve begun turning to poetry again. I find that sometimes I can weave a web of words together to create an image, to say that thing that I struggle to say with any other words.
Sometimes it seems a vulnerable place to put oneself in: SAYING THINGS on the Internet. Because people read those things, and sometimes your thoughts are lost in translation. I have to expect that, putting things out there in a public forum (well, as public as this itty-bitty blog gets).
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to extract the thoughts from my head without doing some damage to them on the way out. But I find poetry and imagery and metaphor help me to bypass this overly-analytical brain of mine, and tap straight into my tangled heart, and gently tug at the silken threads until they unravel.
We use words like believe and think and know in a finite sense, when it comes to faith, as if it’s the end of the matter. As if we can stack them up, as steps to the next level; as if they will hold us up and help us see further. But at the moment, I’m not experiencing faith that way. The things I believe, think and know – the things I write about – well… tomorrow I might not.
I’m not ready to build a fortress and declare ‘Here I Stay’; I’ve got too many years ahead of me to continue getting it wrong. I’m not foolish enough to think that life begins at thirty, now that I’ve got it all figured out. I reserve the right to pack up, move camp, get another vantage point.
I’m not ready for a faith manifesto. I’m trying to work things out and muddle through life in my own imperfect way, and I’m actually enjoying the process. I know that might seem strange to you, if you come from a place where questions are barely spoken, hushed and truncated, lest they echo down those stone corridors, rumbling through the foundations.
But I’ve come to a place of embracing those questions, and I don’t mind too much not having instant answers. I don’t mind having to say ‘I don’t know yet’. This is my journey; this is how I’m discovering how to be fully ME in a world pushing and pulling a million different ways.
The thing about faith is, it’s never finished. It needs doubt. At least, mine does. My faith needs those questions. My faith needs that mystery. (Maybe yours doesn’t, I won’t begin to assume we all need the same things, if you won’t either).
I’m in no hurry to decide, to get those bricks in a row, lined up and squared against each other. I WANT to fail, tremendously and joyfully; I want to get it wrong, to learn, and keep moving forward; to not be timid in expressing my shaky beliefs and doubts, but to spin it all out, weave it together, let it be what it is – something transitory, evanescent, moveable, moldable. That’s alright, to me. I want the freedom to say, “Maybe…” with an air of wonder and scintillating uncertainty.
You might prefer bricks and mortar, something more solid. That’s fine, too.
For me, the thing about bricks-and-mortar faith is that renovating is difficult, and time-consuming, and it’s back-breaking, heart-rending work. I know; I’ve been working at moving and removing them, brick by brick, for the last fifteen years. Right now, I want to allow more room. Opinions change, faith evolves, people grow. I want to leave enough space for grace.
Maybe enjoying that uncertainty is unfathomable for some; maybe the openness with which I express my search and vulnerability is perplexing. I’m not trying to be intentionally antagonistic towards the beliefs I was raised not to question, but I can’t stay silent about the fact that I’m moving away from some of those things. I’m no longer accepting the easy one-line answer. I’m not cool with scripture being lobbed over brick walls, without any attempt to see my soft and fragile heart. Don’t we all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, rather than which club we belong to, which side of the wall we are on? Don’t we want those around and beside us to see what’s really on the inside, even if it might sometimes be a little scary and dark and rough around the edges? So that’s why I want to step away from building with these bricks. Not because they’re wrong. But they’re not right for me, right now.
So, what do I want you to know about doubt?
I want you to know that my faith isn’t weak or flaky. When I say ‘I doubt…’, I’m not talking about stopping in a place of unbelief. I’m not talking about bulldozing without a trace. I believe in something bigger, wider, deeper, truer, and more wonderful than I can imagine or comprehend – that is what keeps me going. That is my faith. There’s still a lot up for grabs.
I want you to know that my faith is what kept me afloat during some of the darkest years of my life so far. My faith is what leads me – gently, by the hand – to question. I have faith that Whoever It Is Out There can handle those questions, and I’m cool if that means sometimes I might not get any answers. Rather than sit back, squared away in my certainty, it is my faith that draws me to lean forward, get up, walk out of that too-small, cold and dingy room that someone else built for me, and explore the fresh and frightening world outside my door.
I want you to know that it is my faith that lets me find hope and comfort in mystery. I want you to know that it’s in the darkness – when I can’t see and don’t know – that my faith is more alive than ever before, which is why pat one-liners and unsolicited advice come across as condescending. I want you to know that doubt is much less scary and foreboding when I engage with it, when I talk about it, when I invite you into this sacred space. And especially when you accept that sacredness, hold it gently, treat it with care.
What I write and engage with here is about my journey and process, and maybe some of you will relate along the way (that is my experience so far – I’m thankful for those of you who have been encouraged, and in turn have encouraged me), but I’m not providing a road map for anyone to follow. I’m not telling you how to live your life or what to believe – heavens! I’m hardly even telling you how I live or what I believe – I’m just inviting you to take a peek at my heart, and see how things are unfolding for me at the moment. I’m happy to have you along for the journey.
So to some, it might seem as though I struggle with my faith. And that is entirely, one-hundred-percent correct.
I do struggle with my faith, every. single. day.
It churns inside me, I feel the burning in my abdomen, I spin it out, weave it around. I look, I touch, I taste, I test. And my faith is stronger for it.
Not a brick-wall strength, fortified for maximum division or clarity, or hard line truth and certainty.
More like spider-web strength, destroyed and remade anew every day, intricate and pliable and inviting…
Won’t you step out from behind that wall? Put down that stone? Won’t you run with me, climb with me; see what we can see? Won’t you join me, and be gloriously afraid and enthralled by the wild, mysterious world beyond this rubble?
I’m not building a wall
I’m not laying bricks
not kneeling in the mud
hands caked in mortar.
I’m not engineering
the straight and true
the divides and lines
you’re in, you’re out
(I don’t put myself above
the brick builders – no,
but I will never be one.
the strength I spin
too thin to grasp
I move and change and live
amongst them but
I was never made to stack
prisms of clay)
I’m threading silk
in the wind
that which is within
takes form and substance.
from the depths,
soul and spirit
destroyed and remade daily
re-woven when the night is honey
in the viscosity
of the mysterious dark.
I have no desire
a weathered wanderer.
I bend and stretch;
collect the unseen
turn their blackened
I have no stake;
to sink deep into
to fortify walls
to maintain conditions,
to become ruinous in my ancient
you will find me in the rubble
strung between crumbling bricks
collecting dew drops
for dry hearts lost
I would love to know how you work through your faith questions. Where are you on your journey? Have you lost belief because your questions were squashed? How have you held on to belief?
I want you to know you’re not alone, that your questions, doubts, anger and vulnerabilities are all welcome here. If my words resonated with you, then I encourage you to click on the image below and visit the link-up. There are some beautifully eloquent thoughts being shared there. You may find some rest and comfort amongst like-minds.