I’m about to tell you a secret that very few people in my life even know. I have kept this mostly to myself for nearly four years but I’ve decided to share it with you because I think it matters.
I’m not 100% sure that God exists.
For those of you that read I Do Not Believe in Jesus Christ, this probably comes as a bit of a shock. Back then, I was 100% sure; at least I thought I was.
Let me tell you a bit of my story…
Six years ago, I went to Kansas City for a six month internship where the only thing I did was pursue God. Even then I had it buried in the deepest part of my soul, like a dark seed–hibernating, waiting.
I’m not sure when I first buried it, but I had built an entire house of theology on top of it. I knew who God was, who I was, and how this whole Christianity thing worked. God exists, Jesus solved the whole separation from God thing, and if I gave up every distraction and surrendered fully to Him, the separation I felt in my soul would melt away. I was on my way to this internship to experience God “face to face, as a man speaks to a friend.”
I got a tremendous amount out of my time in this internship, but at the end of it God still hadn’t given me a face to face encounter. That seed I had hidden away began to stir, and every day that God didn’t give me what I was looking for, it came closer to breaking through the floorboards.
Two years later I was sitting at a coffee shop, and I overheard a couple guys debating with an evangelical Christian about the existence of God. The Evangelical was using all the same tired arguments I’ve heard 1,000 times, and I was embarrassed on behalf of evangelicals everywhere. When he got up to use the restroom, I leaned over to their table.
“Listen guys, not every Christian uses those arguments for why they believe. I pretty much disagree with 95% of what he’s telling you and I’m a devoted Christian.”
They invited me to join their group at their next meeting, and I unwittingly began nurturing that buried seed until finally it broke free. It was undeniable. This seed was now a sapling, rapidly growing right in my soul’s living room.
I’m talking about the seed of Doubt.
That pesky little thing in the back of your mind that says “but how do I know God exists? But what about ____? What if I’m wasting my time with all this? How do I know for sure?”
As Christians, we are trained to “just believe,” and for those of us that are taught to ask questions, it’s usually an “ask questions, but get your answers from sources that will lead you back to the ‘right’ conclusions.” We read Case for a Creator, but avoid The God Delusion. We read C.S. Lewis, but won’t touch Christopher Hitchens. Or worse…
What if we doubt, learn something new, and end up embracing those “wrong conclusions?”
This was exactly what happened to me. I read an incredible book recommended to me by new Atheist friends called You Are Now Less Dumb, which explained to me all the shortcuts the brain takes that lead us to false conclusions, and helped me to critically think through everything I held so dear to me until most of it fell apart.
That sapling of doubt became a tree that broke my carefully constructed house to pieces, and left me homeless.
Still, I saw the beauty in this tree, and I kept all the broken pieces of the house too. I just couldn’t figure out how to reconcile the two.
This is when I went silent.
I stopped writing, and I wandered instead. Carrying within me my growing Tree of Doubt, my Broken House, and the Divine Breath that I no longer had a home for.
I felt alone.
I felt confused.
I didn’t belong anymore.
November 23rd, 2016. That night, something changed. That night I felt the distance between myself and God dissapear. I knew I could never go back to that old Ideological House and that I also needed the life I’d found in the Tree of Doubt. This is when I discovered a third option.
The Blueprint for Divine Tension
Divine Tension, a Tension of Opposites. The way of Humility.
My whole life I believed that Truth was arriving at the right answer, and religion was following the right rules so you could get what you wanted. For me, much of this was wrapped up in Charismatic language about “surrendering” to get “relationship” with God, but it was the same religious bullshit; I just couldn’t see it.
November 23rd I repented for demanding that Jesus show himself to me on a certain level if I gave him enough devotion.
“I repented for demanding that God take away my doubt.”
I accepted and embraced my doubt as a part of my spiritual journey. Doubt isn’t in conflict with faith, it is what makes our faith real.
God isn’t the Wizard of Oz relying on smoke and mirrors to keep His form, and he doesn’t need the nice box of theology we have put Him inside to stay God. I can actually bring my doubts to Him, invite Him into my process of doubting, and pull back as many curtains as I want. Because Truth is still going to be True, regardless of what I believe.
God doesn’t live in your box, and He doesn’t fear your doubt.
Embracing our doubt frees us to be honest. Jesus says if we seek truth, we will find it (Mat 7:7) Our doubt is part of who we are, driving us to seek truth. It may destroy our beliefs, but relationship with God is not based on theology or answers; it is based on our connection to Truth Himself.
Today, I’m not 100% sure God exists. My intellect still wrestles with questions of faith. Yet, even as I embrace my doubt, I also embrace what I know. I enjoy and live within what I know in my heart, and I participate in the relationship I have with God on a moment by moment level. My Doubt Tree and my Belief House have been integrated. Now, I live in a Doubt-Faith Tree-house. This is what it means to be Christian.
When I wrote I Do Not Believe in Jesus Christ I thought we went from belief to 100% assurance. Now, I see a richer picture.
In our pursuit of and connection to Truth, we do go from ignorance, to belief, to knowledge; but sometimes our pursuit leads us away from our nicely configured answers. Sometimes it breaks our carefully constructed “houses” of belief.
We don’t lose our knowledge (our experiential connection to Truth), but Doubting teaches us that Truth is bigger than our personal beliefs. It even shows us that sometimes opposing perspectives both hold the same “knowledge” of Truth at their core.
Doubting what we believe in any area allows us to discover the “foreigner” perspective.
Doubt lets us understand those different than us, and hold our connection to Truth as real without dogmatically imposing our beliefs on everyone who believes differently.
Doubt helps us separate Truth (the real and absolute reality we have a living connection to) from belief (the things we passionately believe in that are limited by our own perspectives).
Doubt is part of our nature, and when it creeps up from under the floorboards we are invited to embrace it. It will create tension within us at times, and it will break our belief systems. We may find ourselves holding beliefs that we once found completely false. This isn’t because we were “wrong” before and have the “right” answers now.
It’s because Truth is a person named Jesus. He is connected to you, and leading you into discovery of things beyond your current self that you never knew existed. He is constantly romancing you into deeper compassion, love, understanding, and oneness with Him and with one another (John 17).
Every step in the spiritual Journey of being Human is a step within this narrative, and even when your wholehearted doubt leads you away from your answers, or even from the structure of what you thought was religious faith, Jesus is still in every step, bringing you ever closer to Truth that fully satisfies.
I’m curious. Can you relate to these doubts? How has doubt defined your spiritual journey? How do you deal with your doubt? Let me know in the comments section below.
To find hope in your doubt, click here.