So I was going to write a review about Insurrection, a great book by Peter Rollins that I just read. But then Tim Keller implied that doubt comes from living a sinful life, and it drove me crazy and inspired me a little.
I am not a farmer.
I do have some farmer friends, though, and google, so I know that if you want stuff to grow in your soil, you need to fertilize it. I also know — thanks again to google and farmer friends — that good fertilizer is made up of dying things and organic things. Things like crap and decomposing food and worms and bone meal.
Sometimes, I think about how I want a garden. And then I remind myself about fertilizer, and I change my mind. I don’t do well with crap and rotting vegetables and worms. Not in the literal sense, anyway. Someday, maybe. But not today. Not tomorrow. Lucky for me, there’s another kind of crap. The non-literal crap. The life crap. I’m not necessarily good at handling this kind of crap either, but I’m not sure anybody is. Because it’s crap.
You know the kind of crap I’m talking about, too. There’s starving kids in Africa and also your girlfriend just dumped you and also life is just hard and also you’re getting a little belly. Or a big belly. Or you feel lonely. Or the world is just grey. Or you’re broke. Or you’re worried more than you should be. Or you’re just scared.
The worst crap, though, is the doubt. For me at least. No matter how hard I try to not be, I’m a skeptic. If I’m being honest, most of the time, I just don’t buy it. The Jesus stuff I mean. The resurrection stuff. The “two thousand years ago some guy got executed, and that matters a lot because that guy was also god” stuff. It doesn’t make much sense.
Since I am a Christian, my doubts are mostly directed toward that world view. But we all have doubts, don’t we? We all have those moments, usually in secret, where we look at the world and think about what we’ve been taught, how we think it all works, and we just don’t buy it. We think it’s wrong. Wonder if there’s another answer, that isn’t crazy. In this moments, I feel isolated. And if there is a God, I feel abandoned by her because she’s not very quick to come down from the clouds and say “Austin I’m real, and that matters.” That’s my big life crap — the doubt. And I bet we all have been there.
There’s a couple different ways to react when this life crap pops up. We can ignore it and pretend it’s not real. We can absorb it and use it as fuel for creative energy or revenge or whatever. We can live in it and accept it, refusing to naively believe that things can be different or get better. Or, we can turn it into fertilizer. We can take our crap and the world’s crap and the life crap, and we can use it to grow stuff. We can take our dead stuff, and turn it into life.
This fertilizing process begins with honesty. You allow yourself to ask the questions you’re asking anyway, and you begin to actually look for answers. You give weight to the feelings you have, and actually allow yourself to feel them. You look around at the world and all the crap that’s in it, and you don’t turn away. You don’t blink. You stare.
If you do this, and you are intentional about it, what you find will be ugly and hard. The world is actually scary and the shit actually stinks. But that’s okay, because that’s not where it ends. Because after you see the real world and you smell the real crap, you can start building.
And that’s where the hope is, for me. That’s where god hangs out. Not up in the clouds, loudly talking down to me every once and while, but in the dirt that I’m shifting around, whispering, all the time.
I used to push my doubts away. Every couple months they’d come around and itch a little, and I’d just ignore them until I my brian was occupied with other things. Things less sinful or whatever. And it worked. I found a distant God for my busy brain. He had all the answers and life was pretty easy when I bought into all of it. And there wasn’t much to be scared of, other than doubt. It was safe and nice. But that God was a crutch. That God made me wish for a different world, not work hard to make this world better. And eventually the doubts just refused to go away.
So I was honest, and sad a little bit, and then I started building. And the god I’ve found since is not a crutch. The god I’ve found is not easy. And absolutely not safe. The god I’ve found is hard, because the god I’ve found doesn’t talk to me very much. I suspect that god doesn’t talk to me much these days because she’s busy building a good world. Quietly, faithfully, honestly.
Maybe if I become a part of that work, I won’t need to talk to me. Maybe we’ll just be working together, and that’ll be fine.
Insurrection is about doubt too, and some of the ideas in here I got from the book. If you want to learn how to doubt well, you should read this book. It helped me quite a bit.