The Sin Of Certainty
There was a time when my faith got shaken so hard that I began to wonder if I had any left.
It's not easy to have doubts about God, religion, and even the Church for any of us, but it's especially hard when you are a pastor.
I remember driving to church early in the morning on Easter Sunday seven years ago when all that I'd been struggling with in terms of my own personal theology, world view, and vocation came home to roost.
I was practicing my sermon in the car, which is what I did every Sunday back then during my 45-minute commute. All of a sudden, I stopped in mid-sentence and said in a hoarse whisper...
I don't know if I believe this anymore.I managed to pull myself together enough to carry on that day. I changed my sermon a bit so that I felt more authentic in what I was saying--a bit more true to the doubt, which had settled in my chest like a stone.
The next few months were a trial. I decided to let myself sink to the bottom of my wondering, and allow the doubts that I was feeling to take me there. There were days when I wondered if my career was over.
It took some time, but I eventually pushed off from the bottom and came back to the surface. Only I didn't emerge in the same place I'd been. I was farther downstream, carried there by a current I had only faintly realized was pushing me.
And I learned something valuable that deserves sharing.
If you have doubts about your faith... if you wonder whether your belief in God is unfounded... if you have begun to push away from Christianity and the Church... know this:
Having doubts and questions doesn't mean that you have lost your faith. It just means it's growing and maturing.In fact, it's Certainty that is the real culprit. It was for me. I had clung to certainty for so long that when my certainty was dislodged, I felt like I was adrift.
If I'd held all of my certainty a bit more loosely all along, I wouldn't have felt like I was drowning when it left me. Author Anne Lamott once wrote this:
The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until the light returns.Now more than ever we need to push away from what theologian Peter Enns dubbed "The Sin of Certainty."
There is a fragile smugness and false bravado that accompanies our sinful certainty---especially when we become so certain that the way we have always done things is pure and untainted from selfishness and pride.
Newsflash: It isn't.
If you are struggling right now with doubts about your faith, take heart. You are right where God needs you. Resist the urge to resolve your doubts through explanations and apologetics, and sit with it for a while.
The light will come. You will break the surface, and the light of Christ will fill your eyes once again, and you will breathe new air in a new place.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.