Living with Questions
I have never been a person who has a creed or written down a set of beliefs that frame my life, but I do have core principles to which I cling dearly.
Perhaps this is due to having parents who questioned everything, distrusted the establishment, and who argued fiercely about everything. But who also, at the end of the day, would give their last dollar to someone in need.
The duelling banjos of critique and love were a backdrop to my childhood. As a teenager, drawn by a desire for more certainty and clarity in life, I decided to follow Jesus and joined a church.
I followed the tenets of my new-found faith and discovered that there was a lot to learn. But, always in the background, questions arose about what I believed and why.
I found certainty in the love of God, and a sense of purpose in loving and helping others, but I’ve always had a healthy disregard for fixed points of view.
At times that bothered me, because I felt like my faith wasn’t strong enough, or that there was something wrong with me.
But, as I got older and found many people became more fixed and dogmatic in their beliefs, I found myself thinking that perhaps belief should be a living, breathing process, rather than a fixed, immovable creed.
As a writer, I read widely, meet all sorts of people, and research all angles of a topic. My last book, Amazing Grace deals with a girl who is struggling with her sexual identity. I was confronted as I worked out what I actually believed about this issue. Every day there are topics that confront me and cause me to ask what I believe and why.
Three years ago, as I began to write Amazing Grace, I was also going through a crisis of faith. What did I believe? About everything?
I read Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God: Faith for the 21st Century and somewhere in the poetry of his words, faith and science and language coalesced into a rebirth of belief in my soul.
As I wrote about a difficult and complex topic, as I searched and thought about what I truly believed, I realised that the desire to find certainty and clarity had left me with lots of questions.
Paradoxically, the questions had led me to some certainties.
I believe in God. I love Him. I want to love others.
This is my gospel. This is my truth. This is my belief system.
I’ve learned that faith isn’t unwavering belief without questions. A fully-fledged faith is fully trusting, despite the questions.
When you leap off a mountain strapped to a guy with a parachute, you may have a belief and faith in the equipment and his training, but actually stepping off the edge and taking flight? That’s real trust.
So, when you ask me about my beliefs and my convictions, don’t expect a manifesto, or clear-cut answers, or dogma.
Expect me to say it’s simple but complicated.
Expect me to say that I’ve found that it’s possible to live with questions.
Elaine, I love this. We have just done an exercise as a family about how we want our family to look and love. One of our statements is, “You always have permission here to ask questions”.
I love that value. You are an inspiration! xx