Saturday, August 11, 2012

When Doubt Comes Knocking

It doesn't take much for my faith to waver.  I've had some moments of pure, unadulterated doubt of late.  Maybe longer than moments.  Periods.  I can tell they're periods rather than moments because I can feel the tension in my back, the ache in my head that come when I let the doubts stick around.  Fleeting doubt doesn't reside in my body; it simply skips through, a slight diversion.  Enduring doubt commands my attention, and generally brings along baggage - my baggage that I thought I'd successfully shed.

I am thankful that God seems to know how my mind works.  Seems?  Let me try again: I am thankful that God knows how my mind works.  When I let doubt come in and set up camp, God gives me reminders for why I need to continue trusting, why I can kick out doubt and bolt the door so it can't sneak back in.  Sometimes I forget to bolt the door.

I don't doubt that the path I'm on is the right one.  I know I have to go to Iraq.  I know I have to go to Palestine.  I am close to certain that India will be a part of my future, too.  I know I need to write.  These ideas are firmly lodged in me.  I think I'm treating the notions with enough hospitality that they wouldn't consider abandoning the home I've given them.

It's the logistics that make me worry.  What will I do with my cats while I'm in Iraq? Will I actually raise the money I need to raise now that I've committed to the trip?  Will I be able to raise the money if I accepted for the long-term commitment to CPT?  What about getting my house ready to sell?  Will I have the strength to get rid of most of my stuff when it's time?  Will I find a good home for my cats when it's time to say good-bye to them?

It's the little stuff that gets me panicky. I had to go to the doctor yesterday.  Though I was sick a lot as a child, I've been a very healthy adult.  Beyond a cold, I didn't get sick while I was traveling. I didn't get health insurance when I came back to the States.  Yesterday was the first time I've gone to a doctor without health insurance.  Medical care, even for something minor, is not cheap when you don't have insurance.  I'm hoping I won't need to see any more doctors while I'm home.

It's when I worry about what other people think that I falter. Is it OK to ask people to give me money to do these things, to help me follow my gut? Lots of people are working really hard and don't get to follow theirs.  What do people think about the fact that I have turned down job opportunities in favor of a lifestyle that does not provide steady income? What does he think?  What does she think? What do they think? To get into this cycle is maddening.

When I falter on my path, when doubt blocks my way, someone comes along to walk beside me, so I can take a step forward.

A few years ago, I started two marathons, one that I didn't finish, one that I did.  I didn't finish the first because it was called off mid-race due to excessive heat.  There was a marathon in Louisville just a few weeks later. I decided I'd do that one since I'd trained for a marathon.  I wanted to finish what I'd started. At several points along the race course, my parents found me and cheered for me, just as they had along the course of the race I didn't finish.  At one point, my best friend met me and walked with me.  I did a lot of walking on the route because it was, again, a hot day and my body doesn't do too well in the heat.  I probably would have finished either way, but her presence gave me a boost to keep going.  My feet moved better with her there.

This is what God's been doing with me my whole life: putting people on my path to cheer from the sidelines or walk with me for awhile. I can see clearly the way that, through these people, God is walking with me and reassuring me right now.  When I have stressed about the fund-raising or my personal finances, I've gotten donation checks, orders on etsy, a call about house-sitting or subbing, and my mind eases.

"Trust me."

With the doctor bills, one of the costs ended up being cheaper than the price I was quoted.

"It's going to be OK."

During the times I have worried about what people think, someone comes along to tell me that they admire me or are inspired by me.  It is humbling to hear those words.

"You're doing the right thing."

As I write, I think of the Julian of Norwich quote:

"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

I am also comforted by Kathleen Norris' words in her essay, "Belief, Doubt, and Sacred Ambiguity."  She talks about belief not as an end-product, but rather a process and a "relationship...something that I could plunge into, not knowing exactly what I was doing or what would be demanded of me in the long run."  This idea feels very familiar.  She goes on to say that she had a major breakthrough in her relationship with belief when she learned "to be as consciously skeptical and questioning of [her] disbelief and [her] doubts as [she] was with [her] faith."

Maybe I don't need to bolt the door when doubt comes knocking.  While my faith resides in me, maybe it's OK to let doubt in, too.  Maybe my relationship with faith will strengthen when I am as comfortable sitting with doubt as I am with belief.

Alright, Doubt.  Come in. Put down your things. Sit down and let's talk.


  1. Cory: I love this piece you've written. I'm a nomad (of the corporate sort and my good works seem crumbs compared to yours). Each move, especially ones abroad have caused me to feel turned inside out. A faith based life has not been part of my process, but given how I grew up, is part of my very soul. How others view our decisions or lack of, I believe is the most normal emotion; even if we wish an independence which might spare us that element. Approval brings comfort. Convention can weigh heavily when the course is not so conventional and we are driven by norms (which really aren't) and in this world today, norms are constantly shattered and this new techy world we depend upon but can't really hold, fathom or predict it's longevity as it morphs - rules our today. Follow your excellent instincts Cory and do what you wish. Perhaps your faith will appreciate your decision. Reading your words helps me to say, such interest in travel and other cultures is sufficient for OUR learning through you. We need more Corys in this world and I wish upon you this day to know your doubt only clouds your strength which is rearing it's lovely head. xo

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for your encouragement, Jude.