It’s no secret my life is running into a headwind right now. I’m still walking, but it is slow going, and I feel like I’m facing big waves and a strong current. I know enough about the tides of my own emotions to know this will ebb, and probably soon. But what won’t change, I don’t think, is my ever-firmer conviction that adulthood is about uncertainty. The adages about this fly fast and furious: the central gist is that as children we think we know everything and as adults we know we know nothing.
Trite, maybe. Cliched, certainly.
But it is also true. I wrote a while back about the pieces of myself that I left in the land of newborns, in those weeks and months steeped in exhaustion and milk and a dizzying sense that the world had just shifted on its axis. “Most of all I left behind my certainty,” I wrote, and I think that’s utterly true.
But it didn’t stop there. Instead, I seem to shed certainty every year. Things I thought I knew for sure have been upended and challenged in more ways than I can count. The universe does many things well, but one of the best is presenting me with opportunities to realize how erroneous my assumptions and certainties are. So many times I’ve been absolutely – obnoxiously! – sure about something and I’ve come face to face with the unassailable evidence of my own idiocy.
What’s interesting to me is that as the questions and the not-knowing at the heart of my life grows so, too, does my faith. By faith I mean my sense that there is something sacred and holy out there, simultaneously much bigger than I am and an intimate part of me, throbbing in my veins right alongside my own blood. I use “faith” to describe a constellation of emotions, some amalgam of trust, belief, religion, and wonder.
What do I make of these seemingly-opposed developments inside my spirit? Is my deepening faith a necessary survival response to the terrifying ambiguity of the world? I don’t know. I can’t believe these two tracks – my sureness unraveling just as my beliefs grow firmer – are unrelated. All I know is the very real comfort I feel in the words of others much more brilliant and wise than I, who speak of something similar.
The more I know, the less I understand. – Don Henley
The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. – Anne Lamott
There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson (thank you, Ronna Detrick)
What do you think? Is my developing faith just my subconscious trying to cope with the fearful uncertainty of the world? Do either of these resonate with you?
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