Doubt

winter branches

Winter morning light on bare, snowy branches: one of the things that makes me feel most powerfully a sense of mingled doubt and faith.

I think I’ve decided that I won’t have a word this year.  But if I was going to have one, it’s pretty undeniable what it would be.  The word doubt has been presenting itself to me for the last several weeks.  Insistently, even.

There was this quote, which I saw on the wall of a dear friend’s house right before Christmas:

“Who never doubted never believed; where doubt, there truth is.  It is her shadow.” – Philip Festus

Naturally, these words reminded me of Anne Lamott’s famous line, which I think of at least daily:

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.” – Anne Lamott

And then Ronna Detrick, long a spiritual guide and teacher to me, wrote about doubt recently.  Her words reverberated around my head and heart with an undeniable familiarity, with the clanging echo of something I should listen to.

I keep returning to one image, which is of the way I can navigate my house in the dark.  Whether it’s going to the bathroom in the middle of the night or walking around the basement when the lights flicker off by accident, I know exactly where things are.  I know how many steps it takes to get here, where to put my hand, when I need to duck.  This house, where I’ve lived for eleven and a half years, is as familiar as the back of my hand, its contours and lengths so well known I can move among them with my eyes closed.

I always thought of that as some kind of manifestation of my comfort with doubt, that sense of familiarity with the dark, of being able to navigate without clarity.  Doubt, which I know so well, which fits me like a well-worn shirt.  Doubt, which keeps presenting itself to me these days, over and over.

But maybe that is just the other side of faith?


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9 Comments

  1. Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    It’s funny how different people can think of things so differently- I would see your walk in the dark as complete faith. And I love the fact that you have been in your house so long- we have not had that experience and so wish we had…

    admin Reply:

    I am apparently providing for my children the polar opposite of the childhood I had: NEVER LEAVING. Ever! xox

  2. ari
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    That is really interesting. My understanding of doubt is that not knowing what is going to happen. Walking in the dark in your basement seems like a faith to me. You know where things are. I guess this just shows how differently we think.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, yes, I agree with that … I don’t think I was totally clear (and just went and edited slightly). I mean my comfort in the dark seems like some kind of comfort with doubt. But maybe it is also, and simply, faith. Thank you for reminding me that everything can be seen multiple ways. xox

  3. Posted March 4, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I see doubt and fear as inevitably connected in the same dark basement.

    Doubt is when you don’t trust that you’ll successfully navigate the dark basement because you never know where there might be an unexpected obstacle and you fear you are likely to fall over it and break something and worry you’ll never completely heal from the trauma.

    Faith is knowing there is likely to be an unexpected obstacle in the dark, and even so, if you are not guided around it and end up falling and breaking something, you will be given the strength to deal with the inevitable pain.

    Faith is about taking away the worry and fear of the unknown. It doesn’t take away the risk and pain of living each day. It is knowing that it is not our doing that keeps us safe and heals us. It is all pure gift; we are grateful for guidance through the darkness.

    Good thing to think about on this still dark morning in the third week of Lent!

    admin Reply:

    I love this clarification and extension of my metaphor. Thank you. And it was actually quite bright this morning here! Surprisingly so. xo

  4. Posted March 4, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Love the metaphor. And I’m with Stacey: your “walk in the dark” seems like a walk through faith as much as doubt. I very much agree with Anne Lamott that doubt and faith are two sides of the same coin. I don’t think you can have one without the other.

    admin Reply:

    Neither do I. xox

  5. Posted March 4, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Love the Anne Lamott quote (not surprising, since I love her). I never thought of it that way before.

    I’m not very good with doubt, which makes sense now — I’m not very good with faith either in many ways. I like to be sure of things. I don’t like surprises. I’m pretty sure that makes me a control freak. But I am getting a little bit better at letting go of the need to be certain. It’s something I actively work on in my life.

    admin Reply:

    This has been one of the changes that midlife has wrought for me – I don’t like change and have been called a control freak before, but I’ve become increasingly comfortable with uncertainty. Perhaps it’s more that I’ve realized the inevitability of uncertainty, and the futility of fighting it (for me!). xox

  6. Ronna
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Honored and grateful, Lindsey. And so you know, in my darkest of places it is my doubt that reminds me that faith even exists…or matters. I won’t go as far as saying I’m grateful for it…but close. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    They both matter. I am not certain of much, but of that, I am. xox

  7. Posted March 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Love that comparison to walking through your house in the dark. Funnily enough, the same WAS true for me, until I moved into a temporary rental (we’re renovating our house). I actually was so tired one night that lept into bed… and miscalculated and fell off (and it really freaking hurt!) I shouldn’t have trusted that I knew where I was.. but I did. Guess it’s better to do that and take risks than never fall down 🙂

    admin Reply:

    Yes, better indeed … though those falls do hurt (I’ve been there, when a guest)!!

  8. Christine Barker
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Maybe this doubt is just a manifestation of the time of year…I have always liked March… but it is a stormy month weather wise… at least here in western Canada… It is hard to believe that winter will ever be over… and how can that not perpetuate doubt!

    Leonard Cohen said it best…”and springtime starts and then it stops in the name of something new…”

    and we trust that this too will pass!

    p.s. my word is… Prepare!… said in the infamous ballet coach’s commanding voice

    admin Reply:

    Agreed re: the time of year … and more snow tonight here in Boston. Alas!

  9. Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Sing it sister. And sign me up. My word for the year is Spirit. And s soon as I chose it I have been filled with doubt.