Breaking Down our Castle Walls
It is sometimes said, “The opposite of faith is doubt…” But I have come to find that this is simply untrue. The opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is certainty. The truth is, faith and doubt need each other. We need a healthy dose of doubt and questioning amidst our journey of faith so we continue to grow. We need it so we continue to seek a deeper level of faith. When we confirm absolute “Certainty” within our faith, it becomes stagnant, and we feel as if we have it mastered. We don’t allow ourselves to see things differently, or even entertain different ways of thinking or believing. Certainty can make our faith fragile, and easily broken by the slightest encounter with someone or something that doesn’t fit within our “walled in” structure of spirituality. When we construct our faith into a structure of immovable certainty, our faith can become stagnant, and can also make us feel as if we need to defend our territory like a wall around a castle. We then move to a place of isolation, where we are telling the world to stay away, that diversity of belief is not welcome. This response to the world around us, and opposing views, is often combative because it can come out of a place of fear. Often folks that are trying to defend their castle do so because they are scared of losing something they have worked so hard to build. They are scared that entertaining questions, or doubt will destroy their castle of faith, and leave them with nothing but rubble after its collapse.
Often when our teenagers come to us with questions about faith, it can make us feel scared from a place of uncertainty on their behalf. We might even feel that their questions might shake our own faith at its core.
We say things like, “What will come of this?” “Why do they need to doubt things.” “Don’t ask questions, Just believe!”
It is so easy to attempt to “Save the day” amidst our teen’s questions by throwing out scripture quotes, and silencing the questioning, attempting to put out the fire before it gets too big. This can reinforce the unhealthy “wall it in” entrenched mentality. Instead of discouraging questions, one of the best things we can do for each other, and our kids, is to allow space for doubt and questioning within our “spiritual castles.” Give doubt and questions a voice, and a room to take up shop! Teach your kids that doubt and questioning are a part of faith. Affirm their questions and their quest for a deeper walk with God. Let them wrestle, let them ask, and when you don’t know an answer, just say so. The best response to difficult questions that we don’t know how to answer, can often be to say, “You know, that is a great question…I don’t know the answer, but I'm glad to join you in your search to find it. Let’s look together.”
We don’t want to discourage questioning, we want to embrace it, because our teens are going to ask hard questions. It’s a part of their spiritual formation. Why not give them room to ask their questions and share their doubt in a safe space where they are loved and supported amidst their faith journey? Doing so will help our young people “own” their faith, instead of just accepting it because they were told to. In owning their faith, it becomes more than just a set of beliefs to be confessed. It becomes an integrated part of who they are, and who they desire to be.
Instead of hiding out of fear, if we can make room for questions and doubt, we can break down these walls around our castles, and help our teenagers to find peace in the midst of their spiritual walk. Peace with knowing we don’t have to have all the answers, but also peace in knowing that God meets us in our doubt, and welcomes all of our deepest questions.