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Seeds of doubt can bear fruit of faith

SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2012

Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,

I don’t know what the unidentified French priest had in mind when he wrote the “peace prayer” of St. Francis in about 1912. I don’t know exactly what he meant when he said “where there is doubt, let me sow faith.”

But your grampa does know how doubt and faith work in his own life. It is my doubt that helps me become more faithful.

Try this experiment: For one day, count the number of times you ask the question “why?” out loud and silently.

Every person who has ever lived has asked this question. Part of who we are as human beings is the desire to know the truth of something we’re told.

Sometimes that question is welcomed – by your parents, your grandparents, your teachers, your friends, your priest or religious teachers. They see your “why?” as a sign of healthy curiosity.

But sometimes, “why?” is interpreted as a sign of doubt, that you don’t believe what someone else told you. Well, so what?

Sometimes, we need to doubt so we can find out if what we’re told is true. That may make others uncomfortable, but you are looking for a truthful answer.

“Why?” is a question that seeks truth.

“Why?” may not give you a final answer, but it can move you closer to answers. Doubt doesn’t have to be negative, kids. Doubt is part of the path we all walk when we look for faith that lives beyond all of the answers.

Kids, when it comes to spiritual questions, I am a firm believer that all of our questions are welcomed by God.

I’ve never understood why someone who believes God’s love is unconditional can still get so upset when we ask a “why?” question about God. It tells me that person may not really believe God’s love is unconditional.

If God is angry at me because I doubt something in the church’s teaching, then that god is too small to embrace me, too small to love me as I need to be loved.

Sr. Joan Chittister is a wise Benedictine nun. In her book “Uncommon Gratitude,” she reminds me that when “deep down our hearts believe what our minds cannot explain, faith sets in. But the path to that kind of faith is only through the darkness of doubt.”

Kids, as you grow into adulthood – and even into your older ages – always challenge yourself to believe with passion. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you believe.

Doubt is a sign that your mind is curious, that it wants to learn more about who you are as a person and how God works in your life and in the world. In your spiritual journey, be more committed to following Jesus than giving unexamined loyalty to “The Church” as you experience it.

The church can be a wonderful institution, kids, but sometimes it fears what it doesn’t need to fear – its own version of truth. That fear can cause the church to shut down intrusive questions from its members.

But those very questions can lead the faithful to a deeper faith than they ever knew by simply reciting traditional creeds and religious answers. Our “why?” questions reveal our doubts, but our doubts expressed can lead us one step closer to knowing God more completely.

Love, Grampa

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, can be contacted at welhouse@nctv.com.


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