There is a Texas story about how creation is sort of like a turtle on a fencepost. You know that turtle didn’t get there by itself!
People like me are always looking for turtles on fenceposts — signs of God’s existence and presence. People like me are always questioning. Struggling with doubts.
In my Catholic upbringing, doubts were looked on almost as sinful but at least as a sign of weak faith. A few angels along the way helped me overcome that bias. In high school, Fr. John Herrity SJ had us read Nietzsche. In college Fr. Bernard Suppe SJ challenged us to think about what we really believed about war, about birth control, and about other pressing moral issues. Somehow these men and others gave me the idea that not only was it OK to question but in some ways it was necessary. As Anne Lamott has written, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.” (Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith p. 256-57)
What value can doubts have on a journey of faith? For some of us, doubts keep us searching. Perhaps we search for answers. In my own case, I search simply for light — something that hints at an answer. For example, I struggle a great deal with why bad things happen to good people. When I read the Book of Job, I don’t really find answers but at least am encouraged that there is room for my anger as I struggle.
I greatly admire people of simple faith — people who don’t use their faith as a bludgeon but rather quietly face and accept what life dishes out. My mother’s simple faith in the face of 2 children’s deaths. A man speaking of accepting God’s will as he battled Gehrig’s Disease. People whose faith inspires hope but not guilt.
I wish I had that faith. But I don’t. I need a God with whom I can argue, a God I can question. My doubts keep me on the path. Yes, I’ll never stop hoping for those turtles on fenceposts. But even if I don’t see them, I’ll keep searching.