Passing on Faith … and Doubt

Chapel by Rowen Atkinson
It’s been a long week.

And an even longer weekend filled with questions about faith and doubt, about passing both on to my daughter.

I’ve gone back to school to finish a degree in Biblical Studies.  I’m lovin’ it.  It fits me.  It challenges me.  I feel like a fish in water and not out of it for the first time.  I’m reading dictionaries in my spare time and writing weekly exegesis papers, juggling back and forth between the academic and the practical.

With all this new information, new methods, new perspectives come new doubts.  I’m not startled by doubt.  My faith is most often experienced through doubt.  My unanswered questions unsettle me and confirm my faith in ways that I cannot explain.  I like mystery.  I am okay most days with living in the tension of “yes, but” and “now, but not yet.”  I’m a “both/and” girl rather than a “either/or.”

But these doubts … they shake me up.  Keep me up at night.

How will I pass on this faith to my daughters?  What if all they inherit are my questions?  What if my “I don’t knows” aren’t enough, no matter how honest and real?  What if the freedom I find in speaking the doubts out loud leaves them with no sure ground on which to stand?

And then I read.

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”  Deuteronomy 6:20-25

Moses – before he dies and the people go into this new and strange and good and promised land – tells them what to say when the day comes and their children begin to ask.

Why?  How come?  Who?  Are you sure?

He could have told them to explain who God was.  Holy.  Just.  Jealous.  All-mighty.  Good.  He could have told them to explain what happens to those who don’t obey, don’t follow, don’t believe.  Judgment.  Destruction.  Chaos.  Devastation.  He could have told them to explain each and every law.  All 600 plus of them.  Each rationale.  Each reason.

But he doesn’t.

He has them tell a story.  A personal one.  Who they were.  Who they are now.  Where they were.  Where they are now.  They are to tell what God has done in their life.  They are to share what they have experienced.  They are share what is to come which is not condemnation but righteousness (not even blessing but a relationship with Him).

No theological dissertation will do.  No thesis on the attributes of God.  No horrific recounting of God’s discipline when they failed, rejected, rebelled.  Just the tale of what God can do, of a life lived with Him, a life to come.

And so this is what I will tell her.

The story of God intersecting with my story in this place here and now.  The doubts and the questions I have and the things I do not know do not change that.  That is the reason for my hope.  Not apologetics.   Not doctrine.  But the real intersection of the Intangible with the tangible.  God and man intertwined.

And isn’t that how God decided to do it when it came time to find the ultimate expression of his love.  God and man intertwined.  The Christ.  God incarnate.

Isn’t that story the one we call good news?

That’s the story I will tell her and I will have to have faith that this story – God and I intertwined in all its messiness – will be enough.

  • I love this Jessica. It’s something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately too … just how DO we pass on our faith to our littlest ones? And how do we let them know it’s okay to doubt … that in fact, doubt can be a good thing … it can be the very thing that strengthens our faith over time.

    I think – being okay with the unknown – is perhaps one of the most important things we can do as a parent. To help our children understand that there is some mystery in this world … that faith is simply believing something even though we’re not 100% sure it’s true. And that as hard as it might be to not have answers to everything – knowing that we don’t have to … there’s some freedom in that, you know?!