This is perhaps my most favorite phrase of all time. Absolute most favorite. I probably owe a good portion of my life to this phrase and definitely my faith lives there now.
I was sitting in a class in a church that I was vaguely familiar with, waiting for it to begin while watching older women exchange homemade clothes for their grandchildren and awkwardly forcing conversation with people my own age. I no longer believed, but found the habit of church attendance comforting in a time where everything was shattered. In the class people who did not believe were invited to come and discuss why the did not believe, and in what can be described as divine…they did…and it was respectful. I got lots of things from that class, I made some really good friends and began to rediscover my faith. You can read more about that experience in an older post.
I walked away from that class after two months with the phrase “I don’t know” rather than a frustrated, bitter “I don’t see how” when posed with the question of God’s existence. I don’t know was my lifeline; it kept me from floating away into a dark place.
My world had crumbled around me. I not only doubted God’s existence, but also the grace and beauty of fellow Christians, and certainly the holiness of the Bible. Despite my family’s best efforts, I grew to have a proof-text faith. If it couldn’t be proofed by a scripture it wasn’t happening in my religious practices. Then I began to doubt, and the phrase I don’t know snuck in. Since my faith was essentially a house of cards waiting to topple, it only looked like a strong structure from afar, any question that make the cards of my faith tremble made it all come crashing down.
Then something amazing happened. I don’t know became a source of hope. I don’t know allowed me to hold my very serious, gnawing doubts in one hand, but also to hold hope and faith in the other. Before I don’t know, my faith was greedy, only wanting to win out over my doubts, only wanting to be right. My faith didn’t desire truth, it desired being in the right…no matter how many verses I could spout off about truth.
I recently read an article by an acquaintance from college about dinosaurs and the Bible. Mostly I was disturbed by the absolute gall with which he rejected the phrase I don’t know. There were no hypothesis, guesses, or theories in his article…it was truth because he put a scripture behind it. This lack of admitting that sometimes we just don’t know is what was at the root of me loosing my faith. Thankfully though, the acknowledging of the need for doubt allowed me to come back to belief in a God that, though different than the one I thought existed, is a much more beautiful, realistic, and kind God.