I'm going to try not to freeze now that I know people can read what I'm writing, which I will do by pretending it's still invisible. Problem solved.
My daddy sent me some quotations from a book he found in my grandpa's basement this weekend, Evidences and Reconciliations by John A. Widtsoe. They are beautiful and precisely what I wanted to write about this week, so pardon as I indulge in a quote-binge taken from Chapter 7, "Is it wrong to doubt?"
"Doubt arises from lack of evidence."
"Doubt, which ever is and should be a passing condition, must never be an end in itself."
"Doubt as an objective of life is an intellectual and spiritual offense."
"Doubt, unless transmuted into inquiry, has no value or worth to the world."
"To take pride in being a doubter, without earnestly seeking to remove the doubt, is to reveal shallowness of thought and purpose."
Doubt, doubt, doubt! Why is it such a dirty word and such a trophy at the same time? How did we forget that it is simply a descriptor for a necessary part of the human experience? As Widtsoe says, it's a passing condition if we approach it appropriately, but it comes to everyone, because it comes from a lack of evidence, and by definition, mortality is a sojourn into a lack of evidence of God and Godthings. There is no shame in recognizing this lack of evidence; instead, there is beauty in the opportunity we have every single day to gather one witness after another of the things we dare to hope for that remain unseen. And mercifully, miraculously, as we grow in light and truth, the unseen begins to be seen, and the unknown becomes known. These are experiences that defy description and that await every single person who accepts the challenge of earnest witness-gathering.
Inquiry! I'm a bit in love with my former and future doubts, because they have driven (and always will drive, I hope!) me to inquiry, and never has my brain felt so alive and challenged as it has in the unravelling of the faith conundrum. I love what Widtsoe clarifies here, though--that inquiry is "earnestly seeking to remove the doubt," which is where I was stumbling for so many years. Before, I was seeking to remove the uncomfortable things I didn't agree with from my paradigm, which involved a lot of ingesting identical views to my own and saying angry or hurt prayers that made it clear I wasn't okay with certain answers, so God had better not tell me they were legit. Shockingly, God decided not to answer me, and usually my doubt and discomfort grew.
Gradually, I discovered true inquiry. God led me, even in my stubbornness, to priceless resources in many forms that taught me how to open my heart in order to seek instead to remove doubt, to remove the pain of separation from God's mind and God's will, because what I desired more, finally, was understanding and peace. I learned to try obedience and sacrifice and diligence to show that I meant business enough to put my doubt on the shelf in favor of experimentation. As I finally allowed God the freedom to answer me in his own time and way, promising to accept whatever came, I began to receive. Some questions took days, others a decade, but regardless, dark corners of my mind and heart were gloriously illuminated, each in its time. I was given gift after gift. As I continue this process of carving out the parts of myself that resist God and handing them over to be filled, I am in awe of the changes I am able to witness.
I will probably write about my specific struggles in faith in the future, but now is not the time. I think that's okay, because everyone has to walk some form of this same road, and I don't want the details getting in the way of personal inquiry. Some of my questions have been the same as yours, and others you would laugh at. It doesn't matter. What matters is that every single one of us has questions that hurt. What matters is that there are beautiful, healing answers to each of those questions and only One who can give them. And what matters is that that One has told us how to get those answers.
Here is a final quotation from Widtsoe, and it's a doozy (emphasis mine):
"Perhaps you are questioning the correctness of a gospel principle. Call it doubt if you prefer. Proceed to take it out of the region of doubt by examination and practice. Soon it will be understood, or left with many things not yet within the reach of man. On the other hand, the stagnant doubter, one content with himself, unwilling to make the effort, to pay the price of discovery, inevitably reaches unbelief and miry darkness. His doubts grow like poisonous mushrooms in the dim shadows of his mental and spiritual chambers. At last, blind like the mole in his burrow, he usually substitutes ridicule for reason, and indolence for labor. The simplest truth is worth the sum of all such doubts. He joins the unhappy army of doubters who, weakened by their doubts, have at all periods of human history allowed others, men of faith, to move the world into increasing light."
I'm not writing this blog to say, "look at me and my awesome faith!" My struggles still abound; the mind and heart constitute a vast territory. I'm writing to say that I've been overgrown by those poisonous mushrooms before, and I have cowered in very dark places, and I have been divided and weakened until I was literally paralyzed at times. I'm writing to say that when I finally started following the formula God himself has given us for overcoming the doubts he allowed, God began to excavate my soul. Sometimes it hurt really bad. Most of the time, however, it was all I could do to keep breathing for all the joy that flooded me as I was bathed in light. And I'm not using metaphors here! I'm writing to say that this is what happens when you turn yourself to The Father of Lights, and I'm saying it because I can't not say it anymore when there are people who don't know it in their bones yet. This world needs increasing light, and every single one of us is designed to be a brilliant vessel. It is time for us to discover the glories for which we were made.
Don't be a mushroom field anymore. Be a light. Inquire!
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.