Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is faith’s quality control. Doubt keeps faith from getting smeared with superstitious smegma, cluttered with kooky claptrap or wasted with wildly-weird woo-woo.
Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is faith’s sidekick. Doubt knows that faith can lead you down some pretty dark and thorny paths… along some narrow precipices. Faith can get your sweet self in some deep doo-doo and doubt is there as your soul buddy to make sure you don’t go over the edge or get sucked in or tripped up by where that faith-thing is leading you.
If you’re going to do anything worthwhile in this crazy life, you gotta have faith. If you’re ever going to step outside that societally tucked-in-neatly-wrapped-and-tied-with-a-bow way of living, Sweetcakes, you gonna need some faith. Look at the game-changers in our world of the last century: Harriet Tubman, Jane Adams, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi and all the rest. Not one of those world-changing risk-takers waltzed their gutsy butts into the fray without a bushel of faith. And doubt. Faith kept them crossing the street. Doubt reminded them to look both ways. When faith and doubt partner up, good things can happen.
If there is an opposite to faith, however, a good case could be made for fear. Not that fear is always necessarily bad. Healthy fear can keep your sweet butt out of the E.R., out of jail and out of the crematorium. Healthy fear can keep you from walking across the interstate at rush hour, doing a headstand on your Harley at 50 miles an hour or trying to do anything after drinking and shouting, “Hey, ya’ll, watch this!”
On the other hand, a life guided by fear can keep you from faith better than bad breath and body odor can keep you from getting a date. When you live in fear and allow fear to call the shots, there’s no room for trust. No room for hope. No room for confidence. Fear pops the faith balloon and kills the party. Allowing each decision and turn in life to be directed by fear, inevitably leads you to a tiny walled-in cell. A prison where your faith-hungry soul can starve.
One of the most revealing parts of the Christmas story is when Angel Gabriel shows up at Mary’s door announcing “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Not a bad way to open a conversation with a celestial being. But Mary had some honkin’ good doubt. The story says, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Which might well be one of the most supreme understatements in the scriptures.
But then that rascally winged one said what almost every angel says to humans in the Hebrew scriptures. He says, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” Do not be afraid, Mary. Do not be afraid, Mary, or your fear might just keep a magical holiness called love from entering this world. “You have found favor with God,” he said. “You have found favor with God.” And that little tidbit of news filled her faith tank and enabled her to say “yes” to that wild and crazy angelic proposition. And the world would never be the same.
If the holidays – Holy Days – are anything, they are a carnival of faith. A festival of joyful expectation. A salute to infinite possibility. The holidays are a celebration and feast of faith that we never, ever need to live our lives boxed in by fear. But a side of doubt is never a bad thing,