A Letter to My Doubting Daughter
To my dearest doubting daughter,
Our last conversation left me with a heavy feeling inside. I’ve been thinking about you and your unfolding life journey. You are a very intelligent young woman, and that can be burden. You have an uncompromising, logical mind. That’s something I love about you and hope that I helped nurture in you.
But it does present some problems when it comes to faith, doesn’t it?
And the Christian Church mostly does not know what to do with her smart children, the ones who ask hard questions.
So I worry a bit about you. Part of that worry is selfish, I confess, for I long to share my beloved faith with you as we both grow older and, I hope, wiser. You should know that as I enter my 6th decade of living, my love of Christianity only grows deeper. How I love our faith, the classic patina of its rituals, the traditions, the yearly calendar, the wonderfully impractical hopes and dreams that are its foundation, the art, the scriptures, the ancient languages, all of it.
Even the Church’s failures, which are spectacular and infamous, only serve to strengthen my hope and desire to be a person that honors our spiritual tradition with good and authentic living.
So yes, I do long to share this faith with you as we journey together through life.
If we lived 200 years ago, your family and culture would have handed you a clear and obvious set of answers about life. Your role as a woman would have been pretty well laid out for you. And the Church would have given you a spiritual worldview without much competition from other religions or philosophies.
There is no doubt that those inflexible roles and rules were at times constricting to the human spirit. I am glad to be living in our century, where the individual has more freedom to choose a way of life. But I sometimes wonder if we didn't lose something precious when we let go of those innocent days of youth, when a person was able to practice at the forms and ways of life without worrying too much about the philosophies and theologies behind them.
Now it seems that every decade brings a cultural or technological revolution of one kind or another. Parents struggle to relate to their children, and grandparents are almost incomprehensible to the third generation, who look upon them as ancient relics from a bygone era.
So people your age have come to believe that they must find their own way and their own answers, which is a terrible burden for young people to carry.
It is for these reasons, I believe, that you have tried to seek the answers to some of the world’s oldest and deepest questions. You feel that you must find the answers to these questions before you can rightly follow the spiritual path of any particular religion.
- Is there a God?
- If there is a God, what does this being want from us?
- How can I know which religious path is the “right one?”
- What relevance do aging forms of worship, prayer, and spiritual music have to my life?
- If Christian worship and devotion seem boring to me, is there a good reason to persevere and seek the ancient wisdom that may be found in them?
Hear me now. About those questions. There is a great paradox at work in your life.
On the one hand, it is glorious for you to ask questions. It is beautiful and righteous and good for you to wonder at the deep mysteries of the world. How I love your mind. How I look forward to years of conversations with you.
On the other hand, if you can know this without it causing you to despair, understand that you will not find answers to many of those questions. Some questions will haunt you all of your life. And most answers you do find will only come after decades of searching and seeking and trying and failing and despairing and hurting and grieving and giving birth and discovering and accepting and laughing and experiencing the rich joys of life.
My precious daughter, if I could give you any gift today, it would be that you might experience the joy of your questions without being burdened by the elusive nature of their answers.
You are young. Now is the time for practice. Throw yourself into the practice of Christianity. Pray and worship and read the scriptures. Ask your questions, yes, but do so while practicing your faith.
I think you'll find that when your mind reaches its limits, it's good to pay attention to the body.
And the body needs practice.
Love always, my string of pearls.