In an earlier entry, I mentioned something about having doubts. Doubts are funny things. You are never sure about them. (Sorry, pun intended.) But seriously, it is the fact that you are unsure that makes things challenging. I don’t know about you, but my mind craves certainty.
I have reached a point in my life where I can see two levels of doubt concerning God. The first is the one most people grapple with, that is, is there a God? And if so, does He interact with this world?
To resolve this issue of doubt, the only thing I can say is that it takes a “leap of faith.” I know that sounds like a copout. Somehow, you must step outside of yourself for a moment, step outside of your doubt, skepticism, intellectualism, emotions, and simply believe. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. It is something that you cannot do by yourself. No matter how much you try to force yourself, you will not be able just to believe. It takes God to help you. He has to call you. He calls everyone. The trick though, is knowing when He is calling you. Most of the time, I believe, most people do not hear Him because His call is lost among all the noise of the world. And if you do happen to hear His call, you still might not be ready if the “soil” of your heart is not ready. (If you are still waiting for this moment to happen, it will. Just ask Him. It will not happen over night. It may take years, as in my case, but it will happen if you are listening with an open heart.)
All of this reminds me of a scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. During the climax of the movie, Indiana Jones is following his father’s notebook through the cave to the Holy Grail. He comes to a giant chasm with no way across. He looks in the notebook and it says that one must take a “leap of faith.” Indy looks again at the chasm and chagrins. It is too far across to jump, too far to use his whip, too far to use anything that he may possess. Only a “leap of faith” will get him across. He stands helpless at the edge of the chasm. He looks back down through the cave he just came. He knows that he cannot go back. He stands up at the edge of the chasm, hesitates just a second to take a deep breath to steel his nerves, then takes a step forward into nothingness. By a simple act of faith, the will to believe, he steps outside of all of his doubts and skepticism. He steps out onto a hidden bridge across the chasm of doubt. That is what it means to take a “leap of faith.”
It is hard to take the “leap of faith.” The mind wants certainty. The mind wants to know. The mind wants to evaluate the pros and cons, to estimate the risks and benefits, and to make a connections between the facts. But none of these exist for the mind to get a hold of. To take a “leap of faith,” the rational mind must give up what it is most comfortable doing. The mind has to take a step into nothingness in order to believe.
Now, once the theological doubt about God has been settled and you believe in God (called faith), there enters a second level of doubt. No, not about God, but about yourself. This type of doubt is much harder to describe. It too is also about stepping out into nothingness. Thomas Merton had this to say about this type of doubt in New Seeds for Contemplation:
In a certain sense we may say that there are still “doubts,” if by that we mean not that we hesitate to accept the truth of revealed doctrine, but that we feel the weakness and instability of our spirit in the presence of the awful mystery of God. This is not so much an objective doubt as a subjective sense of our own helplessness which is perfectly compatible with true faith. Indeed, as we grow in faith we also tend to grow in this sense of helplessness, so that a man who believes much may, at the same time, in this proper sense, seem to “doubt” more than ever before. This is no indication of theological doubt at all, but merely the perfectly normal awareness of the natural insecurity and of the anguish that comes with it.
The very obscurity of faith is an argument of its perfection. It is darkness to our minds because it so far transcends their weakness. The more perfect faith is, the darker it becomes. The closer we get to God, the less is our faith diluted with the half-light of created images and concepts. Our certainty increases with this obscurity, yet not without anguish and even material doubt, because we do not find it easy to subsist in a void in which our natural powers have nothing of their own to rely on. And it is in the deepest darkness that we most fully possess God on earth, because it is then that our minds are most truly liberated from the weak, created lights that are darkness in comparison to Him; it is then that we are filled with His infinite Light which seems pure darkness to our reason.
Both types of doubts, the theological doubt in the existence of God and the personal sense of helplessness, are hidden bridges to God. It takes God’s help and a “leap of faith” to cross over both chasms of doubt.