In Praise of Doubt
I believe in doubt.
Oh,sure. I was brought up to put my faith in faith and to believe in belief; but it’s really doubt that has brought me a measure of peace.
That first big belief came to me when I was five years old. According to everything I absorbed from Rev. Parrish of the Maple Street Baptist Church, God is a man.
That picture prevailed through young adulthood, even though my mother—a bra burning, Chanel #5 scented, socialist poet—called God she. Mother ruled over my high school days like an old testament God herself, with Ms. Magazine in one hand and Vogue in the other.
But I believe God cannot be a woman, because I don’t want to tiptoe into heaven two hours late and have Her look up at me as She dries Her wet crimson nails. I already know there is no answer to the question, “Where have you been, young lady?”
I believe God wears a hat. Each time I walked in to the adult service after Sunday school ended, I ran a gauntlet of prickly crowns. The grandmothers reached down to hug me good morning and feathers tickled my nose, netting scratched my face and brims whacked me over the head.
I believe God is deaf. At 10 a.m. when service began, the organ whispered while the choir murmured lullabies to God and the congregation hummed along. But by 11:30, I had to duck to avoid flying Hallelujahs, Amens and Preach Brothers. Every Sunday morning Rev. Parrish shouted to the Lord. “I’m asking can you hear me this morning, God?” Every Sunday night I prayed that God would get a hearing aid.
As I enter my wise crone years, doubt is showing up to expose the limitations that belief has placed on the Almighty.
I’m doubting that God can only be a man. Because If He can be a woman, then maybe—I can be a writer. I can be you. I can even be Divine.
And if God’s not deaf, if He can hear a silent heart, then maybe I can hear the pain in my friend’s voice, when she rages through the phone at me, and then hangs up—for the next ten years.
If God doesn’t have to wear a hat, then I don’t have to wear the craving for your approval.
Let belief carry others to that rarified altitude, where lofty ideals swoop and soar. I prefer to live, with joy, right here on the ground in the traffic jam of now. In love, down here in the mud of politics. In peace, down here in the charnel ground of war.
Belief assures me that I know things, and people will come around. But I don’t want to wait.
Belief raises my hopes.
But doubt sets me free.