I wanted to figure it out so I could tell other people how to figure it out. So that we could all have this formula that, when added to each life and each circumstance, would equal success and peace and healing and redemption.
More than that, I wanted this answer to be absolutely and unshakably right. An answer that no one could argue with (and if they did I could just dismiss them as an idiot that would need to come around once they got their act together). I got degrees and certifications and licenses. I learned how to think critically and strategically and openly. I learned how to solve problems and come up with the right answers for myself and for others. And honestly, that was nice.
But I also experienced other things. I talked with incredible people that thought differently about God than I did. I held tight to a 12 year old girl while she sobbed because she missed her dad, even though he had been raping her since she was 7. I got pregnant when doctors said that was impossible. People refused to restore friendships with me, despite my efforts and the assurance from experts and mentors that I was doing everything right. I read medical articles about cellular generation and the part of our brain that is responsible for spirituality. I read poetry that was beautiful and true by a woman that committed suicide. The more my experience expanded the more I realized some of my right answers fell shallow. I started paying attention.
I paid attention to my friends that were set on the fringes of their families or communities because they lived life with integrity and authenticity - declaring that their gender, race, age or any other predetermined demographic information did not define their life trajectory, success rate, ability to influence their environment, or their intrinsic value.
Jim Poysner says “paying attention is a heart-wrenching and intimidating activity.” I think that's because paying attention often creates doubt, and doubt is most often seen as a liability, something to overcome so we can be stronger and more confident, more right. Doubt that my answers are right, that my faith is strong, that my solutions are best, that my evidence is without error. This space of doubt is not one that we generally like sinking into; it’s not necessarily a cozy, fireside armchair of thought. However, it’s not something to avoid like a bed of nails either.
Because in this space of doubt there are gifts. Doubt requires a soulful response – one that requires the attention of your whole being. When sitting in doubt we dig deep and discover what is being threatened that we deeply love and we hold it closer. When we doubt we get curious and sit in absolute wonder and explore – asking questions, finding new answers – ones that are fuller and truer and better and filled with hope. When doubt seeps in we respond with courage, applying the truth we discover by creating with beauty and excellence in our world. And in the space of doubt, we must choose to purposely show up wherever we are despite our shortcomings and lack of right answers with humility and grace.
I spent a good bit of my life trying to find all the answers to the deepest of deep questions and the solutions to the hardest of hard problems in the world. I still try. But maybe the answer isn’t in a formula. Maybe the answer itself is in the ability to doubt well, to wonder with excellence, to risk being wrong in pursuit of what’s right.
Maybe...but I still have my doubts.