This morning I went to church. This is not something I normally do but I wished for a break from my brain. I find it oddly soothing to participate in something so ingrained that I do not need to think. I was brought up Catholic but I have not been a practicing Catholic for many, many years. I’ve occasionally attempted to figure out what I am, what I believe, how I roll. I laughingly refer to my religious ideals as Pantheistic Solipsism, an idea I have unabashedly stolen from RA Heinlein’s works.
Regardless of my religious leanings, I went to church this morning to get a break from my mind. I was determined to be functional for this small part of my day while offering myself the peace and serenity of not thinking. It was a spectacular failure.
I intended to visit the Catholic Church but did not remember the time and arrived late. I walked down the street and found another church about to begin service. Mentally shrugging my shoulders, I went inside.
It was an enormous church with colorfully stained glass windows; renaissance décor throughout the nave and apse; high, swooping ceilings complete in gleaming wood. As I mentally cataloged the many points of beauty, service began. The loud but technically inept musicians commenced and were presently joined by a number of unselfconscious yet spectacularly off-key singers. In a discordantly cacophonous counterpoint, a small child embarked on a round of keening displeasure.
This is not the reason this service was a failure.
I went for solace and encountered a homily so pointedly relevant it cut through me like a knife.
Between the reading from Isaiah 5:1-7 and the sermon given by the pastor, I found not solace but heartache. The sermon recounted a retreat, a bringing together of people wishing to pray, talk, and rejoice in their faith.
During retreat, the pastor chanced to be praying with a young woman who expressed her faith as something less than complete. She was asking others to pray so she could go beyond her 90% certainty and believe with no doubts. The pastor asserted that a 10% doubt should not be considered bad. The doubt allows us to examine all the wonderfulness of our situation, to be thankful for that which we have. The doubt allows us to be stronger as we turn away the uncertainty which attempts to wreck our harmony.
The contention was that everyone has doubts and that this is not awful. It is difficult to have and/or maintain complete certainty about those things which we would love to be completely and unerringly certain.
From what I understood, it seems that complete certainty is not really the ideal. The point was that a small portion of doubt can make the remainder even more precious. The doubt gives us cause and opportunity to itemize the good, reflect, enjoy, and be thankful.
The caution is that you do not let doubt cause you to see or begin to itemize the bad in what you want or believe. Do not let it create a wedge between you and your belief. Do not allow the doubt to turn you away, piece by broken piece. Take the reservations and use them to shore up and strengthen that which you already feel.
I came away thinking – which, if you remember, was the antitheses of my goal.
I did, however, think. I think there is much truth here, that it is beyond difficult to believe in anything 100%, all the time. Even those things which I like to think that I believe in totally, I sometimes question. I do not like to show my doubt or give it much consideration but it does remain, in whatever small form, always a part of everything of which I can think.
I’ve not mentally come across any one thing that I have ever, truly, unshakably, undeniably been so completely certain that I never doubted.
According to the pastor, I guess that’s a good thing.