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The Blessing of Uncertainty


None of us can live without believing in someone we don’t understand. If I personally don’t believe in my doctor there will be no treatment for my ills. If we collectively don’t believe in the pilots of our aircraft we will not travel.

Belief is necessary for the smooth running of our lives. It is a means to an end.

It is only human nature to wish for a spiritual life that ran as smoothly as the Swiss train service. It’s good to have things like that settled. If only that were so.

My recent contemplative journey started on a racecourse with my great friend Alan George. We hadn’t gone for the horses but to attend Greenbelt, a Christian festival “where arts, faith and justice collide”, a place where the progressive wing of the Church of England meets the weekend Guardian.

One of the key speakers that year was John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, ex- priest, philosopher and Catholic scholar who urged us to “experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder”. I loved listening to him on a sunny afternoon in Cheltenham. His voice was as smooth as the triple distilled Irish beverage he loved so well , but I couldn’t have hardly told you a word he said.

So I ordered the CD of the talk and listened to it over and over again. He introduced the crazy notion that possibilities are in themselves far more interesting than facts or rigid ideologies.  This was the start of a fresh direction for me into the world of writers, bloggers and Facebookers who are not afraid to ask questions, which may result in uncertainty or doubt. It is not for the faint hearted or those who only find comfort in certainty.

However ,  I have concluded that certainty is not all that it is cracked up to be and is in fact what Andre Rabe describes as “often just a mask for great insecurity”.

Faith is not something that has to be protected from doubt and contradictions. Real faith thrives in adversity, a bit like a mustard plant, you can’t get rid of it.

In a recent interview Pope Francis said “…. when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought” and when “the knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, it closes the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”


I suppose Pope Francis puts it in a nutshell for me. Religion with all its dogmatism drives reasonable people away from faith, even excludes them, by imposing many manmade requirements , by giving all the answers but strangely leaving no time for questions at the end. We blindly believe ideologies as if they had simply dropped out of the sky by divine edict rather than a reflection of our ongoing  evolution as humans relating to a God beyond our definition.

Rather than always jumping up from my seat with answers like an enthusiastic Sunday School pupil, I also try to be non  reactive at times. It is a better way to find out what is going on below the surface of peoples lives and saves me from defending what they wrongly perceive about God.

A lack of absolute certainty about everything also opens a door to the idea  there must be more to discover, not just in our minds but in our hearts, an inner experiential knowing like falling in love with the person you just know you are going to spend the rest of your life with.

Surely there has to be some certainty as well, some assurance. The Bible compares this to holding a title deed of a house, you know what you know is true.  I agree but not to the extent of being dogmatic about every aspect. I just want to move in.

This journey is however not just about truth, it is also about how to do life. Without love I am truly of no significance at all, no matter how clever I think I am. Without love I am not prepared to sacrifice my preferences for the sake of another, or to pursue them until I have squeezed every last drop out of what a shared life has to offer



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