Moving Through Doubt Toward Wonder

This article originally appeared on July 20, 2019 at Worship Overflow.

Every moment of loving, creative overflow begins with the seed of wonder. We may not even recognize it as such. In fact, we may not even notice what is happening in our souls until the seed of wonder begins to grow into questions.

This state of questioning is very unsettling, perhaps even shocking at first. What if something very fundamental that you believe about the world, about relationships, about politics, yourself, or even God, is not true? If that one thing is not true, then what else is not true? At what point does questioning individual facts begin to morph into entire paradigm shifts? And at what point have you lost your faith?

Life is a spectrum of questions. It’s not a binary set of two possibilities divided by a certain point that determines the difference between being totally right and being totally wrong. Growing up in fundamentalism, we were always burdened by the point where physical touch between members of the opposite sex becomes wrong. Our hearts were torn with the desire to enjoy beautiful music, while fearing the point at which the style would be deemed by a holy God as worldly. But being fixated on a point is not the point. In reality, everything is on a spectrum in which we are constantly feeling, thinking, experiencing, asking, and moving. There is no point where absolute safety turns into absolute danger. It’s much more complicated than that. And we know it. That’s why we obsess about the point. We’re afraid.

Life has depth. At one level, we think, feel, and make decisions. But at a deeper level, we are motivated by appetite, ambition, or approval. Beneath all of that are the long forgotten stories of wounds that we experienced long ago. Yet, keep digging, and you’ll discover through those wounds the seed of wonder that was planted in you that those wounds buried.

Many of us, instead, simply stay in the suppression of our questions. We’re too afraid to open our eyes and see the other. Others of us begin to entertain the questions, and then either go back to where we were, slightly adjust, or get mired in doubt. Doubt is a totally natural stage of questioning. But when we are overcome by it, our souls can begin to dry up with cynicism. So move into your doubts when they manifest. But keep digging. Keep pushing through the soil.

Eventually the seed of wonder, discovered in the processing and healing of your wounds, will begin to manifest itself in new creation.

Plato said, “Philosophy begins in wonder.”

Socrates said, “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Wonder…is the seed of science.”

And the great Jewish teacher Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of all knowledge.”

I believe that Abraham’s words are much needed in our world today, especially in the world of progressive evangelicalism. Moving beyond suppressing your questions in fear of the point was definitely a necessary part of your healing process. But simply swirling around in intellectual doubts does not produce knowledge. It does not overflow in philosophy, wisdom, science, and art. Instead, you need to keep wrestling through your questions until you receive the surprise of wonder.

St. Augustine once said, “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

Yes, there are wonders out there. But the seed of wonder is inside of you. It was planted there in the soil of your mother’s womb. It was experienced in the lights, the sounds, the milk and food you tasted, the textures you touched, the aromas you breathed in.

I believe it was planted there by God. The ancient prophets said that the Word of God is planted like a seed. Jesus described the kingdom being planted like a seed. The apostle Paul talks about planting the seed of the good news in human hearts. Planting seeds is how God gives new birth.

So wherever you find yourself, whether it be in suppressing your questions, getting stuck in your questions, becoming aware of your motivations, or finally processing and grieving your wounds, keep embracing and wrestling with that part of the spectrum that you’re on. Keep feeling, thinking, and stumbling forward until your eyes open in surprise, and you lose your breath in wonder.

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