Vol. 2 Issue 2

A couple of weekends ago I spoke at a retreat with my mom in a small town in Texas. I did a talk I do on the book about why doubt is good for faith. In it, I talk about the year my doubts were the most intense and how I floundered in uncomfortable uncertainty. Then I talk about how I’ve realized that much of the Christian journey is spent in this exact place—floundering, uncomfortable uncertainty—and this is OK.

At the end of the weekend we did a Q&A. The attendees asked questions and my mom and I took turns answering. One of the questions asked of me was, “Do you still struggle with doubt?” I answered with a resounding, “Yes.” Of course I still struggle with doubt. Maybe not the same doubts as I struggled with then, but I have new ones and I still have questions and I am still waiting on so many answers.

Toward the end of the Q&A a woman made a comment. Through tears she looked at my mom and said, “Do you know what a gift it is to have a daughter who can stand up here and proclaim her faith so boldly? Do you know how lucky you are?”

I stood in confusion. The night before, I had spoken for 50 minutes on the intimate details of the doubts I had had about God. Not five minutes before, I had confessed to everyone in that room that I still wade through the tide of doubt. What was this woman talking about? Had she listened to me? If she had, what had she heard?

After spending a few days reflecting on her comment, I’ve realized that some people are just going to see you how they see you. They’ve perceived who you are looking through a certain lens, and nothing you say or do will change that. I think this woman had decided what family I came from, she saw me speaking, and in spite of the words I was saying—rather than because of them—she decided who I was and who I was not.

While this irks me to my core, I know I cannot control this person's perception of me. She has made up her mind and I will not be able to change it. People tell us who we are all the time. People decide what we’re like, what we’re about, before actually getting to know us, and they walk away believing what they’ve told themselves, rather than believing what we’ve told them. We can’t do anything about this. In the end, we have very little control over how others see us. This is why being in tune with our inner voice is so necessary. If we have no idea who we are, we will let others tell us. And this is a sure path toward restlessness.

During that Q&A, I wanted to hit pause and assure everyone that I was not up there boldly proclaiming my faith, that that wasn’t who I was. I am uncertain. I am always floundering. I know very little at all. I wanted them to know and believe in the real me. This is what I want from everyone I encounter on a daily basis, but this is not our reality. The truth is, I tell other people who they are all the time. I decide I have people figured out before I ever get to know them. I discern their motives and why they are the way they are when really, I know nothing about them. And if the Q&A were reversed, I would certainly make some wrong assumptions about certain people.

However, I am realizing, that the more comfortable I am with who I am, the less I want to decide prematurely who other people are. The more in tune I am with my inner voice, the less I need to have others figured out and the less I need to defend who I am to others. It’s hard work. Listening to yourself. Cutting through the noise. But it’s, I think, some of the most necessary work we can ever do. If I had internalized the comment about be such a bold proclaimer of my faith, I would have deeply disappointed myself later when I realized I am so rarely bold and so rarely proclaim anything. Sometimes the truth about ourselves isn’t the beautiful, strong, perfect picture, but it is the truth, and that is so much better.

Here’s the kicker: We cannot listen to the still, small voice unless we are quiet ourselves. If our days are consumed with noise, scrolling, work, the internet, we will never hear what that voice is saying and, therefore, we will be incredibly vulnerable to what all of the other voices are saying. This is something we do have control of. We can quiet our spirits. We can carve out space. We can pick up our journal every once in a while instead of our phones. We can choose to think instead of numb, but thinking can only be done in the space of quiet.

It may make you squirm to even think about it, but how could you carve out space for quiet this weekend? What voices are causing you unrest? What is your inner voice telling you in contrast? How could you listen? And if you do, will you be OK with what you hear?