Monday, June 30, 2014

We Just Don't Know- Accepting the Pain of Uncertainty

I’m scared to write, but I struggle to hold back. I’m sad and hurting and angry, but mostly just numb. I keep thinking about what to tell my children who are here in Israel with me, but that implies that I know what to tell myself.

At moments like this, the usual answers of theology feel cheap. They are not enough. In some ways they feel more like a defense mechanism to push off the pain than like answers. We live in a society where, too often, the answer to sadness is an attempt to divert ones attention, by joking, by giving “answers”, by changing the subject, and, yes, by writing. It is as if we think that feelings are not to be felt.

Even worse, is the misguided sense that we need to defend God. That somehow, He needs us to defend him. When a child is hurting and angry, does a good father need his child to hold back his feelings? Do we do God and the cause of religion any favor by pretending we know why this happened? When our education leads us to think that we can give a meaningful answer, or even worse, the answer to a question that has plagued man since the beginning of time, we show just how poor that education was. A good parent or teacher knows that sometimes, the only answer is “I don’t know”. When it comes to God, how much more so should we not pretend to have an answer?

Sometimes it is best to let our children to see our tears flow down our cheeks, to feel that doubt and struggle are not bad and wrong, to give them the comfort of seeing their role-models struggle. If we learn texts that deal with this question, we must reinforce the idea that it is just one approach, rather than a definitive answer. If we want to turn to Torah, it should be to Tehillim or Iyov, and not some book which claims to know the Jewish view of… well, anything. There are almost no cases where there is a unified answer.

Our belief is most real if we treat God as God, as being beyond the understanding of man, as big enough to not be hurt by our anger or doubts, as One whose ways are not our ways. Let us give our children and ourselves the education of being real with ourselves, of dealing with our human emotions, of admitting the scary truth that we just don’t know.

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