When I had lunch with Hercule Poirot* earlier this year (I refuse to refer to him as David Suchet), he spoke a lot about ancient yeshiva bochas, which, it turns out, is a very hard term to shorthand, and an ever harder word to later transcribe.
I nodded dutifully throughout our long conversation about how we would do well to bring their methods back into the Church today, and then rushed to the toilet to Google what on earth yeshiva bochas actually are.
It turns out they’re Jewish students in orthodox learning establishments, who spend their time “wrestling with the faith and doubts”. That’s what it’s all about, Poirot said. From the very beginning, our faith was something that wasn’t just accepted at face value, but worked through.
Coming to faith at the age of 40, he had questions, and he wasn’t afraid to raise them. But not all of us have people we can raise questions to. I’ve never heard a sermon on doubt. I’ve never been in a small group where they’ve encouraged us to get the doubts out into the open.
Perhaps I’ve not been going to the right places, but I think doubt is something the Church isn’t always great at recognising.
Last year, threads went to The Pursuit and set up a Secret Doubt Garden. We encouraged people to come on in, get a little crafty by making flowers or leaves from card and write their deepest doubts down on their creations. We then pinned these around the tent. By the end of the weekend, it was beautiful. Flowers of every colour, size and style, tattooed with thoughts that some people told us they’re never told anyone before – or even been given the opportunity to.
The thing is, we shouldn’t keep our doubts hidden. They don’t need to be a secret. You can see examples all over the shop in the Bible – from Eve in the very beginning, doubting God’s instructions, through to Zechariah when the angel told him he would have a child and then, of course, Doubting Thomas, whose unfortunate nickname has stuck throughout the ages.
The point is, faith is bigger than doubt. It’s ok to admit we don’t have all the answers – because to say we do would be to lie. To paraphrase Romans 10, it’s faith that’s the remedy for doubt. Holding on to your belief despite questions, occasional wobbles and doubts? That’s real faith.
It was a privilege to facilitate the garden, and this year we want to go further. We don’t want to only create that special place to release your secret thoughts, but also, we want to offer some encouragement. If you’re coming along to The Pursuit – and there are still tickets here if you haven’t yet booked – then find us in The Twilight Tent.
Drawing influence from nomadic culture in the Middle East, we’re creating this temporary home for you to come in, lie down, and release the doubts that you’ve never before aired. As the tribe of God, let’s get real. Stop wandering, and lay your head down. Read a book under our starlight. Jot down your thoughts on a luggage tag and add it to all the others on our ceiling. Be inspired by the thoughts of others.
“Jesus replied: ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’” (Luke 7:22-23) It’s time we stopped stumbling. Our faith is bigger than our doubts.
*I would apologise for the shameless name dropping, but it was POIROT. I can’t be cool about having lunch with everybody’s favourite European detective.