(TransParenting • Part 6)

“I like middles…It is in the middle that extremes clash, where ambiguity rules.”

– John Updike

OK Dad.

So you’re telling me that my questions are unanswerable. Which is a tough pill to swallow in an age of Wikipedia.

But let’s assume you’re right about faith.

That belief anchors us, and cynicism opens a Pandora’s box of angst and discontentment.

These assumptions give rise to my next set of questions. And these questions warrant some legitimate (= actual) answers.

You say that faith deepens us.

But, let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

The headlines don’t paint a pretty portrait.

They look like a grimy mishmash of scandals, and cover-ups, and holy rollers with unholy records, and an endless list of financial no-no’s the size of Indonesia.

So where, exactly, is the grace of it all?

If my words come across as harsh, I apologize for not whitewashing them in reverent niceties. But you asked me to be honest. So I’m laying my cards out on the table, hoping you can arrange them in a more hopeful order.

Your Son,

The (Still) Struggling Skeptic

Dear son,

Never apologize for your honesty.

Honest questions deserve honest answers.

And I’ll do my best to articulate mine.

When we’re young, we see the world through binary, black-or-white, all-or-nothing lenses. Like a simplistic map, where flat cities fit primly within straight lines and neat grids.

As we mature we get a clearer glimpse of the rough terrain — the crooked borders, the jagged edges, the rocky roads. And we soon discover that life is not a flat, black-and-white landscape, but a dynamic zigzag comprised of fifty thousand shades of grey.

When we read about scandals we are seeing the world through a linear, one dimensional map. But there is a much broader, multidimensional reality.

Because life is not a neat grid but a winding maze. And we don’t fit into black or white boxes, but we oscillate and we swing and we climb and we crash. And really great people make really grave mistakes and the deeper the soul the deeper the struggle, and you will see why they say “it’s hard to hate from up close” — because the view from up close is riddled with tears and fears and mounting evidence of an actual human being — a frail, fragile, highly fallible, human being.

And though faith never vows a perpetual rise, it sets up a framework to uplift the falls. And the grace of it all is in the bittersweet falls. Where we confront our own fears and taste our own tears and come to the realization that it’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of the quest. And a heart with no faith is a mind with no journey. No mission. No quest. Just a directionless, purposeless, speck of dust lost in the wild winds of a world with no meaning.

So if you want to discover the grace of it all, you will need to let go of the binary map with the neat grids and the clean boxes, and walk through the winding roads and the rocky terrain. And you won’t need to find the home of this grace, because as you proceed, it will find you. And the place where it finds you won’t show up on your map, or your headlines, or your soundbites. Because the voyage of faith is a voyage within. And that’s where the answers to your questions begin.