Spring is near. The arrival of spring means the arrival of spring cleaning. The arrival of spring cleaning means lawn and flower bed preparations. It is also the time to start ridding your lawn of all those unwanted weeds. If you’re into that.
According to this article from May 2020, Dandelions were once regarded as a noble plant, on equal footing with roses!
In the hands of the Master of Claude de France, there is no nobler plant than the dandelion.Barbara Drake Boehm
The article also quotes a botanical artist by the name of Duy Anh Nhan Duc who says :
Under their apparent fragility, they are one of the most skillful and vigorous species in the plant kingdom. They evoke untamed nature, free and wild. The dandelions are ever-present in my work because they fascinate me: the architecture of their seeds arrangement, the lightness and brightness of their feathery tuft and, above all, their ephemeral nature.Duy Anh Nhan Duc
I love that quote.
Dandelions started making their way around and eventually found a home in this part of the world. They fit in nicely and spread and eventually became considered a nuisance and a symbol of unkept lawns and land. Removing dandelions, and other types of weeds, from your land and lawn became a symbol of strength. The ability to maintain a beautiful and perfect lawn, free of dandelions among other things, was a sign of wealth and prosperity. Dandelions were now something to be rid of.
Just as dandelions became the enemy of those obsessed with having a perfect lawn with nothing but grass, doubt has in many ways become the enemy of those who are obsessed with the idea that faith must be maintained as certain, impenetrable, unshakeable and unmovable. Just as we try to eradicate dandelions from our lawns so that everything appears to be controlled and perfect, so the church often tries to eradicate doubt from its parishioners to maintain control over the narrative.
To borrow from Duy Anh Nhan Duc, under the apparent fragility of doubt there is a vigorous and skillful soul that is untamed, free and wild. The church would do well to recognize this and find a way to be comfortable with it.
Treating doubt as a foreign and unwanted object is a refusal to accept faith in its raw and truest form. Faith is not meant to be like a luscious lawn where each blade of grass is perfectly cut and no “weeds” are growing. Pesticides are required to eradicate weeds from lawns and spiritual pesticides (manipulation, lies and shame) are required to eradicate doubt.
I’ve written about doubt before and will likely continue to do so in different ways. Why? How the church handles doubt can make or break its potential for relevant impact moving forward. Perhaps more-so than ever before.
Where there is doubt there are questions. Where there are questions there is thinking. Where there is thinking there is observation. When we observe, think and ask questions our hearts and minds are engaged. We want to be all in but we are less likely to simply swallow what we are being spoon-fed. Especially when the content being downloaded doesn’t connect to the reality of what is before us, what we are exploring, discovering and learning.
When the church fears doubt, it fears growth and change. It longs to remain rooted in what was. It will value certainty of a doctrine over that of the human soul. It will want to embrace those who doubt while simultaneously painting them into a corner and try to tame them.
It does not need to be this way. The bible is not meant to be read as though it were a pesticide who’s purpose is to eradicate unwanted growths. It is meant to be read as fertilizer for the continued meshing together of faith and reason.
Doubt does not need to be a hindrance to the spiritual journey and spiritual growth. It may very well lead you to uncomfortable places. Bottling it up or choking it out serves no purpose other than a superficial attempt at making our spiritual lawn look better than the neighbour’s.
If you are a person of faith, it’s ok to let your faith run wild with doubt, questions and uncertainties. It may lead you away from where you started or it may lead you deeper inside. Either way, you will be the better for it.
I hope the church can learn to value the dandelion that is doubt. Not as something that needs to be removed or taken with a grain of salt but rather as an indicator, an engine light of sorts, that can help the church steer its way into a constantly changing world.
Dandelions are gorgeous when they are left to grow. When they die they make room for others. So it is with doubt. It comes and goes with different seasons of life. No need to avoid it. No need to put up warning signs. Just let it be and pursue your questions, your observations and continue to explore. If God is there, he knows you are too and will meet you where you are, as you need, with or without a doubt.