Room for Doubt

Within the hero's journey, you will find a myriad of under developed traits, flaws and weaknesses, and imperfections making the hero unlikely - or at least undeserving. Through that varied slop of characteristics, there is one trait that surfaces frequently enough to be believable.


Despite the mantra that great responsibility comes with great power, Peter Parker/Spider-Man constantly questioned his ability to accomplish what he felt was his duty. Daredevil confided in his priest, wondering if his actions were either noble or evil. Harry Potter considered his victories as a matter of luck and clueless blundering. The Doctor referred to himself as "just a madman with a box." Sam never really understood the importance of his presence and thought Frodo was mocking him when Frodo called him the chief character, Samwise the Brave.

Then there is my favorite. In the How to Train Your Dragon movies, Hiccup (the main protagonist) embodies the role of a hero filled with doubt. He is the scrawniest of his peers, has no interest in fulfilling his father's imposing expectations, and thinks himself unworthy of ruling the land of Berk. Awkward, dorky, and oblivious to the feelings of those who love him. Overly reliant on sarcasm and self-deprecation to mask his insecurity. He knows he is destined for greatness yet he is hyperaware of his shortcomings.

Modern Christianity has painted doubt as a horror as grievous as great sins like pride and lust. Any who question their faith, themselves, or their salvation is branded as an apostate. This has created a culture where Christians are afraid to ask tough questions and express reservations, fearful that they could be denigrated for challenging the sacred order. Because of this, good people are walking away from the church - a place where honest seeking has become unsafe.

This is a sad state of affairs. I do not think this is what God had in mind for His people. I do not believe that God is afraid of our doubts. Neither should we.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told the familiar parable of God separating the sheep and the goats on judgment day. To the faithful, a message is given that they fed the hungry, clothed and housed the underprivileged, cared for the sick, and visited prisoners. "I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me." The unrighteous did not do any of those works. As a result they are told, "Depart from me, you who are cursed ... whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

This passage is often interpreted as a command for social justice. This is Jesus challenging his followers to act on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society. This is instruction to perform good deeds. Of course it is all of those things, but there might be more to this story.

Dig deeper.

The reaction of both the sheep (those who did good deeds) and the goats (those who refused to do good deeds) are identical. "Really? Us? When did that happen?"


God recognized the good works of one group of people who didn't realize the grace of their actions. It's almost as if they're saying, "Who me? I'm just a normal person. There is nothing special about me."

Yet the other group is incredulous. "How dare you accuse me? I am special. I demand a second opinion."

Both groups are surprised by their judgments. One unaware that what they did actually mattered, the other unaware that what they didn’t do mattered. One questioned their own validity, the other assured in their own power.

The sheep were never sure if they were making a difference. They were imperfect heroes. They were humble yet filled with doubt.

The goats thought they'd be a shoe-in. They assumed they were the people who pleased God. They were puffed up with arrogance yet callous toward others.

This is important because we have more in common with characters like Daredevil, Samwise Gamgee, and Hiccup of Berk. We also find ourselves plagued with doubts. If we believe that such feelings are inherently evil, then we believe something about ourselves that cannot possibly be true: that there is no room in God’s kingdom for messed up people like us. Within the parable at the end of Matthew 25, we see room for doubt, and that should be good news.

So maybe it’s OK to have doubts. Perhaps we should stop thinking we must have it all together. We should stop insisting on unattainable perfection and unquestionable understanding. We should stop dictating who gets to go to heaven and who will be sent to hell because that is not our job.

And maybe, just maybe we should give ourselves the liberty to ask tough questions.

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