Yesterday, Toby and I watched a slug ooze a path across our rain-slicked driveway. It moved painfully slowly, but we didn’t interfere. Toby held his basketball carefully with both hands, not dribbling, and neither of us tried to step on it, and as it constricted-expanded, constricted-expanded, Toby said, “God made slugs, but not very well.” And I thought, “Maybe.” To the God part, not to the ‘not very well’ part. Although, that too. And then I looked back down at the slug, so vulnerable and weak and (I’m assuming here) blind, and felt a sudden, disturbing kinship.
The trouble with being agnostic is all the wide open expanse of possiblity around you, vast and empty and deafening in its silence. All that room for error as you make your way, so slowly, across. There’s nothing comforting about it, nothing to grasp onto and hold, no one to pray to. There’s always something looming over you: uncertainty, inconsistancies, the duel proof of creation and destruction in birth and death, and there’s no where to hunker down, duck under cover, and hide.
Much better, of course, to be like Toby, the one standing tall. Armed against what he sees. I suppose I should have a similar perspective, but I don’t and never have. I’ve always been the one lost in the forest, beating at the branches, not at the peak, enjoying the view. The one drawn by various paths, finding few of them lead anywhere, and yet so many lead somewhere.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, and yet, when my kids ask questions–the big ones, the good ones–I don’t hand out the easy answers I’ve learned in Sunday School (and they have, too), even though the silence is hard to hear. Even though this agnostic forest is no place for children. Instead, I say, “I don’t know,” because I don’t, and “What do you think?” because I want to know, and “But how do you know?” because I really, really want to know. I value the honing of their cognitive abilities above the sculpting of their faith. And when they pause, unsure in their steps, I know they’re there: in the middle of that vastness that’s so scary. But I don’t pluck them out, even though I want to. Even though reassurance is a soft warm blanket only one well-intentioned promise away.
They’ll never find their way if I do.