I Was Certain…

Woo, dog – going on four months since the last post; my apologies, but, it turns out I needed that unplanned sabbatical.

Last night I finally started reading the book, The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns. I’ve heard it recommended – at least the author – many times on a couple of my favorite podcasts: Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists. Maybe one or two others, I’m not sure…

Highly Recommended

Anyway, I only got through 3-4 of the first chapters (they’re very short, so far) and already I feel more capable of articulating my faith journey because what Enns describes is similar to my own experience.

Namely, growing up and cultivating a faith of absolute certainty, having a crisis or two of faith over the years, and watching that certainty erode, allowing for a more fluid, robust faith. Not a faith that hinges on arguments or apologetics – just a faith that is.

In so doing, I’ve found I’ve also increased my capacity to practice the greatest of these: love.

Instead of condemning others for perceived sins because I was so certain they were committing them, I can be more patient, compassionate, and understanding.

Instead of having to be right about my beliefs of certainty – and thus, building walls between myself and others – I can be more open and hear more of what people have to say, thus enriching my own life with these new perspectives and experiences.

It’s also easier to spot and stop self-righteousness when I saddle up my high horse and turn a potentially contentious situation into one of vibrant personal growth.

I’ve heard it said that the antithesis of faith isn’t disbelief, but rather certainty. And as I write this, I know that certainty has its place in the human experience, but I think I’m talking more about certainty without humility; certainty that is right and correct beyond a shadow of a doubt with no room for change. A static state. One that can’t grow because it can’t change.

And I guess it’s really more of an attitude than anything. On one hand we need to be able to change, grow, and adapt; but on the other we also need structure, boundaries, and limits. I believe that we need to be able to grow within any given structure, but always with the understanding that the structure itself can change – or that we can grow differently than what the structure prescribes, perhaps needing to restructure it at a certain point, or move on to another altogether.

Of course, this begs the ultimate question about God. Certainty? Faith? Where the hell does that come into play? Well, in the Bible, certainty is never commanded – only faith. There is Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Maybe it’s more about the target, or object of faith. Because you can put your faith in a certain thing, like levitation by snapping your fingers, but if you were to try it, you would fail; thus, the faith failed because it was placed in the wrong thing.

That’s the thing – realizing we’re living lives of faith. We can’t know any given thing is true. We can act on a certain thing, and if it works out, in that experience, it proves the hypothesis. Then we can try it again, if it works, huzzah. But then at some point maybe it won’t. Then maybe it will again, or maybe it will never again. And that’s when we can either just dismiss it and move on to the next big thing, or we can stay with it; question it, look deeper into it and try to see what’s up.

I think scientists do this kind of thing, too; some kind of method or something of testing principles, looking for certain results, etc. But then again what do I know?

Bottom line is, humility. Faith without it is presumption. We have to be willing to be wrong – about everything – which is why we can’t hold too tightly to anything. But we do this trusting that it’s going to be okay.

After all, what’s the absolute worst that can happen?

Anchors Aweigh Part 11 – A Stone’s Throw

boy throwing a stone into the water at the beach
boy throwing a stone into the water at the beach

PART 10 (click here)

So, I did check those boxes because I’m 95% honest and to ensure Big Navy that I was okay, I had to provide documentation from the respective service providers indicating I was indeed okay and fit for duty.

The counseling part was easy. I was recently in contact with my therapist and she gladly provided a clear and concise letter explaining my situation and that I was A.J. Squared Away. The kidney stone part…that caused a bit of a hold up.

First, I had to look up the hospital that I was admitted to; well, the hospital of the emergency room I was admitted to. Ugh. I still remember that time; physical pain on a scale I’ve yet to match. Finding the hospital was easy enough, but then I had to get the documentation from my visit.

I called up their records department, talked with a nice lady who was able to help me out, and actually got the records to me pretty quick. I gave them to AM1 who skimmed them and said he’d submit them and see what would happen.

Now, during this time we were also discussing job possibilities, or what rates I might try to go for. The first time we talked about it I told him about the survey I had taken on Navy.com and how it said I’d be a good photojournalist. He explained that was part of the MC rate, or Mass Communication Specialist. He asked if I was interested in it, I said kinda, but I was more interested in exploring other possibilities. He wanted me to be a Nuke, a nuclear engineer. I asked what that entailed and he explained it takes about two years of training after boot camp but that it comes with some sweet financial bonuses.

He wasn’t lying.

Looking over the literature he gave me on the subject, I was indeed tempted by the thousands of extra dollars a nuke gets, but it was very math-heavy. I hated math. I hadn’t taken math since my senior year of high school, more than 12 years. Thankfully, the cut off age was something like 25 or 26; I was about to turn 31.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors Aweigh Part 10 – Hurry Up and Wait

Click here for PART 9

WARNING – things (i.e.: language) start getting a bit saltier than some may be accustomed to in here.

I'm waiting for him to get out of the way of my drawer and he's waiting for me to bugger off.
I’m waiting for him to get out of the way of my drawer and he’s waiting for me to bugger off.

It took about four months to get all my paperwork processed before the Navy would let me in. Part of it is, these days any swingin’ dick or pair of tits will say they want to join the Armed Forces. Not necessarily because they want to serve their country or defend freedom, but because they want free stuff. Some folks get in to get pregnant as fast as possible so then they have their health care paid by Uncle Sam and get some extra money in their paycheck for then having a dependent. Some do it for the free college, thinking they can coast through their duty and have Uncle Sam cough up for tuition, all the while calling themselves a veteran and demanding society bend over (backwards or forwards) for them because they sacrificed so damn much.

Of course the World’s Finest Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force are going to make it difficult to get in. Gotta make sure you’re dedicated, not predicated.

Me? I was looking for direction. I needed guidance. In addition to that, I’ve always had a heart that wants to help others, to be a voice for the voiceless, to be a guardian for the weak. So why not seek direction while doing something useful for once, AKA, defending freedom and spreading liberty?

Over the course of those many weeks, though, I did go back and forth on the position. One day I was sure, then the next day I wasn’t. One reason it took so long for me was because of a kidney stone I had nine years previous.

The pre-screening involves checking off boxes indicating one’s medical history of both physical and mental health. There’s stuff in there about blood conditions, drug habits, suicidal thoughts, and then the two that I had to check: one about having been in counseling and one about having kidney stones.

And it’s a good thing, this pre-screening process. If you’re out to sea, confined to a floating chunk of technologically-advanced metal with only the same yahoos to interact with for days on end with no contact with the outside world, Navy wants to be sure you’re not going to go postal, or have another kidney stone and be laid up for a few days while the rest of the crew has to pick up your slack.