Personal Stories, Shattered Faith — February 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Certainty Kills Relationships


Certainty. There’s not a whole lot of that in our lives. Our struggle with certainty—or more specifically, the lack of it—shapes us, especially within relationships.

I once heard Greg Boyd preach on Mark Chapter 2 and faith. He examined the struggle Christians often experience when trying to be committed people and live out our faith. We create a sort of “faith-odometer”: a way of measuring our current and future success.

The problem with this is that we never quite know what we are supposed to be doing and how we are supposed to be acting. Do we pray enough? Do we serve enough? Do we behave in the right way? And that doesn’t even touch the surface of all the other doubts we are having about the inerrancy of scripture, universalism or theology and culture.

This lack of certainty also affects our everyday relationships. It pops up in the day-to-day stresses of work. How do I keep my job in these hard economic times? What if I do more reports? What if I stay later? What if I join more committees? And these questions doesn’t even scratch the surface of the deeper issues you might have about the senior-level administration, the decisions they are making, how money is being spent, the face of the company and how it is being represented.

And what about dating relationships? Do I call enough? Do I make interesting enough conversation? Should I kiss him? Should I sleep with her? And what about the deeper questions of how compatible we are? Could I imagine a future with this person? Will they be faithful? Will I be faithful?

Back to Boyd’s sermon: He pointed out that that relationships are already in trouble when you start asking yourself questions pertaining to certainty and trust. Basic questions, doubts and struggles are fine; we are all going to have them. But every relationship starts with the foundation of “is this a person, or company, or even God, I can trust and commit myself to?” If so, do it! Commit. Then your questions and struggles will come out of the context of a relationship rather than being the pretext of whether you can be in one or not.

Maybe Boyd’s idea breaks down a bit here. For example, most people wouldn’t work for a company that exploits children, at least not knowingly; it’s simply not something they would want to commit to and then struggle with as they continue to explore their role.

That being said, within the context of most relationships, I’m beginning to think that the key element many look for and struggle to find is certainty. It’s just hard to commit first, saving those pesky lingering questions and doubts for later.

Maybe we’ve just convinced ourselves that we deserve immediate gratification. We expect our relationships to look like those of our parents (or, if they are a train wreck, someone else who we admire). We want the high paying job, but we forget that those before us started at the bottom and worked their way up for 40 years. We want the life-long loving marriage, but we forget that our role models started out with uncertainties and put decades of effort into their relationship, building that trust and faith.

There are very few certainties in life. Sometimes you’ve just got to jump in with wanton disregard for certainty, and instead, just take a risk. It’s often through this kind of struggle and risk-taking that we discover the most rewarding relationships.

1 Comment

  • Julia, I like this a lot. There is a risk, but if we wait for certainty we will find that it will never come. Commitment is a wonderful adventure of growing and learning in relationship.

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