When I was a teenager, I told a small group of girls a secret that ended up getting out. At the time it was earth-shattering because the secret was who I had a crush on. I was absolutely convinced that I knew who “told” and I was so angry at her. I came home ranting about it and my Dad said something that has always stuck with me – you don’t know it was her, and it’s probably the person you least expect.

Sometimes what we think is all wrong.

I’ve been thinking about this line all summer. At home. At work. As a mom. As a reader. As a voter. As a processor of data and information. As a girl. As a friend. As a consumer. As a Christian.

The earth is flat. Nope, turns out the earth is round.

At midnight on December 31, 1999, all computers will stop working! Wrong again, and much of the world drank champagne or slept through the big nothing that happened.

How about the beliefs (irrational fears) of southern parents in the 1980s? Kids wearing all black was a sign of something bad and hanging with the wrong crowd, maybe playing Dungeons and Dragons. Madonna, MTV and Garbage Pail Kids would all lead to sex or drugs or evil or all of the above. Our marriage to the idea that things that look and feel different are evil means we don’t easily recognize evil when it shows up wealthy and wearing a suit – presidents, justices, financiers. Or perhaps I just watched too much of the Smurfs and they made me a crazy communist.

Why are we so tied to beliefs and someone else’s talking points that we’ve never really thought about or researched ourselves, while at the same time dependent on others to make progress by constantly questioning and learning? When we or someone we love gets a diagnosis, at least in part we look to medicine – filled with curious and constantly researching people who’ve asked themselves some version of what if what I think is all wrong? over and over and over again.

Why don’t we apply our belief that constant learning is good in one area to all areas of our lives? Is it that we’re afraid to admit we were wrong? Is it that we’re afraid to upset God?

When Ella was 5-ish, she came home from Sunday School questioning the teaching. Mommy, people don’t get swallowed by whales and live. I was horrified, and I’m also pretty sure I emphatically said we should not say those kinds of things while at Sunday School. When I anxiously talked to Pastor Chuck about how to talk to her about it and what to do, he laughed and wasn’t worried at all. Another way to look at it, he said, is that Ella is always going to know exactly what she believes and why, because she is really going to think about it – and that meant she would be able to explain it to others with something better than the likes of that’s what so-and-so taught me or that’s how I was raised.

I’ve always struggled with a feeling that it’s wrong to have doubts. That it’s wrong to question. Especially as it relates to God and faith. But how can we really know what we think unless we consider all angles? How can we really know what we think unless we read the Bible for ourselves and ask ourselves what if what I think is all wrong?

The more I think about it, the more I think there is nothing to fear on that path except that we may have to admit that we were wrong at some point.

What if I am operating out of fear, and giving the girls space to make some of their own decisions is the best way for them to learn?

What would I do differently if this process had 10 people instead of 5, or if the 5 had a better computer or program?

What if the dress that I think is a little too short for Ella makes her feel great about herself and is the boost she needs during a tough week?

What in the Bible definitively tells me God cares about health care? About women preaching? About abortion? And have I read it myself along with the content surrounding it so I have context?

Maybe instead of being wary of people who have changed what they think or who aren’t sure what they think, we should be wary of the people who are afraid to question or admit they have questions. More than halfway though this life, perhaps it’s more of a red flag if someone hasn’t had an experience that changed them and how they think. We’re not supposed to never be wrong; we’re supposed to do better when we know better.

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