What if we got it wrong?

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Faith is a loaded term.

Brands demand faith. Politicians demand faith. Schools, teams, clubs.  Watch a college football game with 100,000 kids in the stands all wearing the same color and you’ll see faith in action.

The broad idea is commitment and conviction.  The broad idea is expectation that something will happen even without evidence (“blind faith”). Look through history and you’ll find moments of faith for good and evil, movements that changed lives and eliminated lives.  Faith is power.

And we’ve screwed it up.

Faith is hard.  Faith is not the belief that something will happen even without evidence. Faith is not pulling the lever of the slot machine in the sky. It is not the stoplight we made in Sunday School about How Prayer is Answered with stop, wait, and go.

Faith is not a request. Faith is not a transaction.  Faith is not conditional.

The night of the storm, Jesus calls Peter out onto the water. There’s wind and rain, waves and noise.  There’s a boat full of his peers and a man that looks like a ghost standing off in the distance.  Peter slings his leg over the side of the boat and takes a step.  We read he takes more than one before literally taking his eyes off Jesus.  At that point, he sinks.

Let’s dig deeper.

1-Faith requires the storm. Jesus tells us we will have trouble. Go through history, page through the Bible and do a quick Google search on martyrs.  No one who follows Jesus is immune.  There’s a reason for communities of faith.  They exist as support systems.  Life is ugly. More hands help to provide strength and comfort in the dark nights.

2-Faith is daily action. You can, and you will, have moments of distance. Jonah found himself in the depths, David in the desert. There is nothing about faith that is once and done. It takes effort and time, a choice every day to hear the still, small voice of the divine.

3-Faith is loss. Imagine the early church, the ones who had seen Jesus had to face his death.  The ones later had to go off of writing and witness accounts.  Faith is how we deal with the hole in our heart waiting to be filled with something. We will all become orphans one day. We will face the passing of time.  Faith is the intersection between loss, grief, and the sun rising. Baptism symbolizes death for this reason, it is a concept not far from the minds of every believer and a reminder of so much more.

So, if we’ve watered it down and compressed it, what actually is faith?  Beyond the car magnates, bumper stickers, conferences and political movements.  What does it mean to believe?

What if it has nothing to do with belief?

There is a divine story. There is meaning and purpose, influence and grace.  There is hope in helping and healing in sacrifice. Faith is tapping into the undercurrent.

Faith is a willingness to let go.

Faith is the point where you break through the weight of this world and feel the supernatural.  It is the moment of intoxicating joy and unending grace.

It is the laughter of your child, the sunset over the ocean, the red hue of a rose. Faith is the beauty of creation.

Faith is an invitation to be a part of something more. Faith is a journey. Faith is humility. Faith is knowing that you are meant for something more.

Faith is a state of cognitive readiness, of acting and living the circumstances you are called to embrace.

This has existed from the moment the universe breathed into existence.  Faith kept the stars in the sky, filled the oceans and pushed the winds across the desert.

It has nothing to do with right and wrong, with division and “teams”.  Faith does not place you against someone else. It hopes in bigger, better, and greater things. Faith is not a place of privilege or superiority.

Faith does not make you better than anyone else.

As Paul said, faith shows you your failings, holding up a mirror to the past to help you be thankful for the present and inspired for the future.

This faith can change the world.  This faith opens blind eyes.  This faith feeds the hungry, provides for those in need, and opens hearts.  This faith reflects Jesus and our calling to follow.

This faith gets us off the boat and, when we sink, it picks us up again to keep walking in the storm.

 

Fear

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On Sunday we went as a family to the movies to see Spiderman: Far From Home. It did an excellent job addressing the navigation of Tom Holland’s Spiderman with his normal life on a class trip to Europe.  He is drawn into a conflict that has ramifications when Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio forces him to face down illusions and embrace who he is.

We see Holland’s character juggle both lives, often denying his responsibility to save the world until he can deny it no longer. He tells Zendaya’s Mary Jane Watson that he is actually Spiderman and they come to an understanding with a new level of relationship.

Fear is the bottom line of the movie. Mysterio is angry with not getting credit for his work.  He’s willing to damage property and take lives to be the hero and get recognition and is done being passed over. Holland’s character doesn’t feel worthy to step up and embrace his abilities. He says, more than once, he just wants a normal life.  He wants to return to his class trip and his love interest. We hear that his spider sense is not working right and, when he finally trusts it and himself again, he saves the world.

It is easier to doubt ourselves.  It is easier to sit in our darkness and not take a risk.  It is way easier to not move forward. It is easier to get hung up in injustice and take out our resentment on those around us (see every recent superhero movie).

I’ve written before on here how our son Carter deals with anxiety.  He worries about small and large things.  The small things grow and linger.  If he’s resting, he’ll eventually need to get up and move around.  The idle mind creates demons.

The hard concept to reconcile is this: you need to do it yourself.

I grew up believing that if I was good enough, good things would happen and all would work out. I grew up optimistic in the infallibility of people, that they were genuinely good and had my best interests at heart.  I believed relationships were forever, family never changed and time would turn into some continuous Hallmark movie. In the Third Act, conflicts would resolve and peace would descend across the land.

The truth is, moments of peace are fleeting. People are imperfect. Family changes. Relationships, without effort, will wither on the vine. Conflict is reality. Disappointments happen in our human imperfections. There is no guaranteed break, no assured down time.

There is no finish line.

There is only a start and it depends on you, the ball of mess that makes up your identity.  Every memory, every moment, every good and bad word ever exchanged.  The dreams and nightmares, the power and the glory. Every instant you bowed your head and felt defeat. The joy of small and large victories.

The noise and crashing waves combine to make your soul unique. The abstract painting of divine destiny is more massive than you can imagine. It waits for the first step.

A step only you can take. Alone. In the still, small moments of silence.

The first time you pick your head up, put down the addiction, send the text message or make the phone call.  The handshake, the job application, the new business website.  The hug of a child. Facing your past and putting it to the fire to be burnt as fuel, an ignition. The first time you feel how deep the scars run and you understand.

For faith is a connection, a shaft of light in the darkness, an understanding.  It is conviction.  And conviction has more than one meaning.

Conviction knows guilt and that, with time, it will fade. It understands that dreams bigger and wider than you could image await you on the other side.

Until then, keep fighting.