“Still, I must have faith”. That’s how I ended the last post. Sounds terribly anemic, doesn’t it? Oh, well, at least I should have faith.
“Now faith,” the book of Hebrews says, “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This implies something and it doesn’t imply what we normally mean when the word faith is bandied about.
Faith means something. It’s not a nebulous hope rooted in a vague expectation of future changes. It pushes and prods, evident not when we utter words but when we commit to actions, actions that speak of an already settled expectation that reality may not be fully expressed in the present.
Faith provokes action. Sometimes this action may be a letting go, or a stepping back, done out of patient expectation of God’s work. Sometimes this action may mean decided changes.
Saying there can be only faith means to continue to press on towards God without evidence of his present work, assuming on a deep level his work is moving forward.
There are, however, pseudo-faith expressions which have the appearance of faithfulness but betray an inner lack. The first comes out in the constant dependence on another for faithful confidence. This sort of pseudo-faith is in continual need of reassurance about the promises, and if left alone or isolated falls into a pit of despair. Without the grounding, this pseudo-faith becomes a leech on the community, drawing away rather than contributing. It can, however, look really faithful, as such a faith is almost always extremely religious in expression, seeking to be close to those who seem confident and active in whatever means might reassure their soul. This faith is like a battery that cannot hold a charge.
Another pseudo-faith is a militant sort of faith that seeks assurance by trying to drown out any opposing voice. They want their whole surroundings to be one refrain, and anything that disturbs this refrain must be stifled. This appears faithful because it is so active in the defense of the faith and uses a great deal of moral and Scriptural language to support the action. Only, it has no reserves. Any disturbance shatters the foundation. They have no capacity to overcome inner doubt and so betray a substantial lack of true belief in the God who can and does save.
Then there is the pseudo-faith that tries to philosophize its way out of difficulties, lessening the expectation, lowering the standards, making the promises into allegorical points about emulating important life principles. This is a hard one to clarify, as it uses all the right words, only there is little depth of meaning behind these words.
I don’t need any of these kinds of faiths and they would be a total waste of my time.
What I need to hold onto is the living, palpable, action influencing faith that can weather the storm or the drought.
This is the faith that prompted Peter to step out of the boat, and later to preach on the streets of Jerusalem.
This is the faith I must hold onto, come what may.
Over a year ago I last wrote here. Odd thing that really. I thought I had come to the end. I didn’t, though I did indeed come to the end of my ability to interpret.
Now I write again, documenting in part, the path.
I write now because I think I’ve encountered another wall of being. When I saw a similar wall in 2003 it bounced me around through various directions — flirting with escape, collapsing in mediocrity, attempting to soar through words on a page. Those words opened a door, though not a door towards any measure of palpable success. They opened a door to my discovery I needed space in time and in location. I was drawn to my misplaced self and sought a renewed conversation that engaged my yearnings. For ten years I had followed promise only to find myself at the end of a road without any obvious way of movement onward. The promise led me to a seeming dead end.
Only it wasn’t. The path led, like a mountain stream, under ground for a while, submerging me in and through darkness and quiet and death. Not physical death, to be sure, but certainly a death of my being. The promise throughout remained that of resurrection.
Joseph in the dungeon. David in the caves.
Promises given, overthrown seemingly, but grasped according to the timing of God.
JÃ¼rgen Moltmann talks about the promise of God:
The history which is initiated and determined by promise does not consist in cyclic recurrence, but has a definite trend towards the promised and outstanding fulfillment. This irreversible direction is not determined by the urge of vague forces or by the emergence of laws of its own, but by the word of direction that points us to the free power and the faithfulness of God. It is not evolution, progress and advance that separate time into yesterday and tomorrow, but the word of promise cuts into events and divides reality into on reality which is passing and can be left behind, and another which must be expected and sought. The meaning of past and the meaning of future comes to light in the word of promise.
Israel had clear prophets and leaders who held onto the promise as it came. We have the promise of Christ coming again to deliver us from evil. Yet, what promise can we hold onto today.
This is what I wrestle with because I seek faith. I want to taste faith and live it. But where does my faith settle? I can’t be content with vague philosophical notions. No matter how much I should affirm my pleasant contentment in a nebulous forgiven state I seek palpable realities.
I stepped beyond what was left behind, choosing a reality which echoed of divine whispers. Only the meaning of the future does not now reveal itself, leaving me deaf and dumb and doubting. Not doubting God. That’s behind me. Seriously doubting my capacity to apprehend God. I don’t know where he is in my present reality.
Yet, what do I want? I want assurance. I want validation. I want settledness in at least one aspect of my existence.
That isn’t to be seen or touched or understood now. So I weep for the light of this purported word of promise.
I sought prayer at church today. In the back room where the prayer ladies gather to lay hands on the especial needy. I didn’t get that prayer because the whole time I stood waiting my mind filled with assurances already given, words handed off and prayer said. Not always abundant or common, but powerful and enlightening when they do come. I walked out.
I sought assurance and reminders of things I should, by all faith filled reasonable measure, understand to be true, but for the fact their truth has not caught up with the present reality.
When all the words have been given, the promises told, and the fractured being gutted and rebuilt, what assurance can there be? Only the assurance of a sought satisfaction.
Only to wait. And when exhausted by the wait, to wait yet more, until the time is ripe and all becomes apparent.
I worry I am looking the wrong directions. I worry because prayer bestows no enlightenment.
I should have faith. But in the chaotic quiet of nothingness and barrenness, faith is a bitter reality.
Still, I must have faith. That is all I now know.
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