“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Belief and faith are words that tend to be used interchangeably in many religious circles, but I think of them differently. Belief is the holding of a mental proposition to be true. Faith is trusting in something or someone even without proof.
For me, belief comes from the head. Faith comes from the heart.
When I was growing up Southern Baptist, we did not observe the liturgical calendar. In my mind, Lent was one of those strange things Roman Catholics did that seemed to involve lots of eating fish.
I didn’t become aware that there was any more to Lent (or any other season in the liturgical calendar) until I was an adult and chose to become Episcopalian. Perhaps because I came to it as an adult, I have found the observe of the liturgical seasons to be a rich source of meaning. It’s a time to focus on different modes of being in a special way.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” ~Albert Camus
I’ve run across this quote numerous times; the most recent was from a friend who posted it on Twitter with the hashtag #depression. It fits well with my experience of what depression is like.
The simple tasks and activities that most people take for granted as “normal” become tremendously hard work. Whether it’s meeting people for lunch or keeping the house clean or cooking dinner or running errands, these every day activities suddenly seem to take more energy than I have to give.
Now that I’ve heard and accepted my body‘s message, the challenge is finding a way to live into that decision in a way that is respectful to everyone involved, including those who are depending on me. As I think about ways to do this, I keep finding myself pondering an age-old (for me) question about handling seemingly impossible situations: Is it appropriate to just “turn it over to God” (as is so often urged) and wait for God to create a miraculous solution, or is it more appropriate to move into action searching for possible solutions and pray that God works a miracle in the doing?
Those who would urge the former would suggest that it is in the waiting that we demonstrate our trust and that our attempts to take action on our own constitute a lack of trust in God’s ability to act. Those who would urge the latter would suggest that it is in taking action that we put ourselves in the path of God’s movement making ourselves available for whatever plans God may have. And besides, it seems incredibly lazy for me to sit back and do absolutely nothing to attempt to solve a problem that I created and expect someone else to fix it for me.
Today marked the end of both the semester and of my Christmas “doing” for this year. All gifts have been made, purchased, and given (or at least shipped). Cards have been given or mailed. Baking is done. I can now rest.
And as I settled in tonight to rest from the busyness of the last couple of weeks, I had a startling realization: I actually enjoyed my gift giving this year! This probably sounds odd to most people, but gift giving occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) are usually times of intense anxiety and stress for me.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because the world needs people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman
I shared recently about the struggles I’ve been having trying to determine what I’m meant to do with my life and what it is that I have to offer. I received such an outpouring of support and encouragement in response to this, both here on the blog and privately, that it really amazed me. Thank you to all of you who reached out!
I’ve often heard it said that people tend to take their best gifts for granted because those things come so naturally to them. I know this is true in my experience. People have often commented on how organized I am (particularly in a work setting—less so in my personal life), but I tend not to think of that as a strength of mine because it’s not something I work at. It’s just how my brain works.
“It is not judgment that breaks the heart, but mercy and love.” ~Hasidic lore
I came across this quote tonight on Facebook, and it seems to sum up my experience of the day in an unexpected way. It’s been a day filled with blessings—full of mercy of love—that took me completely by surprise. And I’ve been on the verge of tears much of the day.
This didn’t make sense to me until I saw this bit of Hasidic lore, and it clicked.
I have been struggling for many years now with Christianity. I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist family, and because I was deeply interested in religion and faith from a young age, I absorbed much of this belief system without question. As I got older and encountered other ways of viewing the world for the first time, my belief system got badly shaken as I realized that I could not in good conscience defend the beliefs of my childhood with the world as I experienced it.
My Christian faith has a hold on me in a way that no other belief system I have studied has been able to match, but the baggage I carry from my childhood views of Christianity make it difficult to be part of Christianity as it exists in America today for the most part. The discovery of progressive Christianity has helped make it possible for me to work to reclaim my faith in a way that fits my experience of life, but it is still a daily struggle when even the language of Christianity is often so tainted for me.
I have often questioned why I find it so hard to let go of this old baggage, and I think I might have found a clue today that could explain it.
I attended a gathering of a faith community yesterday during which we explored the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Having grown up in the church, this is a story that I know well. The emphasis is normally on the response of the father in the story to the return of the prodigal and the complete forgiveness, acceptance, and joy that is expressed at his homecoming.
There are ways that I can relate to the prodigal son, and I am humbled and grateful anew every time I hear the story at the welcoming response of the father. There is not a single “I told you so,” not a single lecture, no accusations or reminders of mistakes, just an open-hearted and open-armed welcome filled with love and joy.
But the character I have always most related to in the story is the older brother. I have an overly wide streak of the judgmental, self-righteous, play-by-the-rules older brother who believes that acceptance and reward should be based solely on what one earns. I work hard at obeying all of the rules trying to be deserving enough, and it riles me when I see someone who did as they pleased be treated with as much or more reward. I’m not a bit proud of this part of myself, but I know it’s there.