The nature of faith
Partial truth - different kinds of belief at the same time - faith is complex -
Faith operates in the praying personality. faith of the heart, faith of the memory, reason, imagination, faith of the allegiance as well as spiritual component. The more that our faith is holistic, integrated, coherent and aligned Godward, the more it will sustain us in compassion and hope.
The praying personality of the group as well as the individual. Where two or three are gathered.
In both cases, faith operates overtly, and covertly. We hold some beliefs that are “out in the open” where we see them and acknowledge them. We can act on them but it might take quite a lot of energy for us to do so. Other beliefs that are covert, hidden, from our own sight. Shadow. We act on these all the time. They emerge from our deep experience and are connected to the foundation of our personality and the source of our energy. Ideally, they are shaped by the same influences as our overt faith. What is open and above the surface is coherent with what is beneath the waterline. But this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, the beliefs we profess may not be the beliefs that actually determine the choices we make.
The beliefs we profess may be formed by faith in a God of love. The beliefs we act upon may be distorted - or even formed - by fear of a God who expects us to be perfect and who judges us, condemns us and punishes us when we are not. Results in expressions of faith that lack conviction or appeal. Or an outward confidence which is subsequently sabotaged by behaviour which is less than attractive.
And then there is a further complication created by the way that faith operates.
- gives us a vision attracted to, sustained by, called to proclaim, gathers us with others for worship, learning, caring, service, proclamation and the pursuit of justice
- motivates us to act as if the vision is true - proof of the pudding is in the eating - express our faith by act on this vision - faith without works is dead
The faith of the Church
To do this, need to re-learn how to have faith.
“Faith” here does not mean the faith (that is, a body of convictions about Jesus Christ) or a faith (in the sense that we might refer to Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism etc. as a faith, or a religion). No, what is needed is a greater understanding of what it means to have faith at all. In anything, or anyone.
What does it mean to believe? To trust? How do we become convinced? What is the value and purpose of believing? How, when and where do we learn how to do it? And what does it make possible? How does believing benefit us? What does faith enable us to do? What difference does it make? How does it work? What do we achieve, by faith, that we cannot achieve otherwise?
Reflection/ struggles with personal confidence. Cannot take it for granted. Work and reflection led me to the conclusion that faith, confidence, conviction is a way of describing that strength of life which enables us to venture, achieve, reach out, extend ourselves, work towards a goal, open our minds, hearts and hands. Root of our creativity, compassion and generosity. It is faith that encourage, equips and enables us. That builds our confidence in ourselves, one another, life, and God. That allows us to become a people of hope, generosity and compassion. That develops our creativity and gives us the courage to take the narrow way. That enables us to endure.
Our ability to have faith is the root from which we grow - in size, in health and in influence.
Faith - belief, trust - is the foundation on which we build, whether we are “building” a career, a relationship, a congregation, a mission, a work of art, a hobby, a campaign or a cathedral.
To conceive an idea at all, we must allow our imagination to work and pay attention what it shows us. We have to sit with our thoughts, play with ideas, mull things over, work something out. To do this, we withdraw our attention from the world around us and enter the labyrinth of our own mind, focusing inward. We extend our awareness into the dark, putting out feelers into a vast, largely unknown territory, parts of which we have never explored, and much of which, we sense, is utterly beyond our reach.
This is scary. In many ways, it is a venture of faith. We cannot be sure what we will find, whether we will know how to deal with it, or if we will find our way back again. May sound daft but fear that we cannot think properly, safely or well - or that it is somehow wrong to think, think certain ways etc. Children told to stop daydreaming. Adolescents told that their thoughts unacceptable. Only permissable within certain limits. This uncertainty is enough to keep some people from thinking at all. All forms of oppression begin when people are discouraged from imagining, considering, elaborating an alternative.
Freedom of speech, assembly, action and movement begin with freedom of thought. Freedom to think the unthinkable. This is also the beginning of compassion, creativity and courage: the ability to think “outside the box”, to imagine ourselves speaking, relating, acting or moving in a manner that is different, unusual, out of the ordinary, against the flow. The freedom to make a fresh beginning, or to take a new direction begins with our ability to see ourselves doing so.
Our reward is an idea produced by this process. And if all we are doing is daydreaming, it may be that the idea itself is enough to keep us entertained. However, in most situations, we need ideas that can be put to work. We need ideas that can be applied to some practical purpose. Write a list, letter, compose an essay, a poem, a song or story. Reckon up our accounts. Plan an outing, a holiday, a mission, a programme. Think for a reason. Create something. Make something happen.
And to put our ideas to work, we have to take them seriously. We have to act as if the idea is valid, even if we are not sure it will “work”. be effective. Be relevant. Match the circumstances or the need. We have to act as if what we have “seen” or imagined is real.
So from the beginning, Thinking differently requires imagination and trust. To allow ourselves to think new, difficult or daring thoughts, we have to trust - ourselves, our imagination, reason, memory, mind. Feel reasonable capable of putting the ideas into practice and dealing with the consequences.
Thinking differently is an act of faith, made possible by our ability to imagine, to envisage an alternative, to “see” where we might go, how we might act, how an idea might work. We can only act in faith to the extent that we have vision.