“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
When I was young, this was my image of faith. Faith was the ability to believe in impossible things. Faith was something you had to will yourself to do and was actually necessary for salvation. The less the evidence, the greater the faith. The less logical the belief (God killed Jesus for your sins), the greater the faith. I never understood this relationship. I never understood why God would require us to believe certain things in order to save us, particularly when He could clearly just show us. The people of the biblical times didn’t have to do this. What Paul did was nothing. Believing in Jesus after being blinded by a white light on the road to Damascus and hearing Jesus voice booming down from the sky? That’s easy. That’s not “faith”. I”m not impressed that you converted Paul.
Marcus Borg solved this mystery for me. Faith isn’t about believing impossible things. God doesn’t care if you take the Bible stories literally. In fact they make more sense if you don’t take them literally and you don’t get all tripped on the “How did this happen?” or “Why only in this instance?” Faith is a deep abiding trust. Faith (pistis in the Greek) is trusting that all will be well, that the Universe/God/Spirit has your best interests at heart. Faith is resting, it’s not exhausting.
Yesterday I wrote that I do something every day to bolster my faith. I realize that can come across as if I’m trying to force myself to believe impossible things. It’s absolutely not. I was listening to a Podcast a few weeks ago where a guy was proposing that religious mythology is more than just allegory and expresses deep real truths and the interviewer asked basically whether he just believed in this stuff because it made it easier to sleep at night. The problem that people like me, truth seekers, have is in order to have faith, we have to believe that what we believe is true. It’s not enough to just tell me a story, I have to have some reason to believe it. When I say I am bolstering my faith, I’m bolstering it through evidence. Hebrews 11:1 says “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Some have taken this to mean the less we actually see, the greater our “faith” (because we’re believing what we can’t see) and God will honor that all the more. I don’t see it that way. The more I see. The more I know, the greater my faith, the greater my confidence in what I haven’t yet seen.
There was a time I had a debilitating fear of death, a fear of God. It was so bad I wished I had never been born. I went off on a relentless search for what is true. My faith wasn’t strong enough to sustain me. I had no trust, no confidence. And this trip has been scary at times. There were times I thought I would lose it all- all of my belief. And there are many things I have let go of, but each time my faith, my confidence as actually gotten stronger. It’s strong enough now that I know as well I as I know I’m sitting here, who I am and where I’m going. I’m not believing in impossible things. I’m putting my trust in where the evidence has led me- that, for me, is faith.