6. Give Faith A Chance
Several months ago, I shared a letter that I wrote to my adult children during one of the darkest periods of my life. The truth is: I wrote it as much for my benefit as theirs. While, as the concluding paragraph suggests, I very much wanted them to know a little bit more about their dad and my personal faith journey, I mainly wrote it to “remind myself” of the things that I found much easier to accept and believe in a quieter and much healthier time in my life. Obviously, where faith is concerned, I didn’t arrive at the place I am today overnight. It has been a process, but one which, from my perspective, was well worth the effort:
March 5, 2009
Dear Greg and Ashley, I’ve been thinking a lot lately – about life and about faith – and, along the way, I’ve come to realize what may be obvious to many, but was never that clear to me: We go through “phases” in our faith journeys. When we’re very young, faith is just a “tag along” ritual of sorts. We go to church because our parents take (or, more likely, “drag”) us there. We don’t really want to be there, nor do we understand or care much about what goes on there, but, heck, it’s only an hour a week, so we tolerate it – as if we had a choice in the matter . . . we don’t!
As we get older, our perspective on faith changes, but our view of it and of God is still pretty simple and, I dare say, immature. We decide we’re going to give the whole “God thing” a chance, which usually means we’ll put God “to the test” and if He passes (i.e., if He does what we think He should do or what we want Him to do) we’ll “believe.” And so we pray – for things, for outcomes, for desires, etc. More often than not, those “things” don’t turn out the way “they should” and we either “blame” God for it or come to believe that He must not exist or, worse yet, that he doesn’t care about us.
And we grow older still. We enter a period in our lives when the whole “God/religion thing” just isn’t what our friends are “doing.” Many never believed and aren’t about to start, some believed and, in part, for the reasons outlined above, got disillusioned, others, who believe or who are at least entertaining the idea of faith don’t “dare” openly share their faith, their beliefs, their values and/or the desires of their heart with others lest they be viewed as strange. None of this is new – it’s been going on for ages. I know I went through it – and, in many ways, I suppose I still am.
But as we grow up (and, hopefully, grow a little bit wiser), we begin to see things (and God) differently. We have experiences, meet people, encounter challenges and endure heartaches that cause us to wonder about God’s existence and his role in our lives. We hold the prism of our faith, our beliefs, and our “purpose” in this world up to the light and in its many beautiful, but complicated facets we search for meaning and understanding. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately – and I thought I would share some of the conclusions I’ve reached.
I believe God exists, that He created us and that He loves us unconditionally. I believe He is all merciful and forgiving. I do not believe He ever has or ever would abandon us. I believe He entrusted each of us with free will. I believe He welcomes and listens to our prayers. I believe He knows and wants what’s best for us, but would prefer that we take the leading oar in figuring that out for ourselves. I believe that “answered” prayers don’t come without “action” on our part. Simply put, I don’t believe He is a master puppeteer.
I believe God expects us to love and care for ourselves and others. I believe He calls each of us to respect and serve one another. I believe He wants all of us to enjoy a full and fruitful life. I believe He equips each of us with the courage and strength we need to confront and overcome the challenges that we face in our lives. I believe He appreciates our humanity, the fact that we will make mistakes. I believe He is merciful, that He forgives our mistakes and that He longs for us, in turn, to forgive ourselves and others, when we and they make mistakes.
I believe God has blessed each of us with certain gifts. I believe He intended those gifts to be a blessing, rather than a burden. I believe He wants us to spend a lifetime opening those gifts each day. I believe He longs for us to know the joy and excitement that accompanies the exploration and development of those gifts. I believe that He is glorified in the expression of those gifts and our sharing of them with others. I believe that, over time, He brings special people into our lives, sometimes when we least expect them – and need them most.
I’m not sure how much of all these things I “believed” growing up, but I believe them now – at least I try to believe them, every day. Consequently, now when I pray, I don’t pray so much for “outcomes” as I do for gifts of the spirit that will enable me to be faithful to and live my beliefs. I pray for peace of mind and heart, for courage, for strength, for patience, for perseverance, for wisdom, for love, for comfort, for others, for good health, to be a good example.
I try to pray with gratitude in my heart – for the gift of a new day, for the many blessings that have been bestowed on me, for my children, for their health and happiness. My sense is that “a healthy portion” of prayer for those gifts – mixed with a commitment to action and a God who loves me unconditionally and wants me to live a full and happy life – is a sound “recipe” for a fulfilling, albeit at times unpredictable, life’s journey. Just thought I’d share, so that you would know a little bit more about “me” and where my heart is (or at least longs to be).
And, perhaps, so that you will be inspired to give faith a chance (or a second chance, as the case may be) in your own life.