I’ve had a busy but wonderful weekend. The retreat on faith and science was fantastic! A lot to absorb, a lot to think and pray about. Of course, I will try to share some of what I have learned and pondered.
One thing we discussed at the retreat is the nature of faith: that it is an act of trust and steadfastness. One phrase I wrote down and that has really stuck with me is: “Faith is the habit of trusting God.” I think that came from St. Thomas Aquinas.
Faith is the habit of trusting God. I have to say, this makes me a bit uncomfortable. To tell you the truth, it makes me seriously question just how much faith I’ve got. Looking back over the last couple of months, I see a pattern of me not trusting in God. It’s something I’ve have to bring up with my confessor a few times.
Oh, I know God is good. I know God is generous. I know God has saved my skin (and my soul) more times than I can remember. I know God is trustworthy and constant. I know, I know, I know. I believe in God’s goodness and generosity. I believe that He will not cease to save me, provide for me, be good and generous to me. I believe, I believe, I believe.
And yet… I still have the awful habit of worrying that my life is just going to be a huge disaster and I’m never going to be happy. I still have the awful habit of demanding that God prove to me His goodness and love… usually by demanding that He do what I want Him to do, give me what I want Him to give me–and do it now because I’m tired of waiting!
Where is the trust? Where is the steadfastness? Where is the good habit? In short–where is the faith?
As if I weren’t already being haunted by these questions, our parish priest (who is also my confessor), gave his homily this morning on pretty much the exact same topic: faith as trust. I got that sinking “This is not a coincidence” feeling deep in my gut. That unnerving “Here we go again, the Holy Spirit is not going to let me go until He’s thoroughly banged this into my head!” feeling.
I felt like Father was speaking directly to me this morning when he said that faith is much more than just checking off the list of beliefs you assent to. Rather, it is based on steadfast trust, on a strong personal relationship with God that perseveres even in the times when we don’t understand, even when we feel doubt. Faith pushes us beyond the comfortable things we think we know about God and draws us into the mystery of who He really is. It draws us into the “hard sayings,” such as that He gives us His flesh to feed, indeed to gnaw, upon. And at that point, we, like the original disciples, have to make a choice: do we stay with Him or do we leave?
I realized that lately, in my life, I’ve come to a point where I don’t know what God is doing. I don’t know what He’s got in the works. I can’t see, and I don’t understand. Doubt, frustration, and impatience creep in. And I make the wrong choice. I choose to go my own way. I choose to walk away.
It’s not a permanent choice, obviously. Something brings me to repentance. Something opens my eyes and makes me say, “Oh Lord, what have I done?” I think that something is the personal relationship I have formed with God so far. It’s remembering that His love and goodness are real, that they are not just a list of things I believe. They are the fabric of my life and who I am. They have been proven over and over, without my demanding it. There is something more there.
I am not without faith (thank God). It just needs to grow. I need to let it grow. If I can’t see things clearly now, as is bound to happen, I don’t have to bang my own head against it–nothing is more futile than that. Rather, I can take that opportunity to look back on all that God has done for me and given to me. In fact, this was my confessor’s advice on a recent occasion: stop and look back to where you have been. See the ways in which God has led you and provided for you, and see how you have received and responded–or not. Get your bearing so that you can stay the course.
This also relates to some things Father Powell told us. That faith is a gift from God, among countless other gifts He gives us. God’s giving is a given. The question is: Do we receive? Do we receive with gratitude? So, gratitude is an important piece of the puzzle also. What other reaction can we have when we realize just how good God has been to us? Does not gratitude engender trust?
So, you can see, even beyond the retreat, I have lots to think and pray about. Lots to learn and lots to overcome. And I’m sure the Holy Spirit will bang me on the head as much as needed. But as always, that is a good thing. Sometimes we need our walls torn down, and our foundations built up.
[UPDATE 1] Oh, and this section from today’s Evening Prayer scripture passage (1 Peter 1:3-7) struck out at me as one more bang on the head:
You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that you faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.
[UPDATE 2] And then I found this quotation over at Exultet:
“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”
I think this advice may resonate with me most of all. Leave it to good ol’ G.K.! :D