A seed of Faith
You know that moment where you hear something, and it just reaches in and clutches your heart and won’t let go. More than likely, you have heard the nugget of wisdom before. But for some reason this time it burrowed in a little deeper. For me last week, the messenger happened to be a man in the throes of battling stage 4 melanoma. He actually laughed when he said it, “Take it from me, it’s best you had a faith before you need it.”
Intellectually, the statement makes logical sense. We get the measles vaccination so that when there is an outbreak, we are covered. But what is faith exactly?
Most of us are spiritual knuckleheads, but we know instinctively that we need something to buoy us when life takes us down at the knees.
Faith is not something that one can wrap up in a pretty bow and store it away until the “right” time comes to bring it out. A theology degree hardly gives you an edge up. Neither does impeccable church attendance, an astronomical number of Holy Mary’s, or even having read the Bible through from start to finish (and that includes all those fun ones like Leviticus). Now don’t get me wrong. I like to think of participation in worship, prayer, service, and reading the Psalms like the flying buttresses on the gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame: They support some of the weight of being human. But authentic faith cannot be pinpointed, categorized, checked off on a list, measured against someone else’s experience, or even seen by the human eyes.
The kind of faith I’m seeking is crazy private, both subtle and profound, and saturates the entire being. It’s an intimacy that cannot be had with anyone—but the One. It’s an ongoing dialogue that can begin, stop for whatever reason, and then with such ease (and no judgement) begin again. Let’s be honest, there are things on our hearts that should only be heard by supernatural ears.
Are you scratching your head? Trust me, most days my faith is remedial at best. Thank God we have a lifetime to work into this authentic and mysterious experience. The spiritual aim is to cultivate something outside while at the same time deeply inside our earthly experience.
We begin with a mustard seed that one day might surprise us as a mighty tree—-With a special view to the heavens.
Faith, at its simplest, is a state of being wholly convinced that the Divine is—–smack dab in the middle of your life, as close as your breath and as near as your heartbeat. Faith is a certainty that you are never alone and that Something wildly mysterious, percolating with hope, and bent on redemption has your back! Faith is that thing that gets one foot moving in front of the other when everything else tells you to stop in place. Faith is that last ditch effort to lean into the light. Faith explains that crazy, ridiculous peace that washes over you when you should be completely and totally mad.
Faith is nothing short of a miracle, and I certainly agree with what the man said, “It’s best you get a faith before you need it,” but I would also add that faith is meant to be more than just a life-preserver. It actually enriches the human experience and gives our lives meaning beyond the flesh and bone.
This week commences the holy season of Lent. The weeks leading up to Easter offer an opportunity to check in on that mustard seed. Some fast, give up earthly distractions, or take-on something that might enhance their spiritual life. I would like to offer you a prayer written in the 15th century by Saint Ignatius Loyola. Ignatius’s Examen is a beautiful way of noticing both the grand and subtle ways that God is at work in our lives.
St. Igantius’s “Examination of Consciousness”
1. Ask God to be with you.
2. Review the events of your day for which you are grateful.
3. Notice the places where you were certain of God’s presence. Then, acknowledge the people, the places, the exchanges where you were too busy, too earth bound, and too self-consumed to see God at work.
4. Ask for forgiveness for where you missed the mark with God, your family, friends, strangers, and yourself.
5. Ask God to show up again tomorrow. Commit your mind, body, and soul to being more aware of God’s presence in your life.
For St. Ignatius the life of faith was simple: Find God in all things.
Live in Hope,