Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Faith - Repost

Another old essay. November 24, 2004 -- Catherine

I spent most of yesterday frittering away my time. I read internet forums I don't particularly like; I played video games I didn't particularly care about. Addiction to the internet is one thing, a constant problem of mine (though I think it's now in remission), but this wasn't it. This was rather a dull wasting of time. A bit of clay, an old science fiction book, a square piece of paper would have served just as well.

This despite the fact that I had a lot to do. I have a husband to take care of--and we barely talked. I have a Sunday School class to prepare for, and I barely looked at my material. I have things to study, a house to clean, things to research, things to write--and these are things I love to do! And yet for a few hours, I decided they didn't matter as much as enchanting my silver dragon scale mail that last notch.

I love my husband, and I know he loves me. I love to spend time with him--much more than I love gaming or even research. I love to serve God, and I have so many projects in the works for the building up of the church--I love that so much more than I love debating, or writing, or killing dragons. I love God himself--so much more than anything else. So why do I do what I do?

If I believe in God, why do I not speak to him? Do I think it doesn't matter? Do I think that because I can't see him, he doesn't care?

If I believe in God, why can't I remember how important it is to build the church? Why do I blow it off for wasting time?

If I believe in God, why do I sometimes casually--knowingly!--disobey him? Do I think he doesn't see? Do I think it doesn't matter?

Jesus said, "remain in me and you will bear much fruit" and "apart from me, you can do nothing." I know and believe this--wholeheartedly. I trust what Jesus said, I have seen it at work in my life, I know this principle backwards and forwards. But if that is so, why don't I take his advice? Why do I visit, but never abide?

The common theme here is that I have no discipline. That's true. That's something you exercise, and I need to hit the spiritual gym. Equally true--and a connected issue, as these spiritual issues so often are--is that I have no faith.

Faith is two things, but they are really both the same. Faith is believing in something firmly enough that you act on it--the more you are willing to act on it, the more you will risk on that belief, the greater your faith in it. I have faith that the floor will support me when I stand on it. Faith is also believing in something even when you can't see it. I have faith that my husband is at school right now, even though all I really know is that he left the house and will return in a few hours. These are the same--the faith in the latter case is the trusting something you already believe to remain true when you can't watch it. I believe my husband goes to school because I have seen him do it so many times in the past, and I know him and what he is up to. I believe it so soundly that I no longer need to see it--faith provides the evidence for the continued belief.

To believe something and yet act as though it isn't true is a lack of faith. This seems to be my malady. This is no intellectual, evidential struggle--as though I were wondering if God is there or not. In my sane moments, I know he is. Rather, this is a spiritual struggle--sometimes I do not trust what I believe. I am like the disciples in the boat, who had seen Jesus feed 5,000 people from nothing. They believed that he could provide for them--they had seen it with their own eyes!--but still they wondered where they would get bread. I believe in God; I lack faith.

But here's a secret about faith: If you have a little, it grows. You must have something to start with--the soul-deep doubt of the Pharisee and the skeptic gives nothing to work on--but a little bit grows. You have to nurture it, you have to exercise it, but it certainly responds to encouragement. Like discipline and like a conscience, it is something you can exercise or abuse--and so cause to grow or wither. But discipline is more like a muscle, something you exercise every day; faith is more like love, or like a fire--something you nurture and provide for, and it grows with a life of its own. Faith and obedience reinforce each other; so do doubt and disobedience. The old hymn got it right--Trust and Obey.

You only have what you have, to start with. But it's up to you--it's up to me--whether we'll use it. And thus the command: Have faith!

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