Monday, January 22, 2007

What Are We To Have Faith In?

This is a question that has been rattling around in my soul my whole life. It is an honest, not playful question.

When I was young, I was taught that we were to have faith that Jesus is our Savior. In college, I was taught that we were to have faith that God has a plan and we are to surrender to it. Shortly after college, I was taught that we were to have faith that God could do anything and lead us in a direct sort of way.

A few years back, I learned to have faith in the idea and reality of the Kingdom of God...that it is here-and-now and will become more and more fully here-and-now. Recently, I have thought that we are to have faith in what Jesus spoke of and its truthfulness...believing that he really meant what he said...and that we are called to it. The implications of a faith like this seem to be that we will live as if what we do matters, that we are not to distance ourselves from the life and acts of Jesus, and that perhaps we hold more weight in the equation than we thought.

But I wonder.

Some folks recently gave their own ideas on what it meant to have faith in God...that perhaps he has some grand scheme being worked out, or that he CAN do anything, but won't necessarily do ALL the things we have faith in him to do, or that perhaps we believe that goodness is prevailing in spite of all the evidence.

I just don't know. What do you think we are to have faith in? Lord knows I've tried to have faith in God, people, sacred texts, relationships, ideals, statistics. All of these things seem to fail on some level in my own experience.

I'm looking for real, thoughtful interaction here...not some "Just have faith that God is in control" bullshit. Don't simply tell me something you heard. I want to know you're experience. What do you have faith in?


emma said...

I heard it flipped around once, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head... that God has faith in us.

So, I have faith that God has faith in me. He trusts me. He loves me. And he calls me to live out the transformation in my life by sharing it with everyone I interact with.

Don't know if that comes across as waffely or vague, maybe it does, but thats the best I can put it right now.

renee altson said...

i think i have most of my faith in redemption. the idea that all is renewable, that the frost-bitten flower will one day bloom again, that the compost feeds and nurtures the dirt,and that ultimately nothing is truly unseen or disposable.

love you guys. I honor the difference you are making in this world.

(renee altson)

the nygrens said...

as a pastor on sabbatical, this is an are that i'm wrestling with right now. when you are pastoring, you tell others what to have faith in (eg. everything mentioned above.) but now i find myself in a place of honestly wrestling with what it is that i trust, the original meaning of faith being trust.

for some reason, right now i trust:

that God truly is good;

that somehow there is cosmos in the midst of all that i see as chaos;

that i am made in the image of a creative and redemptive God.

now, how that all plays out in reality is another question indeed.

nir said...

I have faith in God's motives.

I have faith in God's intentions.

I believe in God, not in the abstract way, but in his goodness, in his judgment, in his discernment. I have faith that he believes in me.

Thank you for this blog. I see the name and it encourages me, for it describes exactly how I feel. :)

SB said...

Greetings, Ryan -- Thank you for continuing to stir the pot. I'm not clear on the sense(s) in which these faith perspectives have failed you. Where do you see the failure(s)?

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Thanks for the responses folks.

Scott, I guess when I say "fail" I mean that they all seem to fall short on some level. They don't seem to be able to offer an "all-inclusive" definition...which might be the point.

Still, I feel like there might have been some specific thing to have faith in that is honored...or is it just to have faith at all?

I guess I am merely looking for something to make sense of everything. To have faith in God...what does that even mean? No answer I find can accommodate for all the "exceptions to the rule". Faith in ideals, stats, and texts seem to have everything to do with context. And faith in people and relationships is where I generally place myself time and time again...but they generally fail unless they remain theoretical.

brett said...

but what is faith? really? is it simply trust as justin suggested?
I really have a problem with this lately...not to disagree with you justin or kelley (whichever nygren wrote it) but, i mean, i have to ask myself if i only trust those who are worth something to me...i realize this says a lot about my perspective but i wonder if that is how we tend to reduce all relationships? if someone is not worthy to me do i still trust them?
if i perceive, because of some calamity or something shitty, that god is not trustworthy what do i have faith in?
what is faith in light of being a christian in a consumeristic empire, where all of my desires are just a click away and relationships are reduced to commodity?
i'm sorry if this sounds a little actually is but i have been thinking about this quite a bit lately.
ryan- you are really starting to spook me, this isn't the first time you have voiced something that my synapses are firing on. stop it.

nir said...

"To have faith in God...what does that even mean?"

My faith in God is in him as a person. Just like you might have faith in your wife, or your parents, or your friend. You believe in them, you trust their integrity, you know they mean the best for you. You have faith they will do what they say they will.

It's taken my own forty years in the wilderness to get here. Literally. But I don't consider myself an expert on this at all. If you want to learn about faith, God will send you a teacher. If you find one, listen.

SB said...

This discussion is nudging me Zenward, which is contraindicated for a pastor, I suppose – but what the hell... To me, faith feels like falling backwards. Sometimes that’s a fun sensation, i.e. when I’m reasonably sure somebody will catch me or that I’ll land in something soft. Other times it’s horrifying and sick-making because it’s a very-last resort among dead-end scenarios and it seems too likely that I’m about to twirl into the abyss. Usually, my feelings about faith are somewhere on the grid between those distant coordinates.

Over the past few decades I’ve heard and read many teachings about how our faith has to be founded on absolute ideals, grasped in my cool, clear cognition. On the ground, so to speak, reasoned faith (or maybe “faithed reason”) has proven unhelpful. I suspect this is because it demands the vivisection and partitioning my soul.

Failing is very important. It might be the soul’s iteration of a seed falling to the ground and dying so life can cycle around to newness again. It might be the shit of the soul – the fertile loam of growth and fruitfulness. Failing is probably prerequisite to faith: it forces us to decide whether or not we’ll hope in a barely-imaginable future goodness.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Nir, I am still trying to grasp this metaphor of relationship with God being like relationship with any human. This is something that is really hard for me to wrap my mind around...unless I understand God in people, as opposed to something far away. But that generally leads me back to an unhealthy faith in people. I ask for a teacher and I feel I've been a part of a great many conversations where we've been able to "teach" each other.

Scott, your thoughts on "falling" really get me. I'll have to internalize that.

Also, the notion of compartmentalizing in order to have this "faithed reason" is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that all those things I had faith in "failed" me. Nothing felt consistent or all-encompassing or made accounts for the "exceptions to the rule".

nir said...

I have more trouble having faith in people than in God. People (especially the "church" kind) have failed me too many times. But God never fails.

adam said...

This question in various forms has ruminated in mind throughout my life.

God is good, yes I believe that, but what good is he if I can't relate to Him?

What I draw on is the people in my life, and the collective story we tell. In some cases there have been miracles, in others bleeding hearts trying to understand tragedy. In either case, when honest before God with a soft heart something there brings us back.

In the moments in my life when I've spent long nights on my knees wetting the carpet with my tears there is something that comforts, something that transforms.

I'm on a 8 year quest of asking God for the same two things day in and day out and I can see movement in one area the other still open. Yet I keep coming back trying to have faith, because people I know, myself included testify to his presence and goodness.

When I hear my friends, father, mother, emotionally share the impact of God's love in their life despite all the tragedy I tremble. He must be something "other/holy" to be praised to in light of tragedy.

As of now that is what I put my faith in, not only the God of Abraham and Isaac but of Don, Marilyn, Matt, Shannon, Andrew, Curt, Andy, Mark, Debbie, James, Larry, Bo, Herman, Adam, Steve,,,,,

Let's continue telling our stories and listening to those around us. Lord knows I need the encouragement.


Anonymous said...

read this quote today. enjoy its imagery. thought of this post. passing it along:

"In this sense, faith is a cosmos, a psychological and spiritual space for knowing and experiencing God."
-robert inchausti


Anonymous said...

believe in yourself,
in the power you have to change your life day by day,
believe in your strength and your faith will help show you the way,
believe in tomorrow and what it will bring,
let a hopeful heart carry you through,
for things will work out,
if you trust and believe