Some days, being a spiritual person of any stripe requires just as much imagination as it does what we call “faith,” that very elusive creature.
How can it be that in a thinking, intelligent world, folks would put such heavy faith in fairy tales, legends, and unprovable folklore?
Because people need that. We need a break from pure facts and hard numbers. We need to believe, as a part of our creative selves. If we can only rely on the things we know, then our arsenal is always limited to as much factual knowledge as we have. If we rest our brains in what is possible, the horizon becomes infinite.
You mean to tell me that it really took some guy in a beard up in the sky only six days to create the entire cosmos? In 144 hours? And that a prophet was swallowed alive by a giant fish and came out alive, that three men were thrown into a smoking furnace and emerged untouched by the heat, and that a man died and three days later, he walked out of his tomb, alive?
I mean to tell you about the world of possibilities around us and not just the numbers of probability. The decision is yours what to believe, what to follow, and even what to understand. My beliefs are not any better than yours, and more importantly – what you believe is not strong enough or callus enough or scary enough to move me from mine. Even if what you believe is as simple as “the sun will rise tomorrow,” that is to be understood and respected. People are not harmed by a sunrise. Folks do not gain power over other folks by the sun coming up in the morning. On paper, that sunrise thing sounds ok to me.
Even if I believe with all my mind and with all my heart and with all my soul that tomorrow will be the darkest night we have ever seen. I can listen to and imagine your belief about a loyal sun. I can wonder what it must feel like to have that warm light on my face. And I expect you to also imagine what a next day of endless darkness would be for me. I will not try to convince you what a fool you must be for thinking it won’t be forever dark, and you will not testify to me that sunrise is the only way it’s going to be.
That silly example is about what it means to have a faith of imagination. To have such a faith is to “put yourself in another person’s shoes” even if for a second. Try to understand their positives, and try to see clearly and without wild reactions the negatives. Listen and understand.
Even with math and geometry we need the imaginative mind to see – to conceptualize – the vision behind the structure. And so it is with believing, likewise how it is with Faith.
Faith by definition is a belief that is not based on proof. Faith may live outside of the capability to prove (“God created the world in six days.” I can’t tell you for sure because I wasn’t there.) Faith may also live in the place in our lives before there is proof. (“God is.“) I respect both, as should you.
What Faith is not is a weapon of power. It is not a lesson to teach us that by believing a thing to be true to us (by faith), then we have power over others, that others are lower, less-kind, more sinful, more damned than we are. The western Christians have a great line for this one, if they have the ears to hear:
“…for all alike have sinned, and all consciously come short of the glory of God,”
- Romans 3:23 (Weymouth New Testament)
All people have come up short. Even the good ones. And the smart ones. And the ones we see as damaged goods.
So damaged, as it turns out, that within them, we see a small reflection of ourselves.
It’s tough to do in these days and times to not feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise up when someone speaks to you publicly of their faith. My brain stops listening to them as I start trying to figure out if this person is going to tell me something new and interesting and imaginative, or if they are just another religious whack job trying to “convince” me of what they have that I don’t have, and what I have to do to get it.
Listen with imagination. Open yourself to hear what they have to say first before automatically throwing all people of faith into the “crackpot” bin. Maybe they have something – even if it’s only one word – that you should be hearing today.
Keep the faith!
who surpass everything we can imagine,
We worship you.
You are not far away,
but very close to us.
You heal our unfaithfulness.
knows no change