January 18, 2010

Faith by living...

No, I didn't just get the song lyrics backwards.

But for the last several days, I've had the beginnings of a serious thought nagging at the back of my mind. I don't like that... it makes me feel more intellectual than I am comfortable with thinking of myself as. So I was thinking I might start writing about it here and hopefully it will either become a more coherent thought or go away and leave me alone.

Over the last week or so, I've been thinking a lot about fath... specifically faith in God. I've heard a lot of people discussing how much faith they do or don't have, faith they got from their parents, faith they found for themselves later in life, increasing faith, diminishing faith... all over the spectrum.

Inherited faith concerns me. Yes, I know a lot of people say they learned their faith from their parents, and I guess it's great if you can do it that way. But at some point it has to become your own faith and not your parents' faith, or it won't stay with you. I know in my own personal case what I had up until I was about 25 was "my parents' faith", and right around February of '08 it just wasn't enough anymore and for a couple of months I had "no faith". That caused me to have to ask myself a lot of difficult questions... what did I believe in? I know the song is about "living by faith", but that only works if you have faith to begin with. After a lot of soul-searching, reading and experimentation with a couple of other things I came to the conclusion that the faith handed to me by my parents was the right one after all, but I just had to make it mine somehow, not theirs.

My faith may not look the same as your faith or even my parents' faith, but I don't think it's any less correct. Some of you may remember back in the days of my old MySpace blog I had a little mind-dump one day about my idea of God. For those of you who missed it, I don't think of God as the bearded, gray-haired, grandfatherly figure that you always see him portrayed as when people bother to try to draw him. I don't see God as that stern, unibrowed figure who peers down at us from the heavens shaking his finger at us and saying, "Don't you dare do that!"

Nope... my vision of God is a bit different. I see God more as kind of a middle-aged suburban dad (usually I picture him in a t-shirt, jeans and sunglasses), standing out in the backyard watching his kids play and invariably get into trouble and shaking his head and saying with infinite love and patience, "What on earth am I going to do with you kids? Didn't I already warn you that was going to hurt if you tried it?" But God, in his infinite wisdom, realizes that we learn better from making our own mistakes and thus has given us the freedom to make them rather than just chaining us to the wall so that we behave ourselves. (Though I'm sure God, like most parents, occasionally wishes tying the kids to a chair with duct tape were an option.)

But once I had established that I still believed there was a God and he had a certain way he preferred things done, there was the challenge of doing it. At that point, I was at one of the lower lows (though not the lowest low) of my adult life... I had just gotten divorced, I was living in a falling-apart house with no heat, I had no money, and those were just the obvious issues. So I decided to try an experiment... I picked a minor problem in my life and said, "Okay God... I'm going to do as much as I can to take care of this problem, and I'm going to give the rest of it to you to handle." And in my mind, God said okay. And nobody was more shocked than me when things started changing. So I found another larger problem and said, "Same deal, God... can you handle this one?" I was pretty sure he said he thought it would be cake, and of course he would think that, being God and all. But sure enough, that problem started getting better too.

Over the nearly two years since then, I have been acquiring more faith by living... not living by faith so much. Faith by living. Faith by seeing what God can do with my broken life when I decide to let go and entrust him with the pieces. Faith by seeing my life go from being pretty much a trainwreck two years ago to the point now where I write blog entries like the one previous to this one (see: "Can't complain"). And my faith is still far from perfect, I assure you... I am stubborn and there are still some things I don't want to let go of. My faith is probably in its toddler stages, if it were a human child. I can walk, even run, but I still fall down pretty often, and sometimes I insist that things are MINE! and I frequently get distracted by shiny/colorful objects. God still loves me, though, and when I do something dumb while out playing in the yard with the other kids and get hurt, he reminds me that he warned me about that and he hopes I've learned my lesson. Sometimes I have and sometimes I haven't, but he doesn't love me any less.

I guess I'm still not sure what my original point was, other than don't be afraid to find your own faith. That doesn't mean I won't try to teach my faith to my son, but I still hope that someday he will test it and make it his own rather than just accepting what I give him without question. And with that thought, I leave you with a little picture I threw together just in case anyone was curious....

Song o' the Day: "Almost Easy" by Avenged Sevenfold.

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