Have I lost my faith? Sometimes I think I have. The faith that I now profess is most assuredly not the faith of my boyhood. That faith was all about novenas and scapulars and Father Stedman’s Sunday Missal in Latin and in English. It was centered on “making” the nine First Fridays and the five first Saturdays, on Fr. Peyton’s family rosary and the stations of the cross, and giving up candy during lent.
My faith journey has been influenced strongly by organized religion.Yet,it is precisely those flawed religious institutions that make faith difficult for me. So much of the stuff I learned as a kid (most of it still taught by the official church,) no longer connects with me. Churches sometimes serve to drive away the very persons who are more disposed to believe.
Original sin, Jesus redeeming us from out sinful nature by his life, death and resurrection, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, so many of the dogmas of the Catholic Church, are but myths to me, beautiful myths, some embodying timeless truths but not to be taken literally.
Yet, while the faith that informed my childhood no longer guides my path, my belief in God perdures. My life experience, my reading, my own maturation as a human being all have combined to produce within me a different way of seeing faith.
God has always been and still remains in my consciousness, the God of love, love itself. Whatever intellectual difficulties I have had (What a mismatch, my puny brain trying to understand the nature of God) I never doubted his existence. I see His presence in the redwoods and in a dragonfly, in the most obscure anthill and in the immensity of the Milky Way. With the poet, I see the world “charged with the presence of God.”
So if God is so alive in me, what exactly is it that I have “lost?” Why do I still search for that elusive thing called faith? Kathleen Norris talks about finding faith in the very act of “wanting to believe.” In wanting to believe, I am already a believer. Maybe, but that logic sounds a little dubious to me.
There are times in my life when I’ve had the nagging suspicion that atheists are right. God didn’t create us; we created God. But that atheistic alternative doesn’t satisfy my yearning for something, someone beyond me. How explain that instinct within us to protect our young from harm, not just our children but all children? A kid is in danger of drowning; we jump in to save him. A soldier dies protecting his buddy. A work of art or a piece of music lifts us, if only for a moment,into a new realm of existence.
The life of Christ, his teachings, his example are all so extraordinary. I can’t dismiss him as just another great person in history. To me, he is more than Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or Lincoln. He spoke as none one else ever spoke. He loved as no man has ever loved.
I still tremble when I read the opening words of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. And the Word was God.” Wow! I am like an inarticulate child before the mystery of Jesus. I identify with the un-named man in the gospel story who Jesus asked, “Do you believe in me?” The man answered, “Yes, Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.”