My daughter wrote to her father about admiring the assurance of his faith a few days ago, and it has led me to ponder the nature of my own faith. The next day someone I knew passed away rather unexpectedly, and I found myself thinking the same thought I always do when someone dies – Now they know. I believe in life everlasting. I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, even my sins, and more importantly, that He conquered death by His resurrection. And I believe in heaven and also in hell. I don’t think you can have one without the other. I know I want to be in heaven when I leave this world, but am I certain of that outcome? No way! I sin every day. I have doubts every day. I don’t treat everyone I meet as if he or she is Jesus Christ. I am so guilty of being blind and oblivious to the hand of God all around me every single day of my life. I am selfish and self-centered and too easily offended. I am stubborn and impatient and way too concerned with being heard. I am human. I am the creature that my Creator made, with all my flaws and shortcomings – but also with all my gifts and blessings.
And yet, I dare to have faith. To me, faith is not assurance. Faith is not without doubt. Faith is not certainty. Faith is more akin to hope. St Paul wrote:
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrew 11:1.
Let’s assume, competing theories on the internet not withstanding, that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews – St Paul, the one blinded by the light, the one who seemed so sure of things, the one who had no doubts. The one who always struck me as intolerant of lack of faith. He didn’t say Faith is certainty. That gives me hope. I try to do the right things in my life. I try to fight my selfish thoughts and impulses. I try to put others before myself, especially God. But everyday I fail – not in everything, but in some way, large and small, I screw up every day.
Probably my favorite gift that God gave the world is forgiveness, because it’s the one that makes all the difference. It’s impossible for me to be perfect; I fail at it every day, but I am forgiven, and that allows me a fresh start every moment. That’s hope. That’s the nature of my faith. That I can believe in God and heaven and everlasting life. I can believe He loves me in spite of myself, and as much as I yearn to be with Him, He yearns to be with me. I can believe that, but it doesn’t mean that I have no doubts. I have faith.
Emerson said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for what I have not seen.”
I have seen the Grand Canyon and I have seen Denali. I have seen the Sistine Chapel and the statue of David. I have seen the birth of my children and watched in amazement and awe as they have become the incredible people they are. I have felt their love and the love of my husband and my friends. I have held my grandson moments after he was born. I have heard the voice of God, sometimes in the tiniest of whispers, sometimes in the voice of Father Viet, often in the guise of music. I have felt His arms cradling me in times of extreme pain and heartache.
I have never seen His face. But I hope that someday I will. And I hope that when I do, I will see all the people (and dogs) that I have loved with Him too. None of this I deserve. But I have hope.
That is my faith.