This is a guest post from Bradley - who currently works with Outdoor Odyssey Leadership Academy and the Sisters of Charity’s Gift of Peace House in Washington DC and who has guest posted on my blog before. Bradley is also a proud member of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius church in Arlington, VA. You can follow him on his blog and on Facebook as well. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
"Faith is not belief, faith is behavior born out of belief....to say you believe [have faith] in the Resurrection means to say you acknowledge it mentally and then manifest that faith with action." --Fr. Anthony Messeh
One thought hit me after hearing those words: “Man, I’ve spent my whole life believing in God without ever having faith.”
Those who know me know that I am a pretty emotional person. But when it comes to matters of salvation and spirituality, I have made it more of a “study” and less of a reality. I’ve been a student in Christianity 401 – a student who had all the answers but never showed up for a lab or practicum. I’ve mastered writing the right things when I am called to circle "A, B, C, or D," but I have forgotten to choose the right answers in my day to day life.
I’ve shown up for hundreds of lectures, but never felt I could introduce myself to the Rabbi. I believe that God created the heavens and the earth, that Emmanuel came to show us the way, that He sent forth the Holy Spirit to dwell in us; but in all of my belief, in all of my logic and surety, I think I’ve missed faith.
Fr. Anthony's words have caused me to wonder if I believe in Christ and the Resurrection half as much as I believe in gravity, or washing my hands after handling raw meat, or the Civil War, or traffic lights. I am both humbled and shamed to think that for a while I thought I was doing enough by praying, by reading, by circling the right letter.
There have been points that I’ve found myself serving with youth – telling them to call God "Father" even when I did not have faith that the same fatherhood was extended to me. I think I have always wanted this for others but, more and more, I am beginning to think I have rarely prayed for the same faith for myself, or even considered it an option, much less a freely extended gift, a necessity.
I believe The Word is a prescription to heal us. I pray that I become a willing part of the Church that not only views the Bible as a Holy Constitution, as a love letter from God, as a picture of God's interaction with man, but as a script for how to live my life. I don't want to stop at simply reading about St. Peter, I want to follow in his footsteps. I don't want to only say "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal," I want to stand in the tomb with two of the most faithful men to have lived, and ask God to have mercy. I don't want to just believe Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, I want to be brave enough to let the Light shine on every broken thing in me, heal the brokenness, and light another candle.
These words are as much a diary entry as they are a prayer for me: I ask God desperately that He will give me the faith to begin to pray by instinct; that I will so have faith in the power of prayer--not in God the genie that gives me whatever I want, but God the Pantocrator that holds everything in his power--that when I see a news report about a lost child I would immediately fall on my knees in my heart and ask the Shepherd for mercy, and that whatever the outcome, I would return to my knees to praise Him.
I pray for the childlike faith that allows me to read the Sermon on the Mount not only as a beautiful story of what the Kingdom of God is like, but as "marching orders," as a script. I believe that the Psalms are beautiful and that they are Holy scripture to guide us. I am beginning to have faith that if I do not "stand in the seat of mockers" and if I "meditate on the law of the LORD," I will be a firmly planted tree.
My niece amazes me. She asks me where God lives and where the president lives and has faith that the answer I tell her to both are equally real. She has faith that Christ healed the sick and gives us power to do the same because, why not? She has faith that rainbows are not just refracted light but are the voice of God in a way that I really, really have to struggle to. She realizes that the Word is not exactly a science, but that He is perfect, and that 2 + 2 can equal five thousand. She realizes that the Law of Conservation of Mass can be broken by its Maker, because some wells never run dry.
I am thankful for the gift of thought and reason, and the natural laws that God has set in motion to declare His glory; but sometimes I wish I could turn it off, realize that those laws are only there to declare His glory, and just follow the script: get out of the boat and break logical laws while keeping the laws of the Logos. In the Gospel of John he tells us "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you." I wonder if I put half as much faith and intentionality in the holiest Script as I did in memorizing and acting out lines from Shakespeare, what my life would look like.
There are days that I look at my niece and am overwhelmed by her faith. I am beginning to think, that if I had something on the scale of a mustard seed of what my niece has--if I had faith that 2+2 can equal whatever God wants and that He has grace when we forget to carry the one--everything would be different.
For discussion I ask for something to believe in from those with faith, and those searching for it. It is the same questions I have been asking myself for the past few weeks.
What is something you would do, personally, generally or specifically, if you really believed that Christ abided in you? What would our daily routine look like? What would your conversations look like? What would our jobs look like? What would our Churches and communities look like? What would real faith look like?