“Go where your best prayers take you.” ― Frederick Buechner
I think what we call faith, what is our own, is a reconciliation of two essential dimensions of our life; our lived experience and our internalized beliefs.
Our faith isn’t really a noun, it’s a verb. It’s a life-long construction process. We fit together all that is handed down to us with the bits and pieces of our own lived experience. This faith shields us from a cruel world and an enemy out to destroy us. It makes us feel safe. It really keeps us safe.
Our lives are filled with experiences like coins in a jar. We gather formal knowledge from intentional learning (going to school, reading, watching someone else, etc.). But don’t discount the informal knowledge we gain from everyday interactions and living in the real world:
- What about that whole menagerie of characters that we have lived and worked with during our life?
- After those years in school and having a few jobs we start to stockpile all kinds of information about other people and about yourself.
- Each one of us practices all those lessons and stories about God and how Christianity is supposed to be lived.
We also have beliefs that are internalized into our hearts. Beliefs about other people and the world in which we live. Some of these are from personal experiences (like the list above) but most come from our shared culture:
- Two wrongs don’t make a right
- When the going gets tough, the tough get going
- Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
And of course there are our beliefs about God.
Mostly we don’t think too much about our everyday beliefs. Usually they don’t get challenged that often. Every now and then a tragedy might hit and we come face to face with taken-for-granted beliefs about “the way things are” and we see how much of a hurricane they can withstand.
As we mature and reflect, our understanding of our own experiences changes and can deepen. Our beliefs get tested and we discard those that don’t hold enough water. We cling to those that stand up over time. As time goes on and we put together more and more of our life we begin to weave a faith.
I think that’s what walking by faith means. It’s finding your way through what life hands you, your own rebellion, all the everyday experiences and building something meaningful to hang on to.
Faith is also a gift from God.
Our faith is not ours alone but great parts of it are passed on to us by significant others in our lives. Our experiences and beliefs are handed to us by others, intentionally and unintentionally. Our faith is borne up and supported during difficult times by the faith of others who come alongside us and help us travel the dark roads home.
Faith is what grows in a life that is being transformed by the work of God’s Spirit. There is a great reconciliation between our hopes and our hikes. The interaction of experience and belief brings it about. Ultimately we must walk through our faith or it’s not much use.
Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:7