Editor’s Note: This week’s guest editor is Don Humbertson, a classmate in the seminary and long-time friend. I asked Don to share some reflections on how his understanding of his faith has evolved over his seven decades of life. Don retired a few years ago from his career as an English and writing professor at George Mason University. He brings his lifetime interest in philosophy and theology and his commitment to excellent writing to this task. For the record, he was hesitant to have this piece included as a blog as it does not in his mind hold together as an essay. I asked him to let the readers decide that!
My friend Tom has asked me several times to write on what I consider to be challenging and illusive topics – love and faith among them. After his latest invitation, I spent some time writing to discover what faith means to me and how it impacts my life. I began with three reflections that emerged as a summary of my more detailed musings. I offer both to you in hopes they might inform your own reflections on why and how faith is important to the life we each live.
Reflection 1: First, I’m not sure how to define faith. Is it a list of ideas from a book? A set of principles derived from someone’s life or thoughts? A prescription for membership in a select club? An adherence to certain attitudes, actions, and social behaviors? Is it like a Pledge of Allegiance? A religious creed? A vow of commitment? Is faith a rational choice or a DNA wiring? I just don’t know.
Reflection 2: Faith is not linear, nor is it fixed, nor can it be deconstructed. We approach faith the wrong way, attempting to define the component parts that comprise its reality, and then we teach, preach, and even mandate those ‘parts’ for others, judging and valuing others by how closely they adhere to specific mandates.
Reflection 3: Faith is not an effect; it is a cause!
The following 10 thoughts were written first and led to the 3 reflections listed above.
- I have spent my lifetime trying to reconcile my faith in God with my experience and my reason – and I have failed. My life has been an ‘Adam & Eve’ ‘moment after the fall’ where I wander through the garden suffering the effects of my pride and narcissism (my original sin), searching for fixes instead of asking for forgiveness; trying to convince rather than understand; trying to build walls rather than windows; ……. my life is a calendar of ‘Adam & Eve’ moments.
- As my 8th decade of life swirls around me, I am coming to realize that the heart of my faith is surrender – detaching, accepting, relaxing; abandoning the need to question, to doubt, to chart a course; laying down all the armaments that I have surrounded myself with to keep faith at bay.
- Faith is not a destination, it’s a process. There are two ways to go about faith: one is to choose to believe in spite of what reason, senses, and experience ‘seem’ to suggest; the other is to try to reconcile reason, senses, and experience, and when that fails (and it ultimately does), there is left only one thing – faith!
- Faith is not static. It is an evolving experience that is really very simple. My faith gives me a few principles that guide my life: 1) there is a force that transcends everything we know as human beings 2) that force is crystalized in Jesus.
- There is only one truth – John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
- Everyone gets a chance at redemption. All we have to do is show up with our faith ticket!
- My faith is organic and dynamic, never static, and I’ve surrendered to that.
- Speaking of heaven…all we know of heaven is that it transcends everything we know as
human beings. Yes, it may be eternal life with God, but what that means is beyond human
understanding. So we imagine and invent heavenly visions, angels, harps, adoration, happiness, etc. – most of which sound pretty boring to us. My best guess is to think about those moments in my life that have given/or now give me the greatest joy and then imagine that ten-fold, which speaks to human emotion and intellect multiplied beyond comprehension.
The problem is that we like experiences that have a start and a finish, things we can anticipate, partake in, and share with others of like mind & heart. We like things that develop and evolve; things that delight, surprise, fulfill, and engulf us in good feeling; we like things that produce memories that allow us to live vicariously.
I can’t imagine any human experience lasting ad infinitum at the same level of fulfillment, never changing. As wonderful as the taste of chocolate is in my mouth, I couldn’t handle, nor would I want, that taste in my mouth 24/7/365. So I guess I have to take someone’s word for it—that heaven will be spectacular and that I’ll be awfully glad I’m there.
- My faith is a choice, and once made, it frees me from all the randomness of life and the need to make sense of things. Some might see that as surrender, copping out, giving up, but it could also be a recognition that I’m not as great as I think I am. Again, surrender!
- Faith is continually “casting my net,” and finding it filled spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This reflection on faith reminds me that while I don’t in any way understand faith, I benefit from my
commitment to it and openness to how it changes and shapes me.
In retrospect, my faith is expansive. It comprises concentric circles of meaning or layers of understanding that continue to unfold throughout my life, enriching my connection to God and my fellow humans, and guiding my pilgrimage into an eternal afterlife.
Thx, Don. I’m glad you took up the challenge of writing about Faith because it can be daunting.
I tried to post about the Journey last week ,but it didn’t take.
I agree with your musings, especially #5: my favorite quote from scripture.
It’s inspiring to consider this theme, given the “rainy day in GA ” that we’re experiencing today….
My comment didn’t post last week and this is my 2nd try today.
I persevered to thank Don for writing on a difficult topic.
I especially liked #5 since it’s my favorite Scripture passage.
Keep the Faith…and pass it on…
Thanks Sally for persisiting and your comments on the challenge of writing about faith. I once again have spoke with GoDaddy and we have a fix for the locks out on the comment page. Thanks for your patience, Tom
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re approaching your 8th decade. Has your faith grown as you get nearer to the end of your life? Just wondering if that finality leads us to faith because we want to have something after? For those who have faith early in their lives, do you have a sense of how that has developed? Again, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
Thanks Tamara, I look forward to hearing from Don and others on your questions. For me, I had the gift of faith from an ealry age. I found comfort sitting in a quiet church, and wondered why. And my faith has grown as I aged and was free from day to day work and could focus on things I considered important. The more I focus on faith and how it leads to a more open heart and deeper love, the more I beleive and want to believe. Peace, Tom