The word, faith, is said a lot.
At least in my world.
But almost every time it is named, it is done in its own unique way.
Have faith in me.
Have faith in God.
Your faith can move mountains.
Your faith can set you free.
Your faith will be rewarded.
Your faith has made you well.
We live by faith.
Walk in faith.
And so on and on and on.
But the one phrase that has me truly confounded is: Faith is a gift.
Just the statement. No explanation.
Faith is a gift.
It might be mentioned that it is given to us by God.
So what is the deal exactly? God is sitting around one day and looks down at me and thinks to himself, That’s it! I’ll give Julia some faith!
Does it come wrapped?
Do I find it under my pillow when I wake up one morning?
Is it time-specific? Does it only come when God thinks I need it?
That would be a lot of work on God’s part, keeping up with all our needs for faith and distributing it out like a rare commodity. Don’t you think?
Do the amounts of faith given vary?
Now I will admit that my confusion around faith – and all its rampant meanings – started before the whole gift idea.
So this week I stopped and tried to put the pieces of the puzzle that is faith together. For me, anyway.
My study with God about him broke him down into five, seemingly simple, realms. If you want to find an answer to any question about God, you look in one of these five, seemingly simple, realms.
- Obedience: the key to which is willingness.
- Surrender (receiving something you don’t want – where all pain and suffering exists): the key to which is faith.
- Discipline: the key to which is obedience.
- Acceptance (receiving something you want– the most difficult thing for us to do): the key to which is gratitude.
So there faith is, tucked right in there in the realm of surrender. And, if you look hard, you’ll notice that faith is not a part of Grace (a gift from God to us), but the key to Surrender.
The realm of horror. Of loss. Of terror. Where all the bad things that happen to us live and move and have their being.
When I worked on this lesson the example that was given to me to help me understand it was the picture of a person on a very small boat in the middle of a tremendous storm at sea. The clinging to the mast of that boat with all his might is faith.
Faith is the action we take to survive the tsunamis of our life.
And while the word, action, is a noun – which is what gifts are – it is a noun that describes a verb.
We act. We take action.
This is what we are doing.
Does God give an action?
Can God give an action?
So much to think over.
Now if you take a look at the homepage of my blog (this blog, the one where you are reading this), you might notice way down at the bottom is an entire section on virtues.
I love virtues.
And what are virtues?
They are all the various actions that we take to do good in the world.
I can still remember, in categorizing all the topics that are written about here, wondering where should I put faith.
Under humanity? Is it just something humans do, like suffer?
Under God? Is faith part and parcel of God that becomes part of our lives, like death?
But I gave in to my desire and almost immediately put it under virtues.
Faith is a virtue.
So this is one thing I have been musing over this week.
Faith is a virtue.
It’s an action we take.
We reach out into the world and commit faith.
Jesus tells this to some of the people he healed. The action you took to come to me and demonstrate your belief in me, aka, your faith, has healed you.
So what are virtues exactly?
Well, I think they are the strings in our soul’s harp that we pluck and stroke and slam that sends that vibration up into us to shape the way we are responding to something in our world.
Do we turn a blind eye to the suffering on our doorstep, or do we show compassion?
Do we hide under our beds when something threatens us, or do we show fortitude?
When we meet someone do we act cranky because we’ve had a bad day, or do we show respect?
As I said, I love virtues.
Because we have these strings already strung in us, we always have the choice to perform with them. To create a beautiful harmony in our lives by expressing them whenever we are clear-headed enough to find and play them.
So, yes, you could say faith is a gift. As it is a piece of creation, it is given to us by God.
Another way that I have been looking at virtues is as those thick, strong ropes attached to cathedral bells. Those ropes that we pull hard on in order to find our place with all the other ropes being pulled by others at the same time.
They are hard to pull. Finding the right timing is a challenge. But the outcome of an effort of united pulling is something magnificent.
That’s what we are, perhaps.
Instruments of God.
But instruments that we have to play ourselves.
So that our music will be an expression of the glory of God.