Thursday, July 30, 2015
Faith Inside Out
I thought about the control console while I was preparing to speak in a Mormon church meeting on faith and doubt. We tend to think of doubters as a specific class of people, separate from believers, but I think things are more complex than that. Faith and doubt are both parts of all our lives and faith changes through life. My understanding of God is different from when I was a young child. As we grow our faith changes and we experience challenges that shape our faith. A toddler has a certain kind of faith. She feels safe and secure with her parents. She is scared or sad when they leave. Her faith is simple, like the one-button control console. But as her world expands from parents, to playmates, to teachers, and to God her trust and faith expand and develop.
Our faith goes through periods of reshaping and complication. A child may learn to pray to God and trust that God will hear and answer prayers. But what happens when she doesn’t get something she prays for? This can be a learning moment when she learns more about the way God hears and answers prayers. Her understanding of God becomes a little more sophisticated and the older, more simplistic understanding fades away. We look at these kinds of episodes and understand that they are normal. This kind of thing doesn’t destroy faith. It’s just part of learning. We understand this well with childhood faith struggles but sometimes we are not as adept at dealing with the struggles of teens and adults.
Church is usually a very positive place. We like to share the success stories where everything worked out in the end. We like to be uplifting and faith promoting. That’s not a bad thing. But it’s not the whole program. Sometimes everything is not alright. Sometimes the things we learn in church and in the scriptures, or our interpretations of them, just don’t match our experience. When this happens it is necessary to develop new facets of our faith.
Just like Riley needed Sadness to deal with her new situation there are aspects of faith that we need to develop as we grow. Life involves disappointment, loneliness, anxiety, fear, conflict, doubt, regret, loss, and death. The faith of our childhood may not be adequate to understand and deal with these things. A young child may feel secure knowing that her parents are there for her. But as she grows older she will realizes at some point that her parents will not always be there for her. Life eventually comes to an end and how we face that fact is a crucial part of our faith. How will we spend the time that we have with the people we love, knowing that our time with them is finite?
One of my favorite parables in the Bible is the dying grain of wheat. Unless a corn of wheat falls to the ground and dies it does nothing. But by dying it brings forth new life. I think faith follows a similar pattern. Our faith changes as we grow and become new creatures. Old ways of thinking must pass away to give rise to a newness of faith. Faith allows us to view the deepest, most important structures of our world, the things that have most meaning and are the most important. And faith must have as many shades and hues as the beauty and darkness of the world we face.