The past 12 months or so have seen the most drastic changes in my journey within Christianity, and I find myself engaging with it through two different images. The first way in which I see my relationship with the Christianity of my heritage is me standing along the coast and hurling it at the sea. In a sense, the Christianity I knew and have been shaped by is no longer something tenable in my life. The second image that comes to mind is the dramatic, edge of the cliff rescue scene. Every great action movie has a scene in which the hero is gripping onto the hand of someone dangling off of the edge of a building, a cliff, or something else from which one dangles from in fear. In this scenario, though, I’m not the one pulling anyone or anything up. I dangle. And sometimes the people dangling and holding onto the saving hand decide that it is better for them to let go and yield to the certainty of gravity. In this scenario, I’m not sure whether I get pulled up or let go. Suffice to say, my relationship to the faith that nurtured me is tenuous at best. And for any one reading this who is where I am, or has been there, it can be a weird and uncomfortable, confusing place.
Somewhere in the midst of my seminary education faith became really complicated. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews claims that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is that something by which we participate in the story of God. But this statement from the epistle is an oxymoron. Faith is the assurance? Anything which is assuredly so cannot be faith. By this definition of assurance, I have lost faith. But in its wake I announce hope. I have a hope that aligning myself in the story of Jesus is a life-giving and others-focused way in which I can make sense of life, even change lives, circumstances, moments; a way that challenges and questions the powers, inequality, exclusion, and lives differently. I have a hope that this both reveals God and experiences God.
But all of this crumbles when other people––those whom I claim to live for––need my faith more than I do. When my sister––suffering the side-effects of chemotherapy––asks me for prayer through the painful sores on her tongue, she needs my faith. She needs a faith I’m not sure is in me. When a friend comes face to face with the darkness and comes to me for light, he needs my faith more than I do. When I face that darkness myself…
I’m left to sit in this chair and face the darkness with resilience. I’m left to listen, to grieve, to hurt, to enter into your pain with you, to curse that which steals life from us. And to dance when life comes back, when light comes through. This is how I pray for you. This is what my faith looks like for you.
Though I want to lower you all through the roof and bring you to the feet of Jesus, I don’t have the arms to dig through it.