Believe?

There is much in Christianity that causes people to think that what they believe is important—the liturgical recitation of a creed, the interpretation of verses such as John 3:16 (whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life), and the current individualistic expression of the faith. Some stumble when it comes to believing in God; others, believing in doctrines such as the virgin birth and the resurrection; and others, believing in the value of the Bible. Many people interested in Quakerism pull away because they can’t fully believe in pacifism.

To focus on whether one believes this or that is to miss what the faith is about. It is about a relationship with God—Mystery, Guide, Inward Teacher, Love, Source of Life. This relationship is bigger than oneself and, by definition, cannot be fully comprehended.   Believing as we understand the word is a misleading approach because it is intellectual, heady, not of the heart.

Bible stories are about people who have encounters with the divine in relationship. They are not about people who believe certain things, which then connect them to God. I love the story in Luke 8 when Jesus is in the boat with the disciples and an intense storm comes up so that the boat is sinking. When Jesus calms the storm, the awed response of his disciples is “who is this who calms the wind and the waves?” Beliefs are not what the disciples are looking for. The truth of this story—and the stories of the virgin birth and the resurrection—comes through being revealed, not through a belief system and the scientific mind’s intellectual assent to the stories.

Faith is about seeing things, experiencing relationship, asking questions. To have faith is to make a choice to jump into a particular stream, to take on a story as one’s own, to ready oneself to learn from the Inward Teacher—and not other options. I have found that even if only 51% of me can make that leap, that will do. Consent to the journey, and then see what you will be taught.

Queries:

How have your beliefs changed over your lifetime?

In whom are you putting your heart and trust? What story can you recall about a time when you were taught by One not controlled by your own ideas?

Prayer:

Listen to music that touches your soul. Or take a walk in nature, gradually quieting inside, being fully present to what is around you.

For further reflection:

“Who is this . . .?” (See Luke 8: 22-25).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight” (See Proverbs 3: 5-8).

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4 thoughts on “Believe?

  1. It is so true that the word “belief” is a stumbling block for so many people– including me, a lot of times! I remind myself often that where God and the Divine are concerned, factual scientific truth is not as important as the larger truth that we can only vaguely grasp. Sometimes the harder we think rationally about things, the more difficult it is to “see” and appreciate God.

    An analogy that sometimes helps me, is thinking about eyesight. Our retina has rods, which do not transmit color, but are most sensitive in low light conditions, and predominate in the periphery of the retina. Cones provide color vision, but are less sensitive to light, and they are concentrated in the center of the retina (called the fovea centralis.) At twilight, ability to see color diminishes, but the rods are still very active. we see things best with our peripheral vision, especially motion. In order to see best at night, we need to see differently than during the day– not look directly at things, but concentrate on seeing peripherally. It takes practice! And it takes at least 30 min of darkness for the rods to fully adapt to dark conditions (your eyes “get used to the dark.”) If you see a faint star or other object in the periphery, and then look directly at it, it may be impossible to see. Similarly, if we try to look objectively and scientifically at the Divine Mystery, it becomes harder to “see” and comprehend. If we relax and rely on “sideways gaze,” it may suddenly become more clear. I do not find words adequate to describe this experience. It is simply a time to rest in faith.

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  2. Thank you Patty!
    I looked up a definition of “believe” – wondering how I might understand John 3:16 differently, from the heart and not the head. I found the phrase “to have confidence in the truth.” To have confidence in the Truth.

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