Why am I writing this? People sometimes ask me if I am religious and when I say “No, but I am a believer and I am big on faith.” They sometimes look confused. This is my attempt at an explanation.
I grew up in the church and my whole life I have been around a lot of church folks. This means I am intimately familiar with places where dogma supersedes reason. Religion displaces faith. Authority cripples freedom. Oppressive rules bend characters into worrisome places. Intellectual shifts in thinking are abandoned in favour of hyper-emotional encounters. Where people get lost in doctrine because they hope to find themselves.
I can spot inauthenticity easily because I have met so many who have adopted it as their modus operandi. I have been that person. It’s not that you intentionally set out to be inauthentic. It’s just that somewhere along your journey you start believing that, inauthenticity is the gateway to paradise. Except it’s not. Dwelling in inauthenticity is the quickest way to ensure you will experience hell on earth.
As I’ve grown older, my relationship with spirituality has become simpler. Conversely my feelings about institutionalised religion have become increasingly complex so much so that in my early twenties I became so disillusioned that for the better part of five years I did not see the inside of any house of worship. Consequently I’m big on Faith and not particularly interested in Religion. Much of this is because I look at the inertia and lack of dynamism that religion embodies and don’t believe that’s what God intended for man to establish. Then I remember my frailty and fallacies. Who am I to say or even speculate what God intends?
I have come to discover that true faith is freedom. It grants you the audacity to be who you are. It gradually disempowers everything within you that’s contrary to who you are destined to be. This faith teaches you that when you err, your mistakes don’t have to be fatal. That every failure is an opportunity for God to build you up, rather than a ceremony for God to break you down.
We all have faith in something – whether it’s God, science, institutions, ideologies, and/or our own conceptions of the world. We all have faith. The thing about faith though is that it’s not concrete and secure and straightforward. This is because faith is about being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is hard work. Faith, is a practice and a habit like many things one can embody. Faith is also having to place your trust in the knowledge that something much bigger than you plays a role in your destiny. Faith is an admittance that neither you nor any other human being or entity is completely in control of all the things that go on around you.
Faith can be disappointing, at least in the heart of difficulties and uncertainties. If you believe nothing else about faith, believe that it is the hardest thing to hold onto when you need it the most. Paradoxically, as it’s been said, faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto. And sometimes, you’ll even think all is lost. You’ll think that you have failed and whatever battle you were fighting has come to an end; you’ll think that you have been defeated. You’ll think that your faith has failed you.
Faith is a personal journey and in it, you are given choices about what you believe. Even when I have lost something I worked hard for, and suffered through, and believed in my heart of hearts that I would get, I have found that what was prepared for me was something much greater than I could have imagined. Consequently I have always felt like a winner when challenges have come to pass. Faith has taught me that everything that happens in our lives is part of a grander design.
But my faith, though personal, has made me realise that no one is meant to suffer alone and face challenges alone. Indeed, no matter what I have faced or what those close to me have faced; in my imperfect understanding and fragile faith, I have found that somehow, someway, God has managed to be exactly and perfectly on time. That is my story of faith thus far. The struggle is to remember this the next time I face another struggle, and to never lose faith.