Monday, February 06, 2006
Being guided by a hand we cannot hold...
The more I know the less I understand. Life, with all its concurrent struggles and painful beauty, has brought me to the point where all the things I thought I knew I am now having to learn again. In the long run (and the long run is all there is), when everything is said and done, James was right; by their fruit shall we know the truthful ones. Shaped by the practice of church culture it just may be that we have limited the context of the road to God. What do I mean by that? I mean that we have made God way too small and faith into some kind of crux.
Life is not so much full of contradictions; rather I think it overflows with them. Faith is a part of life that brushes up against us every now and then, a world within a world, the no space between all of us and all of God – the see through – at one with God and yet invisible. What am I rambling about? What do we no longer know that was once so obvious? What is it that our hearts are trying to break into? What is the name of that world beyond language? Put simply, it is the complex matter of faith.
I have been thinking about faith a great deal of late because of an intoxicating book I read by David Maine titled ‘The Flood’ In this brilliant debut novel, Noe's family - his wife, sons and daughters-in-law - tell what it's like to live with a man touched by God, while struggling against events that cannot be controlled or explained. For when Noe orders his sons to build an ark, he can't tell them where the wood will come from, just that God will provide. When he sends his daughters-in-law out to gather the animals, he can offer no directions, money or protection. Just faith.
But once the rain starts, they all come to realise that the harshest test of their faith is just beginning of a never-ending journey. The Flood is a wickedly funny, wildly imaginative retelling of one of the most dramatic stories known to mankind. At its core it's about a family caught in the midst of an extraordinary event and David Maine infuses this timeless tale with humanity, tension and wit.
But it’s this difficult notion of faith that has been hounding me. Faith in people who you can touch is hard enough, but with an almighty deity that we can’t sit down to dinner with, well, that’s a different kind of difficulty all together. Why? Because ultimately faith is about being guided by a hand you cannot hold.
Faith is the space where God and humanity touch, and is best symbolised by a journey, a journey to the safety of home. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks concurs with this allegory in his book ‘Faith In The Future’ where he suggests that the way though is always further than we thought and the route more complicated and beset with obstacles than we could ever have imagined.
As I said, faith is no crux, it is hope, a map of charting our way through a confusing world. Faith is surely all about restoring that which we have lost – a sense of family and community. If faith has a message and purpose for our time it is this. That faith will shape the future and rebuild the ruins of heaven here on earth.
Having devoured David Maine’s book once again I am reminded about what really matters, how I want to live out the rest of my days, and how I only want to surround myself with the good kind of love, and that ultimately faith is not a word spoken but rather a journey to be made.