How many times in your life have you been challenged with your beliefs, only to be unable to fully defend why you believe or see things a specific way? How many times have you ever been confronted by a non-believer, and because of either their aggressiveness or their circular arguments in questioning, you’ve left feeling inadequate to answer their seemingly innocent interrogations? Well I have more times than I care to remember, and in some ways, I felt shamed because I could not defend my faith. I know my faith to be correct and the basis for objective truth, but I couldn’t explain why. Over the years I’ve read more and more, and engaged in some debates over faith and the Church, but overall, I’ve made it a general practice to refrain from arguing politics and religion/faith. We seem to live in times where the only thing worth believing is what we can see and what we can measure. Even then, people are left with a healthy dose of skepticism because the measurement is only as good as the person who measures. We just don’t know who to trust or who to follow. We gravitate to those who seem to have the answers, and when we realize they were wrong, we become emptied with nothing but dashed hopes and dreams of a promising future (maybe where many secularists/atheists are at in their lives). Though, faith isn’t like this at all, I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve learned, and at the very lowest expectation I could have ever had, it has surpassed anything I could have dreamed. Faith was never about seeing with my eyes, but having the ability to listening to the voice of God in silence and learning to see with my heart.
Where do we go when we are surrounded by those who not only don’t believe us, but even ridicule us in every way, when our beliefs run counter to what they deem as “stupid” or at the very least outdated cultural mentality. What this inevitably does is to presume, we are the more enlightened culture now, and those who came before us, especially if they were the faithful, are at best simpletons because of their lack of knowledge on science and modern-day matters. To this line of thinking I would caution the arrogant, this is about the time the carpet is pull from beneath their feet. The matter I’ve always run into is perception of what is right and the pushing away of what is wrong, no matter the situation or subjective nature of the situation. The collateral damage incurred by this poorly crafted focus of life become a measure of in and out as they see fit. Subjectivity is dangerous when trying to create equality of outcomes. Currently most people still have a strong faith presence in their lives, but the swell of non-believers and aggressive atheists has promoted a movement towards a relativistic culture. We see, as Christians, an acceptance of ostracizing behaviors meant to relegate those with faith beliefs to the section of the proverbial yard containing all the nuts. In doing so, pushing us out of relevant discussions, we see a culture shift intent on pushing us out of the general forum altogether. This in my opinion is unacceptable, and we must do everything we can to exhibit our faith in action, but also our faith in defense as much as we can. We can’t be afraid to talk about our faith in public forums, nor can we be afraid to become the ostracized. Jesus was our example, no one faced as much humiliation or degradation as he did for us. We can endure a loose insult with a smile and then pray for our insulter, can’t we?
When I first began to study about the faith, and those who so fervently believed in it, I was looking for intelligent answers and a logical line I could follow. Something which would make sense and yet was also something which would require my action of faith to finish the sentence (so-to-speak). I wasn’t looking for platitudes, nor was looking for something based solely in the prophetic. I was looking for something which could open my eyes to life, and the expectations of life, and tell me why I felt the way I did. What I found were many people who were just like me at one point, and who embraced their faith in such a way as to become examples to all. Some were Saints, and others were just faithful servants, and when I read their biographies or works of faith, I didn’t find a didactic instruction meant to punish those who’ve fallen in their faith. Instead, I found a beautiful example of God lighting the way for everyone and they were the brightest beacon to do such a thing. In some cases, I was reading text over a thousand years old and some only fifty years old. Their texts were never an admonishment of sin, but an acceptance of their sin and the desire to repent and search for God. They illuminated and clarified matters of faith which I never even realized to be an issue, and they refuted with tremendous clarity those who would seek impugn the fervor of those who are faithful and pursuant of God’s will.
As time was marching on, I noticed something within our own time as it related to the writer’s perspectives, some of which were centuries old. Life, really hasn’t changed all too much, in the grand scheme of things. We still fight over petty need for control, wars rage over territory and disputes of common ideologies every day. Greed has never gone away, and since there is probably more wealth today, than at any other time in history, the greed runs rampant. Though everyone claims they’re not greedy, just the businessmen or politicians. Be honest, haven’t we all been greedy at many points in our lives, and isn’t our culture a representation of our need for “me” in a lot of what we do. I have been greedy in my life, for a time, I was only looking out for me and to the detriment of the people around me, and in many cases to myself, I caused so many problems I was drowning in an ocean of poor decisions and hurtful outcomes. At any rate, the points of views expressed by those faithful servants of God, illuminated a point of perspective which indicated, our time is our time, but our philosophies and faith are ancestors of those who came before us. Failure to recognize this simplest of facts, invites hubris and even a priggish sense of self into discussion where there is no place for such a thing.
So, where does belief come into play, regarding everything we see today, and read from yesterday? Have you ever heard the expression, “read between the lines”? I’ve been told this time and again since I was a young kid, the inference is an indication to understand implication and thus refrain from all the superfluous questions. Look at the bigger picture and ask yourself the pertinent questions for the important answers. This is where faith resides, this is where we see faith in action. In a very similar action, those of us who envision images as explanation, see a sheet of paper with words written and we look at those small spaces of emptiness and find the proverbial answer, this is also true when we think about the quiet spaces and silences in our heart, this is where God resides.
A few weeks ago, my son asked me, “Dad, if God is real, why doesn’t he just reveal himself, wouldn’t that be much easier, then everyone could believe?”. For such a young man, he has a wonderfully quizzical mind for simple and yet puzzling answers. So, why doesn’t God just reveal himself to us in a grand display of power, so we can be believers, and the debate we currently face will be settled once and for all. As a man, I love simplicity, and I’m not ever looking for drama, so when my wife indicates she will be watching the nightly litany of drama shows, I run the other direction. I, like my son, have always searched for the easy answer, and this is exactly what this is, an easy answer. For this, I find, usually the easy answer is the wrong or at least the less right answer. The reason for the seemingly silent presence of God, is one of faith. God wants you, God wants your love, and just like a relationship where we would love another, we must be willing to allow the other to choose completely unfettered and a decision which hasn’t been adulterated in any way. When my spouse reaches for me, I know it is a matter of her will, and not my presence as a guilt, or even I possess something she wants. Which is why God, doesn’t have a superpower light show every Sunday, if we want his love we must seek to be in his love. This is all God ever wanted from us, God is love, and in his ability to be love, he is unable to not want this.
In my reading, and looking for the true answers which are sometimes plainly written and other times as plain as day within the context of the spaces as actions in faith. I found there is more evidence to indicate a loving and beautiful God than to presume an existence where we are our own device and we’ve become gods ourselves. There is more to this life than a pursuance of what we want, the early Christian writers didn’t just test the walls of doubt, the destroyed those walls with their love, reason, and faith in action. If you ever want to read the best objections to the Christian Faith, read the Summa Theologica, not only did St. Thomas Aquinas present wonderful objections to the faith, but he also more sublimely refuted the objections with reason and philosophy. It wasn’t about seeing with our eyes to more enhance our faith, but instead it was about seeing with our hearts to understand what is our faith. The supernatural with which God exists, can’t be measured by human instruments, but can be seen with human understanding. So, is seeing believing? Yes, it just depends on what you’re looking with, and if your heart is open to accepting the truth. Open your heart, allow the light of God to enter in, and illuminate those dark corners so at once you can see what it was you were always meant to see.
One of my biggest failings in life is having an opinion which excludes other opinions and is unwilling to allow differing perspectives to enter my cognitive thought pattern. Though, having my kids, and being married to my spouse has softened this approach a great deal. I tend to find myself thinking, much like with the question my son proposed, and really taking the time to explain what I know. This is our jobs as fathers, we must be willing to search for the right answer, not the quick or easy answer. Take your time, as the words you speak to them, will be something the will roll over in their heads for decades to come. Something you may say to them will be the deciding factor in their pursuance of God and how they treat people in life. Something you’ve said in love, to show thought and caring, will help prevent a series of poor choices ever happening. The truth of the matter is, you will never be able to answer all their questions, and you will never be able to prevent them from making poor choices when it comes down to it. Though, you do have the response capability to answer them in a way which is illuminating of the faith in love, and explanatory as in the explanation between the lines. Kids understand your actions more than your words, mine do for sure. Hugging my kids and exhibiting behavior which rewards or derides their own behavior is more beneficial than any diatribe I could recite about the beauty of God. There is a place for such explanation, but it is always superseded by the action of love.
As is the point of my writing, you are bound to understand what you are willing to accept. If you don’t accept anything without seeing it for yourself, then you will never accept it completely. So, if you see anyone exhibit, what you don’t accept, your general interpretation will be one of nonacceptance maybe even ridicule. When we look back at the Apostles, we see their attempt to preach the wonderful news of Jesus, and yet they were believed by many and hated by more. They fought the establishment through prayer and preaching and were hated by the establishment, unto death, for doing so. Imagine, telling someone you believe in the very words of God, and then having a stone smashed on you for this belief. Do you think you could still say the words, “Jesus, My Lord and My God!”? The disciple Thomas, uttered these words as he was being run through by spears at the end of his life (at least as the Gospel of Thomas indicates). He was the perfect example of the one who seeks to see to believe, which is why he is known as “Doubting Thomas” for his unbelief, whereby Jesus, already in his resurrected state says, “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)
If we really think about our lives, there are many things which occur and we are not privy to their details, or we just can’t be in all places always and so taking some things on faith of trust between the parties is a necessary. Ok, so where am I going with this? Originally, I was writing about one’s defense of faith as a matter of exhibiting God’s light and reflecting this light to light the way of faith for others. This seems irrespectively difficult when those around us are trying to trip us up at every turn. Here is where believing is never about seeing. Be the mustard seed which is planted in the minds of those we see and speak to each day. God will do the work of growing this seed in their minds, but we need to plant it. This is accomplished in our daily interactions as we come into fullness of our relationship with our spouse, and the tree of faith in our own soul continues to grow, but as an example to our children what is possible and what is truth. It comes into fullness when we choose to understand and love those who are around us every day. The faith comes into fullness when we exhibit those traits everyone sees and immediately realizes, as they read between the lines, and they say to themselves, “there is more here to my existence, and I want to know!”. Be the example which causes them to say this. Be the men who are strong enough to ask for the help of God, and be satisfied with the silence God will give in return, the answers are always in the silence of your heart. Believing is seeing with the heart, and with the heart, we can all be wonderful by seeking the goodness of God, and receiving the blessings God pours abundantly over us. Faith isn’t about rules and regulations, and it isn’t about seeing what we want, it’s about believing although we can’t see with our eyes we can feel with our heart.
Today, if you get the chance, embrace your wife, and your kids. Stop and listen to anyone, and really listen to what they say. Focus on anything and everything but yourself, and I promise, as tired as you will be at the end of your day, you will have the energy to want more, want to do more, want to listen more, and want to really know God. I pray your journey has begun or begins today, put your whole faith in God, you will not be disappointed in your journey. It will be tough, but in the best way possible, and it will be fulfilling in the most unexpected of ways. Listening to the silence of your heart is the key to seeing God with as much clarity as possible. Be willing to listen, be willing to be quiet, be willing to pray. I pray your family grows closer, and you become an example for those around you to see God more clearly. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!