It may sound odd coming from the author of a blog called “Faith and Doubt,” but I don’t consider myself religious. Not in the way most people use the word. Faith puts a check on superstition, judgmentalism, and superiority, which describe what most people think of when they say someone is “religious.” We all have these tendencies. Religion can become part of our own aggrandizement. True faith confronts our tendency to center life upon self.
While coming of age I saw a few people, despite their considerable talent and stature, living life with quiet confidence. They carried themselves humbly, unlike the showy, insecure batch of folks in my face each day–one them in the mirror each morning. The witness of those mentors surfaced a hunger–a need which couldn’t be satisfied by winning life as a game. These simple saints embraced life as a gift.
Life as a game is win-lose; life as a gift pursues the win-win. Those who made faith compelling to me seemed genuinely happy to be a part of other people’s flourishing. Looking back thirty years later, it’s easier to see how investing well enlarged their capacity to live and love well. But effort alone won’t get you there. Faith plays a key role.
A growing faith can be hard and hard on you. Scripture says, “The Lord discipline’s those whom he loves.” To embrace true faith is to be pruned and to like it. “Thank you Sir, may I have another,” comes to mind. Faith, as mapped out in scripture, calls for a radical shift from what people naturally build their lives around: themselves. It confronts us with the fact that much of what needs to be clipped away are parts of the self keeping us from God and from loving other people well.
An Outside Voice
In my experience, this road less traveled requires input—a voice alongside and outside us entirely. That Voice for me has come through reading and yielding to words which have stood the test of time. Few texts survive hundreds of years. The ones making it 400 or more and still widely read today are called “Supertexts,” according to former USC president Steve Sample. A book with a singular theme, written and preserved for thousands of years, at the very least deserves some respect. Many people think of the Bible as a religious text. I think of it as a Voice of truth.
What voice outside you has authority in your life?