“Pastor,” she said to me with a smile, “I’ve lost my religion.” It was if she was telling me she lost 10lbs. I was silent for a moment. “I was reading Thomas Paine again,” she continued, “and I realized that I wasn’t religious anymore.” I thought for a moment. Smiled. I didn’t know what to say. I could imagine me in the corner and it was if she was in the spotlight. What do you say at a moment such as that? I could imagine seeing Jesus. I think I thought I saw Him cry.
“Really,” was all I could sputter. Maybe I said too much. Maybe I didn’t say enough.
I’ve mulled over that encounter over the last few weeks. What is faith? Is it fleeting? Is it strong? Does one lose faith? Did they have it at all? Is it rational? Is it more than a feeling? Every whisper of faith, every waking hour of faith, what is it?
Faith is something that goes beyond us. It is something that can be rational but reason itself cannot fully comprehend what faith is. Can one rationally come to faith? Can one rationally lose their faith? Apparently she did. Or did she?
Faith itself is something that is human and yet supernatural. We all have a faith system of some kind or another. Even atheism is a faith of a sort. And within our own faith, we live within the stages of faith. In his book, Stages of Faith, James Fowler talks about how there are levels to one’s faith. And one can stay on that same level their whole lives, never moving up or down but plateaued on the plains of existentialism. One can make a lateral shift in faith, as I think this lady did. A lateral shift is moving from one faith system to another, same level of faith, just different system.
But what about a Christian faith? What about faith in Jesus?
That’s a whole ‘nother critter right there.
As human beings, we’re hard wired for faith. We want a belief system, something to believe in even if it’s a belief of nothingness, we still want to believe in it. God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, moves in His people and establishes a true saving faith. A faith rooted in understanding and a deep rooted assurance. It is a faith that holds on to us rather than us holding on to it.
This faith develops at the hearing of the gospel message. Like a seed planted in soil, it develops and grows into the faith that God wants it to be in us.
But wait. How’d she lose her religion? How’d she see that there was something not there for her?
I think of the parable of the seeds found in the gospel of Mark (you can check out the whole parable/story here). Long and short of it is this: Seeds are sown on soil. Some seeds fall on the path and birds take them away. Some seeds fall on rocky soil they spring up by die quickly. Some among the thorns which grow but get chocked by the weeds and thorns. Some on good soil and these produce a crop of a 100 fold. The seeds are people who hear the gospel message. The birds are the devil who leads people astray. The rocky soil are those who spring up fast but just aren’t rooted right. The one’s who grow in the weeds and thorns are chocked by the things of this life and just don’t grow as they should. And the one’s on the fertile soil are the one’s that truly take the gospel of heart and it grows in them by faith.
There’s that word again: Faith.
So which one was she? The path? The rocky soil? The thorns? It’s not for me to judge. Some might say she never truly had faith at all. That’s mean to judge on such a level you don’t know.
In the end, I just don’t know. I do know that I know my faith. I know my faith in my faithful savior Jesus who died for my sins upon the cross, rescuing me from the tyranny of the devil. This gives me strong comfort.
I do wonder what would have happened if someone nurtured her faith as people have nurtured mine over the years. Was her faith, like some plants, left unattended and it just didn’t have the strength? I don’t know.
I do know that when faith is nurtured like a growing seed, it becomes part of the good soil and grows even stronger. Yet it needs to be constantly nurtured. It can’t be left unattended. It must be given room to grow and flourish. When it doesn’t. Well. Yeah. It doesn’t. And that’s not good.
And so I’m left to wonder and ponder this.