“It doesn’t surprise me at all that you’re feeling this way,” an old friend I got to see in Arizona told me when we went out for lunch. I had been telling her all about my struggle to believe in the tenants of the Christian faith-mostly that Dan exists still somewhere in some way- the things we had professed together for years in a church that met in an International Youth Hostel on the Upper West Side that believed in supernatural healings and miracles no less.
Well, it has surprised me.
I said I believed.
“But this is experiential,” another friend says to me on the phone the other night. Yes, yes it is- my reply.
I memorized all of those long answers for my confirmation class test. I got 100 percent. The pastor of the small Lutheran church we attended congratulated me.
I professed it again later while wearing my bathing suit- at a local swim club where I was baptized at 22.
But now the faith brings me questions, not answers, in my greatest time of need, the funeral cards I’ve reread over the last few days, even from well-meaning believers- ring trite and hollow.
In Lewis’s words, “The reason for the difference is only too plain. You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
My faith was about feeling and rational- but if faith doesn’t lie there, where does it lie?
Is faith a sixth sense- a way of perception like sight or smell?
Or is it just a matter of sheer will. Do I will myself to believe? If it was will that brought us away from the garden- is it will that brings us back?
I applaud this conversation you are having with Lewis. Two earnest thinkers and seekers, two hearts besieged by doubt, two splendid writers, two bereaved souls…. I admire you both and I ache for you here in the present.
Ponder the idea of *practicing* faith. It's not just a figure of speech, IMO. And I say this as someone who most identifies with "doubting" St. Thomas among the disciples.
It's "lie", by the way. English verbs are confusing indeed.
My thoughts are with you, Julia.