Religion sells salvation. It promises a better life on the “other-side” of belief. Then it gives us a story line to nudge us along the way. Most of us are taught either to question these beliefs or to never question them. Each system of faith has its own assimilation process of turning outsiders into insiders.
Salvation typically implies a threshold. A point at which, unbelief becomes belief. It’s a transition between grave danger and safety. Those in power usually set this bar, which defines the terms for those that will believe. Terms shift the burden of belief to outsiders by forcing a binary choice on each person; will we be “in” or “out?“
Does real belief emerge under a threat? Too often it’s: Believe; or else…
If we choose “in”, then the “in”-herd will validate our choice. If we choose “out”, then the “in” herd will pity, reject or even despise us. We can only pick one team in a forced binary choice and “out” must be wrong if you’re “in.”
When faith (belief) becomes The Faith (system of belief) it becomes a competitive social convention. True faith is not an external attestation to the groupthink. Faith is that deep part within us that longs for and identifies with the deep elsewhere. The fact that a deep yearning exists (despite the delivery systems for it) proves there must be a consummation for it. So where do we find satisfaction for this deep kind of thirst?
When belief is commoditized, we begin to doubt that our deep part ever existed. It’s all too easy to gain a religion that puffs up our ego but barely quenches our thirst for inner experience. Too often, the system that is supposed to point us to God actually becomes a surrogate. (Matt 23:1-33)
True faith starts with humble wonder and grows from there on a path as unique as each one of us. The goal of faith is identification within a single story, not a singular process or system. True belief is not binary. Belief in that something more (which I call God), isn’t an on/off switch that we control, and thus is NOT a BURDEN. It isn’t sold or pressed into us from the outside. Faith is BOTH the question and an answer that arises from our deepest being (soul). It’s both what we know and what we don’t (Hebrews 11:1). A binary framework cannot produce a mature faith.
We are all people of faith. No one is exempt. Faith is putting the weight of our life on various bridges. If they hold us, we gain the distance of understanding. If they don’t, we experience broken promises.
Faith is always in flux. It bounces between certainty and doubt, like toggling between AM and FM to find a clear signal. Sometimes it’s dormant or on life support, but it never really dies though it does play dead. Faith follows our unique flow of life because it’s made from the fabric of God, who is dynamism personified. There is no single path to belief.
Faith like this is a like a desert exile. There are countless religious leaders who want to enroll us in their particular WAY, but few spiritual directors who are a resource to those finding THEIR OWN WAY. It takes a wide-angle lens to lead people into their faith without imposing one on them. Dead-ends, detours or failings are not derailments to authentic faith, they are requirements.
Faith is the inner experience of transformation from the inside out by way of all things in life. It’s the constant adjustment of our life’s knobs to ensure we are tuned in increasing conformity to the signal being sent.
And then one day it dawns on us that the purpose of faith isn’t the signal at all; it’s the sender. We look over our lives and ask: “What is the Sender saying by all this?” We are now in close proximity to satisfying the deep thirst of our life. We exhale the questions and inhale the answers. Our being creates our doing, not vice-versa. (James 1:25) So don’t worry what your faith looks like, it’s between you and God (Romans 14:22).
Experience replaces process as our heart awakens and faith matures. We gain beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3). New life emerges from the midst of our necessary mess. Once our eyes open, we see the community of faith surrounding us who have all suffered, died and risen again and again in the Christoform pattern.
Each unique life is retelling this same story over and over again. The Sender IS the Story and all who can see beyond their life experience this story as: salvation.