Growing Together in Faith
An excerpt from “The Faith of a Trapeze Artist” by Rev. Neal Jones in Quest: A Monthly for Religious Liberals, June 2014
The word “faith” doesn’t occupy the same place of prominence in Unitarian Universalism that it does in some religious traditions. For many of us, faith has become synonymous with blind acceptance of particular religious beliefs, as in: Jesus died for my sins; God created the world in six days; Noah survived a flood in an ark; a talking snake hoodwinked Adam and Eve.
For most Unitarian Universalists, indeed for most people who live in the modern world and think with modern understandings, such beliefs are neither intellectually tenable nor morally acceptable. Faith defined as religious belief is what Mark Twain was getting at when he said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
We UUs feel more comfortable talking about reason and experience than faith, but I want to point out that faith doesn’t have to be contrary to reason and experience. It can be an extension of what we know is so. I think of reason and experience as shining a light on our path. We walk as far as our logic, common sense and past lessons take us, and then we take a step of faith into the darkness.
I am suggesting that faith involves our will and imagination more than our minds. It’s imagining a future that’s different from the past and then living as if that future is possible. By living in the possibilities, faith enables that future to come true. Faith is not believing the unbelievable; it’s trying the untried. I think this understanding of faith accords with the Biblical definition of faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
…Life is continually challenging us to let go—let go of childhood naiveté, let go of your parents’ way of thinking or your own way of thinking, let go of single life or married life, let go of a job or a vocation, of outdated dreams or outgrown frustrations, of special possessions or special people, and, eventually, to let go of life itself. Sometimes we freely and deliberately let go; sometimes life forces us against our will to let go. But let go we must in order to grab hold of greater life.
The scary part, of course, is when you let go of the old and are in the process of grabbing the new—that in-between state of suspension, that “up-in-the-air” feeling of not having anything secure to hold onto. This is the test of faith—not believing something you know ain’t so, but being willing to live with uncertainty and insecurity until you get to where you’re going…
There are ways to make those times in the air feel less treacherous, but no way to avoid the swing. Security and risk—the firm grip on the trapeze and the terror and exhilaration of letting go—are formed by memory telling us that life will hold us, mingled with imagination assuring us that something new is possible. It is faith that allows us to enjoy the ride.
Reflect upon a choice you made or are considering that involved or will involve having faith in the possibilities while experiencing uncertainty about the outcome.