With the recent primary elections I was reminded that faith can be likened to politics in that both are centered on strong beliefs and convictions. In the world of politics you’re generally either a liberal or a conservative. Those who are in the middle are referred to as moderates. It’s the same with faith. People cast their votes on faith at all ends of the spectrum. Some people truly believe. Other hard-liners don’t, believing there is no tangible evidence to do so. And then there are those in between. They believe, but still pray for a little more proof that they’re on the right track.
I admit to having crossed party lines over the years. When I was a child, I was somewhere in the middle. I believed because I was supposed to. I was afraid not to because of the consequences. In my college years I switched parties and joined those who needed hard evidence. Heated debates in the college dorms and philosophical discussions in the student union left me searching for evidence that my faith could be justified.
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mark 10:15) And in the end, it was my own child who helped me understand what faith is all about.
My oldest son, who was about eight years old at the time, had the ability to decode those 3D pictures popular years ago–those poster-sized images that people would stand in front of, staring into them as if they were meditating? After a few moments of concentration you’d hear the person staring say, “Ohhh, I see it now. Wowwww….” Their voice would trail off and they’d blissfully stare a few more seconds at the image embedded in an abstract design.
On trips into the mall, my son would tug at me, asking me to wait a minute while he gazed into these visual bottomless pits. Undoubtedly, within a few seconds, he’d tell me that within the tiny colored pattern there was a boat or an airplane or some other almost tangible image.
“Don’t you see it, Mom?” he’d ask me. I’d try. I’d open my eyes real wide, blinking first to get a clear shot at it. Then I’d squint, eyes almost closed, hoping to blur the image into appearing. But I could never see what he saw. All I saw looked like colorful television static.
One year my parents sent my son a 3D birthday card with a colorful something or other on the front. It took all of five seconds for him to announce that the secret image was that of a cross.
“You can’t see it, can you, Mom?” he grinned with an all-knowing look on his face.
“No, I can’t,” I confessed. “Help me.”
“Just relax, Mom. Don’t try so hard to see it.” No use. Later that night, when the house was quiet, I sat down with his card in my hands. “Relax…don’t try so hard,” my son’s words echoed. Then, out of nowhere and only for a matter of three or four seconds, I saw it! It WAS a cross, with little flowers at the base. Almost miraculously, there it was. But before I had a chance to revel in it, it was gone. I shook my head, opened and closed my eyes, looked away and then back at the card, but I never got it back in focus. Still, I was satisfied. For a brief moment, I had seen it.
As quickly as the image had appeared, the analogy of faith struck me. I realized I had been a Doubting Thomas. I had to see it to believe it – to accept it as true. But when I stopped trying to make sense of it, and stopped TRYING to force the pattern to form an image, as my son suggested, I saw it.
Funny how many gifts we receive when we relinquish control. Like falling asleep. We never do when we try. Or having a baby. How many stories have you heard of couples trying for months to conceive, only to give up trying and then become pregnant?
My 3D lesson was clear. You simply can’t explain everything with objectivity. Some things are real and true even if we can’t put our hands out and touch them. Sometimes you have to relax and let go in order to grab hold.
I realize now that faith is a gift. It’s not something you can explain logically. It just is.
Faith is like politics. I’ve finally figured out one. I just wish I could make sense of the other.