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Faith – A Beginning

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Foreword

My use of the word faith in this essay is strictly in the sense of faith in God and not in the wider sense that I have used it in other essays on this site. 

 

Faith – A Beginning

I once lived without faith.  Alone in the world without knowledge of God I walked according to the course of this world, confident in the authority of my own reason.  But I stumbled.

I was given the opportunity to gain faith through the things that I suffered.  When my confident assertion that my reason was supreme was challenged, when I had to acknowledge that through the use of my reason I had steered my life into a dead end, and when I knew with certainty that on my own I could not extricate myself from the entangled consequences of my own actions, I was, at last, prepared to cry out for help.  But where?

Faith, when it eventually arrived, came like a thunderbolt.  I did not find faith on the street corner, although I had looked.  I had heard a myriad of voices all proclaiming that they had found the answer to the riddle of their lives, but nothing that they spoke touched the centre of my being, so I walked on.  I had heard the timbrel bells of saffron-robed devotees as they chanted hopefully for ecstasy and enlightenment: I had heard the peal of church bells heralding from their lofty spires the sounds of centuries of confusion: I had walked the lonely streets and looked in nooks and crannies, but all my searching and inquiring brought me lower still, for all seemed vanity and hopelessness.  So faith when it came was an unexpected surprise.

Faith did not come as a flash of illumination to intuitively reveal the meaning of life.  Nor did it come from listening to the professionally pious preaching sonorous sermons proclaiming the theological platitudes that steered their lives.  Neither did it come from my wishing to emulate the politically savvy, socially compassionate new breed of clergy the media focuses on.  No, when faith came, it came from the most unexpected quarter imaginable – God Himself.  By one word of His mouth all of my years of doubt, unbelief, scorn and derision were swept away.  Every tenet that I had based my life upon was blown away like chaff before the power of His breath, and I was revealed as naked, powerless and blind before His glorious life.  My old life ended when I met Him who is life.

It had been a long cold road that had led me to that moment when God revealed Himself to me.  I began life as a captive, an unwilling conscript in the Church Universal.  From an early age I had been instructed in the doctrinal orthodoxy that was the cornerstone of one particular faction of the Christian empire.  I was press-ganged and indoctrinated that I might be fully equipped to answer every question to defend my “unquestioning faith”, without ever knowing what real faith was.  It was something of a shattering blow to discover that there were other so-called Christians who believed in totally different things, regarding faith, to those that I had been taught were true.

My “faith”, piece by piece, was thus eroded.  No one with love and wisdom stood before me to arrest its inevitable decline.  I remember, as a youth, scanning the Christian landscape in search of some voice, some rock-like figure of love, some beacon of truth who could fan the dying embers of my feeble light.  But the Church seemed more like Babel, a confusion of tongues, than a source of light.

Disappointed and forlorn, embittered by the arrogant, loveless, authoritarian monolith that masqueraded as the keeper of truth and wisdom, I, like most of my generation, turned my back on Christianity and the Church.

Armed with the barest of hope, like a penlight in a sea of darkness, I went in search of truth.  I joined what seemed like a throng investigating other religions, looking for God in such things as Cosmic consciousness, I-Ching and Tarot walking the streets of the inner cities with our noses to the ground and our ears to the wind.

There was a camaraderie amongst this movement of dreamers.  New hopes, new horizons, the “Age of Aquarius”, peace, love and understanding was the message that filled our hearts and put stardust into our eyes.  The “times were a-changing”; it was a new generation, a new perspective, a new beginning.

But, like my Christianity before, this new hope slowly died.  The euphoria of youthful hope gave way to despair as my dreams collided with an unchanging world.  The reality of the uncaring face of the world, the chains of debt and mortgage commitments that shackled me to my career, relationships that had not weathered the initial blush of youth, and the ephemeral nature of the new age cults, left my heart burdened under the weight.

Truth seemed like some elusive El Dorado.  The only thing that seemed certain was the search – and that could end at any moment, for who could say when death would overtake me?

Slowly but surely, due to the grind, the length of the road, the unanswered questions, the madness of my life that mirrored the madness of the world (with its insane rush for material power and who knows what else), I failed.  I failed to keep hoping in my ability to make sense out of life, and I faltered.  I floundered in the flood that constantly sweeps the world along the path of who knows where we are headed.  And I longed desperately for an end to all my striving to nowhere.

I lost heart I lost hope!  A lifetime of living amongst men had taught me that no one really cared for his fellow man.  I, literally, could no longer stand the pain of my spiritual emptiness.  I had grown numb in the emotional void I found myself in.  Life became robotic; I went through the motions but less and less could I connect to the flow of life all around me.

Finally, when I could see no way of escape, when I was parched to the centre of my being in my need for love and truth, I heard God speak.  On my way home from work, meditating, as I drove along, on the words of a poem I had just written which began,

            “Am I these things

            These senseless things

            These things I think I am,

                                                          a voice shattered my reverie and said, “I am the word of God”. Nothing more was spoken, but in the speaking I had the feeling that He would speak again. 

The impact that this event had upon me was so profound I can barely begin to describe it; the very ground that I stood on, the foundation of my entire understanding of life, was undermined by His voice.  In His speaking I knew that I had built my life upon a lie.  Everything that I had thought about life, assumed about existence, believed as truth, collapsed and I was left in a void, unable to continue my life as I was, but also not knowing what to make of my life from this point on.  I was literally left in fear and trembling, agonising over what to do next.  Whereas before I was at the end of my tether, now even that fragile state was shattered, such was the magnitude of His effect upon me.

It was not until some time later, several weeks, that I really cried out with all of my strength saying, “Lord, I do not know what You want me to do with my life, but all I do know is that, whatever it is, that is all that I wish to do”.  When I had done this, and meant every word of it, He began to lead me and I began to hear his voice again.  Perhaps not in the same dramatic way as when He first spoke when I was driving in the car but in a thousand other ways and instances He has shown me His love and care and guidance and He has truly become God to me.  The more I have trusted Him the more I have learnt of His faithfulness and the immensity of His love.

Since the dramatic beginning of my faith, over twenty years ago, I have come to know the risen Christ in a way I had once thought impossible.  I have also come to understand that the church, the source of all my disillusionment, remains unchanged, holding to a form of religion that denies the need to actually meet with God and come to know what is the reality of the awesome power of His presence and the fullness of His love.  This lack within the church remains my deepest sorrow.